Board of Directors
Rudy Alvarado - Chairman
Rudy Alvarado’s more than 45-year career spanned various industries ranging from manufacturing to high technology, where he founded several successful domestic and international companies. Prior to that, he worked for international and Fortune 500 corporations -- General Electric, Schneider, and Thomson.
From 1990 until early 2014, Mr. Alvarado was the CEO of a family of companies: Advancia Corporation, Potawatomi Training, Advancia Aeronautics, Advancia Technologies, and Redhawk Network Security. Collectively, these companies provide professional technical services commercially and to the Federal Government. These services include IT, Training, Engineering, Research and Systems Analysis, and Environmental and Safety.
Mr. Alvarado graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University. After graduation, he served in the Air Force and was assigned to conduct research for NASA, as an Aeronautical Research Scientist.
During his lifetime, he has served on the boards of many business, professional, and non-profit organizations, including being the only Hispanic to have served as a Chairman of a State Chamber in the United States.
Renee Porter - Board
Renee Porter was President of Advancia and the family of companies. During her career, she worked for U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, held a political appointment to the U.S. Department of Labor, and worked for the University of Oklahoma. She was a manager at USA Today and, during graduate school worked in the London office of the Williams Companies. Ms. Porter earned a B.A. in Journalism, a Master in Business Administration, and a Master in Management Information Systems.
She serves on the Executive Committee of the Oklahoma Business Roundtable, the Board of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, President of the Board of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, Norman (OK) Economic Development Advisory Board, Cristo Rey Catholic High School Feasibility Board and Community Outreach Committee Chair, the Education Workforce Initiative of the State Chamber and Policy Committee Chair, and Member of the School Advisory Council for All Saints Catholic School.
Chad “Corntassel” Smith - Board
Chad “Corntassel” Smith is the former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation (1999-2011), the second largest tribe in the United States. During 2002, with Chief Smith’s support to cultural and language preservation, the Nation founded its K-8th grade Cherokee Immersion Charter School. The school was officially recognized as a Charter School by the Oklahoma State Department of Education in August 2011. The tribe annually commits about $2.7 million to the immersion school. Today, Mr. Smith leads Chad Smith Consulting, LLC, which promotes leadership, resource development, and tribal nation building. He holds three degrees – a BA in Education, an MBA, a Master’s in Public Administration, and a law degree.
Sam Fulkerson - Board
Sam Fulkerson is an employment and labor relations attorney for McAfee & Taft, the largest law firm in Oklahoma. Mr. Fulkerson represents employers in all phases of litigation before federal and state trial and appellate courts as well as federal and state agencies. His non-litigation practice includes representation of legislative bodies and special interest groups, and he frequently drafts proposed legislation and reviews legislative proposals for constitutionality, especially those laws affecting the workplace, the employment relationship, and employer interests.
In 2013 he was named “Board Member of the Year” by the Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City.Mr. Fulkerson was the only Oklahoma attorney named to the 2011-2013 editions of the ABA-affiliated International Who’s Who of Management Labour & Employment Lawyers.In 2011, he received The Journal Record’s Leadership in Law award, and Oklahoma Super Lawyers named him to its list of “Top 50 Oklahoma Lawyers.”
Robert Ruiz - Scissortail CDC President
Robert Ruiz personal mission is to help increase the health and well-being of Oklahomans through increased access to education, economic development, cultural development, and healthcare. Robert is ChoiceMatters' Executive Director and Scissortail's President. Robert's community service has included sitting on the boards of the Sunbeam Family Services, Norman Human Rights Commission, Mary Abbott Children’s House, State Chamber of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy and the Latino Community Development Agency. He's entrepreneurial, having formed Enye Music and Enye Media. Robert also helped redevelop and rebrand a 40+ year old shopping mall into Plaza Mayor, which included establishment of a Latino cultural center, retail business incubator, and charter school.
