Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with LPA: Following a Dream of Service


Margarita Avila has followed a long and winding path to reach her dream of providing meaningful and impactful service at the Latino Academy of Workforce Development.

Part 1 of 2

By Jonathan Gramling

Margarita Avila has followed a long and sometimes twisting path to find her dreams and to implement them. Avila grew up in Durango, Mexico, the youngest of four children whose parents owned a grocery store.

“Growing up, I had to do chores and work for my parents, helping them in their business,” Avila said. “Now I feel that I have an entrepreneur inside me because growing up, I had to support my parents.”

Avila’s parents felt that the Durango school system would not allow Avila to develop her full academic potential. Her father tried to create a better academic environment for Avila, but it was out of his hands. They would have to look elsewhere for Avila to continue her education.

“My older power was already here in Madison,” Avila said. “He was working here and had already graduated from college. He told my parents that he was willing to have me stay with him. We’re 11 years apart. It was a big difference. My parents asked me and of course

I was super excited. My friends and I decided that probably the only way for me to continue my education was to come to Madison. Then I moved here to Madison when I was 14-years-old and lived with my brother. My parents still supported me enough and they have been very supportive of my goals, career, school and education as well.”

Like any other immigrant child, Avila had to first learn English and adjust to her new community that had a different culture. But she thrived at Madison Memorial High School.

“I was super active at school,” Avila said. “I joined different clubs. I was part of the Latino club that they still have at the school. During my last year, I was an honor society student because I was doing so well at school. I was super active. I was engaged and always volunteering in the community.”

Avila’s volunteerism also brought opportunity her way.

“When I was in high school, I was also a volunteer for Los Madrugadores here in Madison,” Avila recalled. “That connected me with ESPN radio in Milwaukee. Someone was talking about me and that’s how I was able to get my internship with ESPN Milwaukee. You never know. Connections can be very useful and helpful in the future. That’s why it is always important to leave a good mark and do your best. You never know when you are going to meet a person. With everything I do, I try to do my best. That comes from who I am.”

While Avila wanted to continue her education in Madison, she got an offer she couldn’t refuse to attend Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee.

“I fell in love with the school,” Avila said. “They treated me pretty well. I got a full-ride scholarship. I received a bachelor’s degree in communication arts with an emphasis in marketing. I was very active in the Latino community in Milwaukee.”

Upon graduation, Avila stayed in Milwaukee and worked several jobs.

“When I was through school, I worked for an after school program called Pathways Milwaukee,” Avila said. “For two summers, I worked for UW-Stevens Point for a summer program there. That’s where my education and passion became education. That turned me into the person who I am today. I was also part of the United Nations. I was an ambassador for the United Nations for a couple of years. I participated in their conferences, helping evaluate curriculum. I went to a couple of national and international conferences as well where I had to help coordinate some of those conferences. Definitely I have a passion for diversity and inclusion. It inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and visit new places, read about new industries.”

Avila also worked for an online Latino community calendar called MiVoz.com. And then headed to the American Heart Association where she was director of communications and marketing. Being energetic and ambitious, Avila also sold real estate and eventually left the heart association to sell real estate full time.

But that was not enough. While in Milwaukee, Avila attended the Latino Leadership Program in Milwaukee through the UW-Milwaukee and the Roberto Hernandez Center.

“As a part of our final projects, we had to create our own mission and vision,” Avila said. “And we did a presentation. Our peers had to provide feedback. It was great. I remember that I was super-nervous. When I originally read the mission and vision that I created for myself, it definitely aligns with what I am doing right now with my professional career and my personal life as well. What I recall is I put in my mission that I wanted to work for a Latino organization in the area of education.”

Soon opportunity came knocking.

Next issue: Working at the Latino Academy