Veronica Isabel Dahlberg was born in Canton, Ohio. She is the daughter of Mexican and Hungarian immigrants who arrived in Cleveland over 60 years ago. Her father was a Hungarian refugee who met her mother in Mexico. She remembers her late parents, who became U.S. citizens: “My dad, a Hungarian immigrant who put on a suit when he voted, and my mother, a Mexican immigrant who joined him every Election Day.”
The family moved to Cleveland’s Buckeye neighborhood, populated by other Hungarian immigrants. From there, they moved to Ashtabula, where they built a home they owned for over 50 years. Her family was active in church and community, promoting Hispanic culture and helping people for many decades. This legacy was carried forward by Ms. Dahlberg, who has been active in the northeast Ohio Latino community for over 20 years.
Veronica is founder and executive director of HOLA Ohio, the organization she founded in 1999, which works to empower Latinos through leadership development, civic engagement and advocacy. HOLA has received recognition for its groundbreaking advocacy over the course of over 25 years.She also established the HOLA Business Association, a group of over 60 Latino-owned small-businesses who provide support. HOLA’s work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Washington Post, and a three-part series on Telemundo.
In an MSNBC interview celebrating her immigrant rights advocacy for over 20 years, she said, “Over 20 years ago I worked on a two-week university project interviewing farm workers on Virginia’s eastern shore. I was shocked at the working and living conditions for these 5,000 Mexican immigrants picking America’s crops. I saw how pesticides, long hours in the blazing sun, low pay and decrepit housing took a toll on them. I ended up staying eight months trying to learn how to organize the workers to improve their lives, a commitment I carry on to this day.”
She has said that, “A typical day involves fielding calls from desperate immigrants in deportation, finding ways to keep them here with their families, whether through a public action or legal maneuver. I often feel like a circus performer spinning plates — each deportation case is high stakes and requires quick action. I contact elected officials, lawyers and other leaders daily. I drive to immigration in Cleveland, HOLA meetings, sometimes I drive 1,000 miles weekly. I delegate tasks to HOLA volunteers, and consult my mentors to strategize or get moral support.”
Recently, under her direction, HOLA Ohio developed a new, $2 million Hispanic Community Center in Painesville, which opened to the public on Cinco de Mayo, 2022.
She was awarded the Cleveland Cavaliers "DIFF Maker" award for HOLA in 2023, and previously recognized with the Crain's Cleveland Business Woman of Note, and Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan award, and has been inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
Veronica says, “The biggest misconception about undocumented immigrants is that they are an economic drain on our country, and that immigration reform will negatively change America and all it stands for. As a patriotic American, I have come to appreciate their work ethic, love of family, and can-do attitude. I’ve seen how they are an indispensable part of our labor force and economy. They work hard and live frugally to build their American dream. When given the opportunity to learn and participate, they quickly adopt all that is great about America.”
Veronica Dahlberg will be inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame Class of 2024 by...”Read
Valarie J. McCall
Valarie J. McCall learned to meet leadership demands at an early age. Her first job at a McDonald’s restaurant – and a commute completely reliant on public transportation – began to open her eyes to the injustices and areas for opportunity in her hometown. She learned the value of servant leadership, humility and relationship building, all hallmarks of her leadership style today.
Her understanding of these important values helped her begin a public service career as a social worker and eventually as a world leader who influences critical communications, business, government and legislative policy and strategies, as well as, community & economic development decisions in Cleveland and across the globe.
As the former Chief of Communications, Government and International Affairs for the City of Cleveland, McCall served as a trusted advisor and cabinet member in the administration of the city’s longest serving mayor, Frank G. Jackson. She is now a renowned expert in business, government, board dynamics, leadership and strategy.
McCall was Cleveland's primary representative for Sister Cities International, a nonprofit, non- partisan organization advancing relationships with sister cities, counties, and states across the globe. In addition, McCall advanced the city’s brand by implementing innovative communications campaigns highlighting progress, informing and advising residents of developments, legislative matters and constituent issues.
Over the last 20 years, some of Cleveland's most notable wins were made possible because of McCall's fundraising expertise, strategic partnerships and ability to execute. Notably, in 2014, she was Cleveland's lead coordinator for Gay Games IX (2014), an international multi-sport event and cultural gathering organized and catered to LGBT athletes, artists, and musicians.