Robert is from San Antonio, TX where the mariachi tradition is strong. He began playing professionally in mariachis at the age of twelve. He attend the University of Oklahoma to study engineering where he formed OU’s first Latin Ensemble. In 2002, he founded Enye Music which managed bands such as Mariachi Orgullo de America, Tekumbe, Son del Barrio, and Tequila Azul. He is the musical director and lead singer for the Mariachi Orgullo de America and it continues strong today. He co-founded the Norman Music Festival, the Norman Hispanic Festival, founder of the Cinco de Mayo Festival, Fiestas Patrias, and Anita Martinez Mariachi Festivals. He was the co-founder of three mariachi school programs in the Oklahoma City Public Schools with VH1 and created the vision of mariachi education in Oklahoma.
Luis Hidalgo - Scissortail CDC Parent Liason
Luis Hidalgo is a community organizer for Scissortail CDC. He was born in Nicaragua and moved at age 15 to Oklahoma City where he attended high school and college. Prior to joining ChoiceMatters, he spent three years at the Latino Community Development Agency (LCDA) as Health Educator and Outreach Specialist for the M-POWER Program which focuses on healthy living and tobacco use prevention. As part of this work, Luis conducted numerous bilingual community assessments in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and led the creation of the program’s framework tools. Luis completed the National Community Organizer Training Program delivered by Innovate Public Schools to learn about the cycle and structure of community organizing. He also worked for Oklahoma City Public Schools in the Adult Education division. Luis serves as a education lisason for Academia students.
Wilmari Ruiz - Program Director Academia OKC
Wilmari Ruiz is an Air Force Brat growing up all over the US Mainland and Guam and is from Puerto Rican decent. She began playing music when she was 6 years and music has always been her passion. She has a Bachelors in Marketing and has owned her own companies along with her husband Robert Ruiz for over 20 years working on many marketing and advertising campaigns for prestigious projects. She is the manager and is the flute player for award winning band, Mariachi Orgullo de America becoming the 2nd professional mariachi flute player in the United States. She has performed for big names such as Governor Henry, Governor Fallin, Senator Inhoffe, Bob Stoops, Barry Switzer, Toby Keith, Sherri Coale, Carmen Harra, Jorge Salinas, Lorenzo de Monteclaro, Maribel Guardia, El Chapo etc. and has performed with the Arkansas Philharmonic and with the Walt Disney’s Official Mariachi, Mariachi Cobre and Mariachi Campanas de America. She has toured in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico. Wilmari is the co-founder for the Norman Music Festival, co-founder of three mariachi school programs in the Oklahoma City Public Schools with VH1, co-founder of the Oklahoma Latino Cultural Center, and serves on the committee for Oklahoma Contemporary’s Visual Performing Arts Center and the OSU-OKC Presedential Advisory Board. She graduated from the Arts Council’s Leadership Arts Program in 2017 and in 2019 was awarded along with her husband the Governor’s Arts Award. Wilmari is currently the Program Director for Academia OKC.
Aaron Squiirrel began playing at an early age and quickly began playing professionally after only 2 years of playing. Aaron studied at the very first U.S installation of the U.K’s acclaimed Academy of Contemporary Music. Upon graduating Aaron took his talents to Los Angeles, California providing session & sideman work for Grammy artists. He has 16 years of professional stage and studio experience in a multitude of styles. Rock,Top 40, Fusion, Funk, Pop, Country, Praise and Worship, Gospel, Soul, Jazz, Mariachi. He has taught private lessons for over 10 years and has taught guitar for Academia since Spring 2019 teaching mariachi guitar and ensemble. For the 2019-2020 school year, Aaron will be teaching mariachi guitar and ensemble for the elementary, high school, and after school programs.
Alex Irwin is a freshman attending the University of Oklahoma to study music composition. He began singing and playing violin at the age of four, and started performing in musicals at the Sooner Theatre when he was six. In high school, he was a member of both the orchestra and choir for four years, and jazz choir for two. During his senior year, he was the concert master and president of the orchestra and the tenor section leader and vice president of the choir. In addition to leading both groups, he established a fine arts council at his school in order to promote better representation and inclusion of the arts within the high school. Outside of class, he continued performing at the Sooner Theatre, holding several leading roles in shows there. He joined Mariachi de Orgullo during his junior year and continues to play with the group. In his free time, Alex enjoys writing music, and he hopes to one day be a composer for the film industry. At his school’s final choir concert of his senior year, he received the opportunity to have one of his works performed by his high school chorale accompanied by a professional string orchestra. He is so excited to continue studying and writing music at OU, and he hopes that he can always find new ways to share his love of music with others. For the 2019-2020 school year, Alex will be teaching violin and vocals for the mariachi after school program.
