2018 Cohort

We would like to share some of their commitment to leading within their family, parish, community, and in business.

2018 Cohort2019-07-25T22:50:15+00:00

Rafael Testai, EventKey Mobile App

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There is a great need for building a professional Catholic community. We can do more to unite and collaborate with Catholic professionals in Arizona, build a network that embodies the values learned in TLI and create awareness of opportunities and issues in our community; so, we can take action on or volunteer with. I commit to starting a Catholic business network that gathers once quarterly. We will mirror the TLI format. Open with prayer, have a speaker for 20 mins, and 1hr of networking. I believe great relationships and solutions will result from our Holly Spirit lead events. The only requirement to attend our events is to be Catholic. Like TLI, our Catholic networking events will not be a place to question Catholic beliefs.

David Tello, Raza Development Fund

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I have great concern for the safety of our children within their school grounds. There has been, on average, 1 school shooting every week this year. Fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters constitute the casualties. A kid walks into school property and unloads a semi-automatic weapon, and little is being done about it. I believe there is much to be done to control access to guns. I plan on becoming an active voice in promoting gun control and increasing school safety, so our children don’t have to grow in fear of becoming another casualty.

Jonathan Solorzano, Solorzano Law

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Through TLI I have come to appreciate the Church’s heart for immigration and the value it gives to upholding human dignity. As an owner of a law firm, I’ve decided to incorporate the Church’s teachings on my immigration practice. The bible teaches (in Exodus 22:21) “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33-34 says) “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Apart from protecting the dignity and rights of migrants, I have decided to tithe through my business doing 10% of cases free. My staff and I will designate families in need of help and we will surprise them working their case without a fee.

David Segura, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office

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As a graduate of the Tepeyac Leadership Initiative Class of 2018, my leadership commitment is to live a balanced life by developing my work, family, and spiritual lives together; and to serve as an ethical leader by inspiring my colleagues to focus on the importance of the dignity of the human person.

Mari Seaberg, Americare Hospice and Palliative Care

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As a hospice nurse, I commit to advocating for the terminally ill through true healthcare that upholds the dignity of the human person. As a TLI graduate, I commit myself to preventing the spread of Physician Assisted Suicide through education in religious and secular organizations, by proposing editorial pieces to the media and nurses’ bulletins, and by writing to and meeting with Arizona legislators regarding the four current proposed PAS bills. In addition, I plan to contact health care providers to discuss true palliative treatment, refusing extraordinary measures, and encouraging advanced directives to provide a Catholic perspective on end of life care.

Aaron Smith, Arizona State University

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As a father to a young family, I am passionate about both education and my children. It is my intention to apply to the Diocesan School Board with a focus on helping to maintain the orthodoxy of the Catholic faith in the schools as well as working to raise academic standards even higher to ensure students in the Diocese can have access to a high-quality education. Furthermore, my wife and I are going to volunteer in our parish to teach baptism classes after recognizing that the work of the Church truly starts at the beginning with infant baptism.

Scott Scharl, North & Co Real Estate

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The Catholic Church enjoys a rich cultural tradition of art, literature, music, and thought spanning two millennia. Many Catholics are eager to engage with this tradition to rediscover ancient wisdom and grow in their love of God. Even those outside the Church find Catholic beauty attractive, and the conversion of many souls begins with an encounter with this heritage. As a new board member of Catholic Phoenix, a nonprofit organization, I will further its mission to “nurture the moral, intellectual, and cultural lives of Catholics in the Diocese of Phoenix.” I commit to organizing regularly occurring events wherein Catholics and those interested in Catholicism can gather to learn and discuss these wonders of our faith.

Ryan Scharber, Hooper, Adams & Alexander, PLC

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I am passionate about ending abortion, making Catholic education affordable for all, and upholding the integrity of our existing Catholic institutions. Thus, I plan to support First Way Pregnancy Center, the Catholic Community Foundation, and Catholic Charities in furtherance of their respective missions. I commit to service on at least one of the following boards within the next six months: (1) the Board of Directors for First Way Pregnancy Center; (2) the Professionals Advisory Board for the Catholic Community Foundation; and/or (3) the Young Professionals Board for Catholic Charities.”

Adrian Ruiz, Raza Development Fund

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I believe we are currently at an important point in time with regards to educating our youth. Education can be the great equalizer, under the appropriate conditions, with regards to changing the social and economic outlook of our community. Both the local and national demographic trends are changing; and I believe it is important to have representation of that reality at the decision-making level. I think it is equally important to have people of faith represented at this level to bear witness to youth that choosing Christ does not imply sacrificing temporal success. I wish to be a voice for positive change and therefore it is my intent to serve on a school board, diocesan, public, or otherwise.

Brian Rosario, Seton Catholic Preparatory

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It has been written, “Iron sharpens iron; one person sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17). Thus, I commit to creating the Florencio Rosario, Jr. Project, an initiative using basketball and Catholic teaching to start a conversation and dialog between fathers and their sons, boosting their relationship with a goal of developing confident, engaged, and educated young men in the Church. Emerging from the verse from proverbs, it will be an initiative that says, “If fathers sharpen sons; sons can sharpen future stewards of our Church.”