In 2016, McCall helped plan the Cleveland Cavaliers' Championship parade and served as the City’s Lead representative and prepared the city to host the Republican National Convention (RNC) which brought more than 50,000 visitors to Cleveland; she also helped the city secure a $50 million grant to offset convention costs.
Celebrated for her breadth of knowledge and enthusiasm toward fundraising, donor relations, and philanthropic partnerships, McCall served as Chairwoman of Mayor Jackson's inaugural committee, overseeing all planning and fiscal aspects of the inaugural activities and ceremonies.
Prior to the Jackson administration, McCall served in the White and Campbell Administrations and was the youngest City Clerk and Clerk of Council in Cleveland's history, under then Council President Frank G. Jackson. As Director, McCall led the city’s Empowerment Zone Office and was responsible for over a budget over $200 million.
McCall is the recipient of numerous accolades, including Crain's Cleveland Business 40 Under 40 Award, Ebony Magazine's Young Leader of the Future Award, Rotary Club of Cleveland's International Service Award, and Woman of Color Foundation's "STAR" Professional Woman of the Year.
In addition, she has impacted prestigious local and national Boards. McCall is a member of the Democratic National Committee, State of Ohio Democratic Party Executive Committee, Cuyahoga County Democratic Executive Committee, Elected Precinct Committee Person for Ward 6, Precinct 6-B and served as the Jackson’s Administration’s primary representative to the National Black Caucus of Local and Elected Officials, US Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities and several other Boards and Committees.
McCall is a Past Chair and Current Board Member Emeritus for the American Public Transportation Association, where she helped the organization examine and change its internal and external policies and created a scholarship for deserving transit oriented students. McCall is also a Past Chair of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (local MPO), Past Chair of the District One Integrating Public Works Committee; Former Board Member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, Destination Cleveland; Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, The Levin College Visiting Committee and Cleveland State University (CSU) Center for Population Dynamics advisory board, just to name a few.
McCall is concluding an impressive nearly two decade appointment to the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA term ending, March, 2023) and McCall is a newly appointed board member for We Global Studios, a community of thought leaders run by and for women entrepreneurs, and Oscar's Place Adoption Center and Sanctuary.
McCall's experience traveling via public transportation as an adolescent created a personal connection and desire to advocate for public transit riders and coalitions. She worked closely with the Regional Transit Authority to ensure successful citywide transportation plans during the RNC and Gay Games. McCall also served as Chairwoman of the American Public Transportation Association and helped the organization examine its internal and external practices.
McCall is a proud daughter of Cleveland, OH. She earned a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work and a Master's Degree in Public Administration from Cleveland State University. In
2012, the university graciously awarded her an Honorary Doctor of Public Service degree Honoris Causa and in 2016, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from L’University De Rouen Normandie, Rouen, France (both with all rights, privileges, and honors).
In addition to contributing to her beloved hometown's overall revitalization and forward mobility, McCall is the founder of Valarie McCall Consulting Agency. She resides in Cleveland, Ohio with her dogs, Barack, Princess BaileyRivers and Drakko DeLeon. Together, they share fond memories of their sibling, Kapono – forever in their hearts.
Valarie McCall Inducted on June 7, 2022
Covid-19 forced the always sold out induction ceremonies to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021. We tried to induct the 2020 class virtually but it was not the same. So once we were able to gather together again, we included the 2020 class in the induction ceremony for the 2022 class on June 7, 2022. The event at Windows on the River was a sell out and the 2020 class finally got their moment in the spotlight.
On the evening of June 7, 2022 Valarie was finally honored in person and was inducted by Albert Ratner.
Before he inducts Valarie McCall, Albert Ratner gives some wise words about immigration, population and the City of Cleveland. Watch the video of Valarie McCall being inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame by Albert Ratner
Victor A. Ruiz
Victor A. Ruiz was born in Puerto Rico and came to Cleveland, Ohio at the age of five with his mother and brother. He is a courageous leader and advocate with a body of work that spans over twenty years. Victor has a broad network and because of his work, has been recognized as a Crain’s Cleveland Power 150, one of the 500 most influential people by Cleveland Magazine, and a Forty under Forty.