Cindy Mason is a self-taught watercolor and acrylic painter who has studied with number of notable artists Oklahoma and Texas. Her work has shown in regional exhibitions, group shows, traveling shows, and festivals. She has been accepted as a part of the Oklahoma City Pre-qualified Artist Pool for Projects under $25,000. Her work has also been included in several publications. Mason has been a professional artist for over thirty years. Starting in watercolor, Mason chose bold, clear colors and an impressionistic style. Then approximately twenty years ago, she began working with acrylics and recently has developed a series of black and white paintings. About ten years ago, Mason began teaching painting at two Michael’s locations. She discovered how much she enjoyed teaching. Soon after that, she had the opportunity to lead classes at Chesapeake Energy as a part of their health and wellness program, New View Oklahoma for visually impaired adults, North Care for adults with emotional and mental issues, seniors at Woodson Senior Center and Will Rogers Senior Center; St. Anthony’s Behavioral Unit for youth; in addition to private and contract paint groups. This past year Mason has begun a monthly Paseo Paint and Palette event. Mason has been the juror of the OCCC Arts Fest of Oklahoma, judged the Hobart Arts Festival, Yukon high school art show, the Edmond Fine Arts show, and the Sapulpa arts festival for four years. She has curated a number of art shows. For the 2019-2020 school year, Cindy will be teaching visual art for the high school programs.
Jaime Fuentes is the founder and director of award-winning Norahua Baile Folklorico, one of Oklahoma’s top baile folklorico groups. Jaime started dancing at the age of 5 years old in Mexico. When he came to Oklahoma he wanted to continue bringing those traditions to the community. Norahua Baile Folklorico has been together for 25 years and has performed for many types of events all across the region. 11 years ago Jaime was in a bad car accident where he was told he would not be able to dance again. Dance was his motiviation for recovery and continues to dance with Norahua even today. For the 2019-2020 school year, Jaime will be teaching the baile folklorico program for the high school.
Jose Pedro Palacios began his studies in violoncello at the age of twelve in 2002 and studied in a mariachi school program in Rio Grande Valley, Texas playing guitar. He completed his Bachelors degree in music performance at the Southern Nazarene University. Palacios has been teaching cello since 2006. From 2006 to 2008, he worked with middle school cellists and orchestras in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. A versatile performer, Palacios has participated in numerous symphonies, orchestras and jazz bands. He will be teaching ensemble classes for the Academia mariachi after school program. For the 2019-2020 school year, Jose Pedro will be teaching mariachi guitar and ensemble for the after school programs.
Kaden McSpedden is a sophomore music education major at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. A student of Dr. Shelley Martinson, Kaden has performed with the SWOSU flute choir, chamber ensembles, symphonic band, and marching band. She has attended numerous master classes and flute workshops, including events featuring Marianne Gedigian, Keith Underwood, George Pope, Carmen Lemoine, and Laura Pillman, among others. She was recently selected to participate in a master class with Dr. Valerie Watts, Principal of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic and also performed at the Oklahoma Flute Society Flute Fair as a member of the SWOSU Flute Choir in 2019. Kaden currently serves as Treasurer of the SWOSU Flute Association and is a member of the Oklahoma Flute Society, Collegiate National Association of Music Educators and Kappa Kappa Psi.
Keely Clements graduated from Southwest Oklahoma State University in Music Education and know teaches general music at Southern Hills Elementary. She joined Mariachi Orgullo de America in 2015 playing flute. For the 2019-2020 school year, Keely will be teaching flute for the mariachi after school programs.