Juan Ramirez, Escamilla Law Group

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My leadership commitment is to strengthen the formation of the laity, in particular, young adults and high school age youth. I want to focus on theology of the body, marriage between one man and one woman, and gender ideology. I plan to do this by facilitating small group discussions where participants can openly ask questions and engage in honest discussions. The intent is to give participants the tools to confidently educate and engage others in these conversations.

Nazario Prieto, City of Phoenix

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First and foremost, I am a father and a husband, and I commit to becoming the best that I can be with God’s grace. I will become a more prayerful man and take full advantage of the sacraments to become more holy.  I also have a passion for apologetics, and my focus will be to reach Catholic and non-Catholic men and bring them to Christ and to help them see the beauty of his Holy Catholic Church. As such, I commit to continue to educate myself in the written word of God and his Church and to find opportunities to encounter God’s people where they are.  In addition, I, along with my family vow to serve God’s poor at least 10 times per year.

Angelica Perez, Arizona Department of Child Safety

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I find a great ongoing need in the right-to-life movement where men, women and children lack the understanding of what it means to be pro-life. I plan on volunteering at pro-life centers to mentor and educate on the cycle of conception and natural birth. I also plan on forming curriculum and/or educational material to further educate and inform the youth in our schools and youth groups and the most vulnerable women in my community.

Bienvenido Morel, YRS New York

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I commit to starting an entertainment company to be named Teleos Entertainment Group. Our company will focus on creating faith-based theater, movie and entertainment productions. Our first mission is to create a theater production based on Bishop Olmstead’s apostolic exhortation, “Into the Breach”. Our goal is to produce entertainment that brings the audience into closer relationship with Christ. We strive to do this on a local level here in Phoenix and to possibly grow to the international stage. Bringing the message of Christ’s love, compassion and mercy to the world through theater and the arts is my leadership commitment.

Andres Martin, Maricopa County Environmental Services

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I believe virtuous leadership is needed at the civic level of society and feel passionate about being an instrument of change in secular society. I was recently elected to serve as a Board Member for the Arizona Environmental Health Association (2-year term). My TLI leadership commitment is to fill a vacant City of Peoria Board/Commission position in 2018 and to use that as a platform to run for Peoria Unified School District Board Member in the next coming years. Concurrently, I plan to enter a 2018 EWTN video contest that is geared toward evangelization and also work on other Catholic media content.

Marisa Lopez, Arizona Public Service

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More Latinos are leaving the church behind and have allowed themselves to be led by the distorted ways of the world. I believe more can be done to invite Latinos to come back to the Church and strengthen them in the history, culture, and social teachings of the faith. Thus, I commit to serve the Marytown Mission in their evangelization efforts in South Phoenix. In addition, I am concerned about the environmental degradation of our planet and how it is leading us towards self-destruction. The wellness of our environment is the responsibility of all human beings, so I pledge to continue my volunteering efforts by educating minorities and low-income students about the importance of environmental stewardship and sustainability.

Seth Graham, Salt River Police Department

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For my leadership commitment I would like to travel to Catholic churches and schools to talk about general life safety. How not to be a victim of crime/violence at home, work, and play.

Claudia Lopez, Catholic Charities Community Services

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There is a great need to continue to evangelize the Latino young community. My commitment will be to start a young adult group that will be focused on serving others in missions and deepening their faith through pilgrimages. There will be a special focus on connecting the young adults with issues such as immigration, so they may understand the church’s teaching and serve the community. This young adult group will do one pilgrimage or mission a year and other smaller projects throughout the year. 

Andrew Lishko, May, Potenza, Baran & Gillespie

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I have a great concern that there are too few Catholic leaders in public office who are fully faithful to all of the Church’s teachings. I believe that too often Catholics are divided and categorized to meet partisan agendas, and that too often politicians are Catholic in name only. As a member of the 2018 Tepeyac Leadership Initiative graduating class, I intend to live out my faith in the public square by running for state public office.

Rafael Lavallade, Arizona Federal Credit Union

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One of today’s challenges in society is the noise that distracts from going back to the basics and the beauty of simplicity at the heart of living a truly family life in its essence. Fostering family values can be the solution of many problems, cultivating great members of society that will set the world on fire and who will defend the values of truth and serve the common good. For that reason, my commitment to God is to volunteer with Boys Hope Girls Hope of Arizona trying an afterschool program with robotics that promotes higher education and a family-supportive atmosphere of parents engaging with their children’s education.

Micaela Larkin, Arizona Legislature

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There is a great need for an understanding of the history of the Catholic Church in the US.  As one part of my commitment, I plan to write a book to provide insight into our Church’s past, Catholic Social Teaching, Irish Catholicism, and the American Southwest using my family’s history as the hook to explore some of these themes. I also believe there is much to be done in person-to-person evangelization. To meet this need, I plan to assist efforts to evangelize South Phoenix, undertake a book club or organization to be found on Meetup/Internet to try to reach “nones” or “spiritual” types, and start an email list for my Catholic friends.  