As Executive Director of Esperanza, Inc., Victor leads an organization that advocates for the educational needs of Cleveland’s Latinx community. As a result of their efforts, Cleveland’s Latinx high school graduation rate has grown from 30% in 2010, to over 84% in 2021. Under his leadership, the organization has raised millions of dollars for college scholarships and support services. In 2015, the organization was named a Brightspot in Education by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
Victor also serves in several leadership roles, including past chair of the Cuyahoga Community College, one of the country’s largest community colleges. During his three-year tenure as Chair, the college undertook a $250,000,000 community-wide capital campaign that raised dollars for major capital improvements, including construction of several new academic and administrative buildings, and renovations throughout the entire six-campus institution. Victor also serves on the Executive Committee of the United Way of Greater Cleveland, which is the largest in the state of Ohio and includes representation from a majority of Northeast Ohio’s corporate community.
Victor has a bachelor’s degree in English from Baldwin Wallace College, and a master’s degree in Education from Cleveland State University. He is a Certified Professional Diversity Coach (CPDC) through the CoachDiversity Institute.
Victor Ruiz inducted on June 7, 2022
Watch the video of Victor Ruiz being inducted into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame by Dr. Alex Johnson the president of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C).
José C. Feliciano
José C. Feliciano was born in Yauco, Puerto Rico and was reared on the near west side of Cleveland. He has been a Partner in the Litigation Group in the Cleveland office of the national law firm of Baker & Hostetler LLP since 1987. Prior thereto, he made history by serving as the first Hispanic public official in the history of the City of Cleveland by serving as the city's chief prosecuting attorney. The culmination of his public career was Mr. Feliciano's selection as a White House Fellow by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Earlier in his career, he was a Cuyahoga County Public Defender and was an attorney for the Legal Aid Society. He has also been an adjunct professor at John Carroll University. He holds a B.A. from John Carroll University, a J.D. from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, and an M.B.A. from Cleveland State University.
A member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, Mr. Feliciano has more than 37 years of experience in complex commercial and employment litigation. His trial experience has included business litigation, products liability, construction, shareholders' derivative suits, contracts, eminent domain, and commercial and personal torts. Mr. Feliciano was elected to the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1995, he has been consistently listed in the Who's Who in American Law, and he is consistently recognized as an Ohio Super Lawyer and listed in The Super Lawyer in Business for Corporate Counsel and Fortune 1000 Decision Makers.
Mr. Feliciano is deeply committed to advancing the Hispanic community in Northeast Ohio. He is the founder and Chairman of the Hispanic Roundtable. He is also the former Chairman of the Hispanic Leadership Development Program and founder of the Hispanic Community Forum, for which he also served as President. Additionally, Mr. Feliciano was a founder of the Ohio Hispanic Bar Association and served as its Vice President. He is a past general counsel for the Spanish American Committee.
In his role as Chairman of the Hispanic Roundtable, Mr. Feliciano hosted a monthly talk show on El Sol Television, produced by El Sol De Cleveland Hispanic newspaper. Mr. Feliciano and his guests discussed topics relevant to the Hispanic business and professional community of Northeastern Ohio. He wrote a regular column on legal issues in El Sol newspaper and has written book reviews for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Today, he is an aperiodic columnist for La Prensa newspaper.
Mr. Feliciano has a long history of other community involvement, including service on the board of the following organizations: Cuyahoga County Transition Group (Executive Committee), John Carroll University (Vice Chairman), St. John Hospital, United Way Services, Greater Cleveland Roundtable, Ohio Motorist Association (AAA), Case Western Reserve University Visiting Committee (Chairman), Cleveland-Marshall Law School Visiting Committee, Cleveland Ballet, The Cleveland Children's Museum, New Cleveland Campaign, Spanish-American Committee, National Conferences of Christians and Jews, Cleveland Council on World Affairs, and WVIZ (Public Television).
Mr. Feliciano currently sits on the following boards: Hispanic Roundtable (Chairman and Founder), Greater Cleveland Partnership, Global Cleveland, Midwest Coalition on Immigration (Twelve State Initiative of the Chicago Council of Global Affairs), Commission on Economic Inclusion (Executive Committee), and MWV Pinnacle Capital Fund Advisory Board.
Mr. Feliciano has been equally involved in the Bar. He is a past president of the Cleveland Bar Association. Mr. Feliciano served on the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association from 2001 through 2004, and since 1998 he has been elected on a nationwide level to the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association, the congress of the legal profession. In addition, he has chaired the Section of Dispute Resolution of the American Bar Association (1996-1997) and has represented the American Bar Association to the National Conference of Commission on Uniform State Laws.