Kinser Henessee has a passion for music starting in middle school when he learned to play the trumpet. He was born and raised in Lawton, Oklahoma and moved to Norman, Oklahoma where he received his Bachelor of Musical Arts from the University of Oklahoma studying trumpet with Dr. Karl Sievers and performing as a member of the Pride of Oklahoma, Wind Symphony, OU Trumpet Ensemble, and OU Opera Chorus. Kinser currently resides in Norman, OK where he works as a freelance music teacher and performs regularly with Mariachi Orgullo de America. In his spare time he enjoys cooking, painting, spending time with friends, and hanging out with his dog Buddy. For the 2019-2020 school year, Kinser will be teaching trumpet for the mariachi after school programs.
Maritza Ruiz has been playing violin since she was three years first studying under the Suzuki method under the direction of Elizabeth Lyon, Oklahoma Philharmonic, concert master for the Ft Smith Symphony and the Erie Philharmonic. Maritza played in the Norman North Orchestra. She began playing professionally with Mariachi Orgullo de America since her Freshman year of high school. She is the daughter of Robert Ruiz and Wilmari Ruiz, founders of Mariachi Orgullo de America and has been around the mariachi tradition all of her life. She has a certification in Graphic Design and is a student at OCCC studying EMT. She began teaching violin for Academia OKC in 2018. For the 2019-2020 school year, Maritza will be teaching violin for the elementary programs and the mariachi after school programs.
Narciso Argüelles is a visual artist and educator. He received a Bachelor's in Art at the University of California, San Diego and has a Masters in Fine Art degree from the University of California, Irvine. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the non-profit group, Inclusion in Art, whose mission is to advance racial and cultural diversity and is the Co-Founder of the Oklahoma Latino Cultural Center. His art is featured in the award winning documentary Panic Nation and has exhibited around the world including at Artspace at Untitled Gallery in Oklahoma City; Intar Gallery in NYC; the Ninth Biennale of Sydney Australia; and the First Johannesburg Biennale in South Africa. Narciso Argüelles teaches photography, drawing, 2-D, and art history/appreciation at Oklahoma City Community College and is a high school teacher. For the 2019-2020 school year, Narciso will be teaching photography for the high school programs.
Shana Madrid-Smith is the director of Yúmare Mexican Folkloric Dancers Inc. Shana has been dancing for over 30 years, starting at 7 years old and has dedicated her life to dancing and teaching others the art of Folklorico. Shana Madrid-Smith describes herself as an Air Force brat and has spent many years overseas in Spain and Germany plus several years in North Carolina, Texas and Oklahoma. While in Germany, she taught many of her peers and performed the traditional dances of Mexico that she learned as a child. Once back in the states, she joined Yúmare Mexican Folkloric Dancers as a principal dancer and made her way up the ranks to become the executive director. She has been the executive director since 2007 and has donated countless hours of her time to teaching and directing Mexican folklorico. She has made it her mission to not only teach traditional dances, but to also educate students and the community of the diversities of Mexico. Throughout her dance career, she has learned of the history and significance of each dance and feels it is very important to pass on what she has learned to others. Shana has volunteered at several local schools and held many classes teaching traditional folk dances of Mexico. She is also the recipient of Gold, Silver and Bronze Presidential Volunteer Service Awards and the Lifetime Achievement Award for her countless years of volunteering in the community. For the 2019-2020 school year, Shana will be teaching baile folklorico for the elemntary school programs.
Shay Sienkiewicz received her Bachelor’s degree in Violin Performance from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Since receiving her undergraduate degree, Shay has taught private lessons, performed in various ensembles, and has been a featured soloist with the St. Charles Symphony in Missouri. Currently, Shay is working on her Master’s degree in Music Education at the University of Oklahoma. She taught the Cristo Rey Orchestra in the 2018-2019 school year and is the principal instructor for this years Cristo Rey Mariachi program. In her free time, Shay enjoys spending time in nature and drinking coffee. For the 2019-2020 school year, Shay will be teaching violin and mariachi ensemble for the high school programs.
Sonia Ruiz is a senior at Norman North High School. She plays in the top orchestra and has been selected this year to play for the Fiddler on the Roof Orchestra pit. She is part of the National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society. Sonia is a cross country manager and is the top disc thrower in her division. She loves children and was a volunteer teacher for mariachi camps since 2016. She joined Mariachi Orgullo de America in 2015 and continues to play with the band.