Alex Julian, Cicero Preparatory Academy

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I have a great concern for the proper education of our youth. I believe there is much to be done to offer a high-quality, public education that orients young hearts and minds toward a lifelong pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. As a graduate of the TLI Class of 2018, my leadership commitment is to become a headmaster or principal at a liberal-arts oriented educational institution. 

Dulce Hernandez, Catholic Charities Community Services

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There is a need for youth to embrace and value human dignity. As a graduate of TLI my leadership commitment is to volunteer in 2 organizations that work with youth to present mission opportunities from social services that value people’s lives. I will help youth to see their own self-worth as a gift, to value the dignity of others through mission work and to continuously seek human touch. This journey will help me evangelize, open doors to board membership, be a positive model for youth and be able to recommend future TLI participants towards other missions that value the gift of human dignity.

Angela Heisel, University of Phoenix

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My commitment will be to help manage TLI’s social media accounts (Facebook and LinkedIn) to help spread the Catholic message to professionals and build Tepeyac Leadership Initiative’s presence on social media. The hope is this will generate interest in TLI among future participants and promote Catholic teachings in a way that is relevant to working adults who may or may not be close to the faith but who are interested in professional growth. 

Pedro Gutierrez, Green Path Inc

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In response to the needs of the local community which has expressed a desire to grow in holiness through the Catholic Action spirituality, with the help of current members, I have decided to open a new program for married couples. The aim of this program is to foster holy consciences within young and experienced married families, providing them the opportunity to: 1.) foster community 2.) serve one another, and 3.) learn from each other’s experiences on how to live out their vocation of Holy Matrimony. Additionally, this group can mentor members in the brother group of Young Adults who are discerning the married life.

Gloria Guerra, Bilingual Insurance and HR Solutions

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I have a great concern for the professional education of our multicultural female population. I believe there is much to be done in terms of providing opportunities and financial education in our community and provide confidence for women to become entrepreneurs, so they can have a flexible schedule to enjoy life and motherhood. I intend to start a financial and PR mentoring and support program to pair up women, mothers, special needs moms and entrepreneurs with more experienced ones.  In addition, as a graduate of the TLI my leadership commitment is to promote local catholic businesses to work together and launch a radio program featuring impactful life-changing stories of how God guides us to move forward.

Gustavo Estrella, Davidson Belluso, Inc

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The knowledge and topics shared in TLI were invaluable, and the speakers, the networking opportunities, and overall content will be instrumental in making a positive impact in the secular world through the sharing of truth, goodness and beauty. In partnership with Angela Heisel, my leadership commitment is to help establish TLI’s online presence by way of brand development, content creation, and community building through its website and social media platforms. This, in an effort to encourage professionals to participate and take advantage of all TLI offers for the advancement of the apostolic mission of the church.

Javier Espinoza, Remax New Heights Realty

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“Build for My poor people.” This is the message I received as we kneeled in front of the Eucharist during our TLI retreat. As the cost of living increases year to year, it is becoming increasingly difficult for those with low incomes to find decent living accommodations. Today I commit to developing affordable housing complexes and houses for low-income families and individuals and help them end the rent cycle keeping them from progressing. These developments will provide affordable housing units for rent that will integrate programs creating a pathway to home ownership.

Maria Escarceca, Child and Family Support Services

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Through TLI, I’ve become acutely aware of the need to have Christ present in our schools and for the Catholic Church to have more of her members supporting community growth in faith and love. As a graduate of TLI 2018, I plan to participate on a board in an organization that will help with Catholic Outreach in the community and to involve myself as leader in a school.

Ricardo Contreras, Duran Accounting Solutions LLC

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One of the biggest and most concerning challenges I see in the Church is the massive exodus of youth to so called “new churches”; churches that offer an apparently easier, more convenient path to salvation. I believe there is much to be done in terms of renewing the way we, the Catholic Church, reach out to the youth. My leadership commitment is to develop a Catholic awareness campaign program within my local parish, letting the Hispanic community know that: 1) The Catholic Church is also for the youth. 2) The Church leadership is working diligently to stop this trend in the short term and ultimately solve it. 3) I will lead by example; by offering my time to addressing this concern.

Norma Carrillo, The Society of St. Vincent de Paul

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My mission in life is to make an impact on every person I encounter. It isn’t difficult to make an impact on someone’s life but rather it is difficult to make a meaningful impact. I see teenagers and young women encountering obstacles in life, such as sexual harassment, physical, mental or verbal abuse, and even sexual violence. The women and teenagers who encounter these obstacles, likely don’t have a role model who knows the right way to overcome them. I commit to starting a support group for those who need help overcoming their obstacles. I hope to make a meaningful impact on the women and teenagers who join the group.

Roxana Amaton, Chicanos Por La Causa

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I would like to continue to use my gifts of counseling, healing, and teaching. Much compassion is needed for victims of abuse, trauma, and abortion. Being on the Board of Restore Dignity will allow me to continue to advocate for life. St. John Paul II said, “Society as a whole must respect, defend and promote the dignity of every human person, at every moment and in every condition of that person’s life.” I believe that when we understand our purpose and learn about our dignity and worth we become better prepared to defend life. Lastly, I will allow my relationship with God to continue to grow so that others may continue to encounter Christ through me.

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