Dominican-born Veronica founded Cool & Associates, a consulting firm to connect organizations to the Hispanic community; offering strategy, training, marketing/PR & language services.
She and her team published the first of its kind: Hispanic Heritage Month: Essential Toolkit to facilitate the acknowledgement and engagement of the Latino segment in the United States. Committed to empowering our community, she established the Latino Innovators Pitch to scale Latino businesses profitably; along with two Facebook Groups: Yo Quiero Trabajo and Emprendedores Exitosos, that provide resources and opportunities for jobseekers and entrepreneurs. Additionally, she serves on the boards of MedStar Good Sam Hospital, Open Society Institute, ALPFA-Baltimore, Governors Workforce Development Board, AHCC and Montgomery College HBTI.
She’s been recognized by First Lady Michelle Obama, and is the proud recipient of various awards, including the NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership award, Innovator of the Year, and US Hispanic Chamber Corporate Leader of the Year. She lives near Baltimore with her husband and two teenagers; keeping busy writing columns for the Daily Record and Mundo Latino, traveling and donating firetrucks.
How did you get connected to OSI-Baltimore?
I am involved in many things in the community that are enjoyable but time-consuming. So I’ve learned to be very judicious and to say, “No, thank you,” to some opportunities. That’s why, when I first was approached about OSI-Baltimore, my initial reaction was “No, thanks.” But based on feedback and research—I met with some amazing board members who are wildly successful “rock stars”—I wanted to learn more. And I thought, “There’s nobody representing a hugely growing segment of the population: Hispanics.” When I really got a broader understanding of all the things OSI-Baltimore does in the community, I thought, “Here’s an opportunity for us to improve and fix things.” It’s phenomenal to have all these brilliant social thinkers together strategizing and I get to participate, and add input and feedback. Very exciting!
What do you see as the biggest challenge to the city of Baltimore ?
The assimilation of a very large population of marginalized people. Baltimore is composed of many people of different backgrounds who are unconnected, disconnected. We need to find a way to engage them and fold them into our daily living and society, whether they are Hispanic or African American. There is huge value to strengthening our city, educating our youngsters and providing them tools to ensure they become productive members of our city.
How does this city compare to other places you’ve lived—and what lessons do you bring here from elsewhere?
Outside of the Dominican Republic, I have lived in New York City and Philadelphia, and the biggest difference is the small town feel of Baltimore. I love that we have all the perks of a large city, including culture, entertainment, diversity and variety, yet the sprawling and quaint feel of a village. One opportunity I see for Baltimore is the need to accept more diversity, whether that’s socioeconomic or racial. Baltimore stands to gain a lot by welcoming the talent and treasures of its population.
How do you think OSI-Baltimore will change with the growth of the Hispanic population in the city?
I think OSI responds to matters that are most visible, most pressing. As data becomes more readily available, it’ll start swaying the need for change. The numbers will change; the focus will change. Already, there’s a huge Salvadorian population here. You’re seeing more folks from Guatemala and Mexico. These first generation kids are growing up in Baltimore, some without resources or direction, and get discouraged by the lack of opportunities. And unfortunately, gangs are a very active part of city life, recruiting these youngsters. OSI has a huge opportunity to reduce the number of cases of youth crime by impacting change, whether through the Community Fellows or funding more agencies that provide services to Hispanics. We need to dedicate attention and resources to creating alternatives. I’m the poster child for what can happen when you get an education and an opportunity. I’m proud to be on the board and to be a conduit to the Hispanic population.
What skills and talents are you bringing to the board?
I’m so glad you asked that question! Banking and finance expertise, procurement and certification knowledge, and being a working Latina mother. I also bring a grass-roots perspective. Many people have held the door open for me and helped me when they did not have to; because of the opportunities that I’ve had, I feel the need to give back. I am driven by the idea of improvement. I’m a social thinker and a changer. I’m passionate about providing solutions and being effective to provide sustainable improvement.
What can your fellow board members expect from you?
Passion, enthusiasm, curiosity. I believe I bring a different perspective, a grass-roots perspective, seeing firsthand the power of education and community strength. I want to improve the world for my kids and my community, so I will ask questions and share the feedback, stories, and experiences of my life in hopes of driving change and improvement.