More recently, he has served on the A.B.A.'s Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary (2006-2010) which reviews all nominees to federal judgeship, including the United States Supreme Court, and reports to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Justice Department, and the White House. He currently sits on the A.B.A.'s Standing Committee for an Independent Judiciary. Mr. Feliciano was honored by the American Bar Association in 2005 with the "Spirit of Excellence" award, given by its Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. In 2008 he was named Chairman of the Advisory Group for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
Mr. Feliciano has received a number of awards and honors for his professional accomplishments. He was initially recognized for his public service in 1983 when, as a prosecutor for the City of Cleveland, he was awarded the Ernest J. Bohn Public Administrator's Award, Public Administrator of the Year in Cuyahoga County. Cleveland State University granted its Distinguished Alumni Award in Law and Business to Mr. Feliciano in 1990, and the Cleveland State University Nance College of Business elected him into its Hall of Fame in 2010. He was also recognized by the Cleveland-Marshall Law Alumni Association as an Alumnus of the Year in 1998. ORT granted Mr. Feliciano its Jurisprudence Award in 2009 and Crain's Cleveland Business listed him in its "Who's Who in Business" in Cleveland in 2010.
In recognition of his community service, the U.S. Jaycees selected Mr. Feliciano as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men in America in 1984, an award received by, among others, John and Robert Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, and Elvis Presley. The American Nationalities Movement granted Mr. Feliciano its civic achievement award in 1990, and the Ohio Commission on Spanish Speaking Affairs recognized Mr. Feliciano in 1996 as a Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan. Nueves Horizontes Newspaper recognized him as its Hispanic of the Year in 2000. The Federal Bar Association granted him its Boots Fisher Civic Achievement Award in the same year, when he also received the Hispanic Political Action Committee Civic Award. Most recently, he is a recipient of the John Carroll University's Alumni Association Alumni Metal (2012).
Mr. Feliciano, who resides in Chagrin Falls, has been married for 37 years to his wife Molly, with whom he has three children: José Jr. (33), Rebecca (30), and Marisa (27). He has a grandson: Ciarán (3 months).”Read
Luis Martinez was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico and moved with his family from Puerto Rico to Lorain, Ohio when he was 3 years old. He graduated from Lorain Admiral King High School in 1966. He served with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam where he was awarded 2 Purple Hearts for wounds sustained in combat while serving with a Combined Action Group.
He contributed the chapter titled, "A Puerto Rican Marine" and is found on the cover of the New York Times Bestseller EVERYTHING WE HAD, An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Thirty-three American Soldiers Who Fought It by Al Santoli (Random House, 1981).
In 1973, Mr. Martinez moved to Cleveland, Ohio and joined the Recruitment and Training Program/Construction Equal Employment Plan (RTP/CEEP) to assist minority youth and women to enter the building and construction trade union apprenticeship programs by preparing them for the aptitude tests administered by the unions. Consequently he was promoted to Project Director; during his tenure with RTP he was afforded the opportunity to attend the Harvard University, John F. Kennedy, School of Government where he received a certificate in Manpower Administration.
In 1981, he went on to briefly serve with the Department of Labor, Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training before being appointed by then Mayor, George V. Voinovich as an Executive Assistant where he served as the Liaison with the Hispanic Community and the Mayor's Office. Mr. Martinez served in this capacity for 6 years where he spearheaded endeavors with public and private organizations to enhance communication and opportunities for Hispanics, collaborated with others in the creation of organizations such as Esperanza Inc., (formerly the Cleveland Hispanic Scholarship Fund) the integration of Latinos into the Police, Fire and other City of Cleveland Departments as well as advocating for Hispanic businesses that saw contract awards increase by over $2,000,000.
In 1986, Mr. Martinez was awarded a scholarship by the National Urban Fellows, Inc. He received a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Baruch College, City University of New York. Upon returning to Cleveland he joined the City of Cleveland, Dept. of Community Development where he served in various capacities as a Project Director until his retirement in 2010.
Mr. Martinez is married to Nora, who retired as a teacher with the Cleveland Municipal School District. His son Luis Carlos graduated from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine where he is presently the Associate Dean of Admissions. Daughter Lynna M. Martinez received her Bachelor's Degree from OSU and a Masters Degree in Education Policy and Reform from the University of Pittsburgh. She is presently the Director of Student Development for the Northside Urban Pathways Charter School in Pitts., Pa.”Read