Miami Dade College Inducts 10 New Alumni to Hall of Fame

Miami, May 21, 2024 – Miami Dade College (MDC) honored a new class of outstanding community leaders at its 22nd MDC Alumni Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony held Friday, May 17, at the Loews Coral Gables Hotel.

The annual Hall of Fame ceremony recognizes alumni who are civic and business leaders in the community and across the nation while raising vital funds to support student scholarships. Since 2003, more than 410 alumni have been inducted, representing various industries, from banking, journalism, marketing, public service, education, public safety and non-profit to name a few. MDC’s Hall of Fame is the signature fundraising event of the Miami Dade College Foundation.

“It is my privilege to honor a new group of exemplary leaders who join over two million MDC alumni making an impact in the community,” said MDC President Madeline Pumariega. “We are proud of their professional and personal accomplishments, and we thank them for their support and paving the way for future MDC students and alumni.”

The 2024 MDC Alumni Hall of Fame inductees are:
Vania Laguerre
Sr. Vice President, Local Market Executive
Bank of America
Laguerre’s illustrious career at Bank of America embodies the essence of leadership, community engagement, and unwavering dedication to fostering economic mobility. Her tenure at Bank of America spans three decades and showcases a remarkable evolution from roles in compliance, risk, business management and leadership to her pivotal position as the Local Market Executive. She orchestrates the firm’s strategic vision and philanthropic efforts in Miami, championing the cause of economic empowerment along with optimizing the delivery of Bank of America’s integrated resources to address financial needs. Her leadership extends beyond professional boundaries, embracing a passionate commitment to mentorship and diversity.

Jesus Lebeña
Sr. Vice President, Corporate Operations
MasTec Communication Group
Lebeña exemplifies a remarkable career in global business and operations management. With over 25 years of experience, his expertise spans across supply chain, strategic sourcing, fleet operations, safety, business process improvement and mergers & acquisitions. At MasTec Communications Group, Lebeña oversees a broad spectrum of operations, including supply chain, facilities, fleet operations, safety & training and vendor management. His career milestones include pivotal roles at Motorola Corporation, where he contributed significantly to supply chain and operations and was ranked among the top 10% Outstanding Performers. He served as the Past President of the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana, where he participated in organizing Carnaval Miami, the largest Hispanic festival in the United States.

Mari Tere Rojas
School Board Chair, District 6
Miami-Dade County Public Schools
Rojas, Chair of the Miami-Dade County School Board, the third-largest A-rated School District in the nation, has shown commitment to education and community growth by taking proactive steps to solve pressing issues, including academic excellence, school safety, mental health and addressing the teacher shortage. Most recently, the Prime Minister of France named her Officer of the Order of Academic Palms, the highest honor granted to academics and cultural education figures. She was also featured the book “Cuban American Women Making History.” Numerous awards include Elected Leader, Fiscal Management, National Distinguished Principal and Region IV Principal of the Year, The National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, Governor’s Sterling, Magnet Schools of America National Merit, and The Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement.

Stephanie Ann Perez
Central Pharmacy Pharmacist
Publix Supermarkets, Inc.
As a pharmacist for Publix Supermarkets, Inc., Perez significantly contributes to healthcare and patient well-being. Her professional journey is marked by her expertise, empathy and commitment, which are evident in her various roles within the field. Prior to Publix, Perez specialized as a Fertility Pharmacist, a position that honed her skills in patient care and empathy. This experience was integral in shaping her approach to pharmaceutical practice, focusing on patient-centered care and therapy management. Her proudest accomplishment is the successful balance of her professional responsibilities as a pharmacist and her personal life as a wife and mother of three. Her ability to manage these roles effectively highlights her dedication and commitment to both her family and her profession.

Journalism – Print
Alex Mena
Executive Editor
Miami Herald
Alex Mena’s illustrious career in journalism, marked by his rise to the position of Executive Editor at The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, embodies a story of relentless dedication and professional excellence. He began his career in the media industry as a clerk at The Miami Herald, where he later held various key roles, including Managing Editor and Deputy Managing Editor before his current position as Executive Editor. Over the years, Mena’s career trajectory has been nothing short of remarkable. In addition to overseeing both daily papers, he serves as the McClatchy Florida Regional Editor, overseeing the Bradenton Herald. His responsibilities include steering the editorial direction, managing newsroom operations and ensuring journalistic excellence across multiple platforms.

Heide Dans
Vice President
Heidi Dans has significantly impacted her hometown of Miami through dedicated philanthropy and leadership. Alongside her husband, Jose “Pepe” Dans, she established WOW MKTG in 2005, an agency that excels in marketing and advertising, and also champions community engagement and support. Her extensive volunteer work includes organizations such as Miami Children’s Museum, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and the American Cancer Society. Leadership roles, including mission chair of the American Cancer Society Gala, chair of the Miami Children’s Museum and co-chair of the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Diamond Ball, highlight her ability to mobilize resources and awareness for crucial causes. She continues to serve as gala chair for the Chapman Partnership for the Homeless, marking her third term in this pivotal position.

José “Pepe” Dans
José “Pepe” Dans is a paragon of entrepreneurial spirit and cultural advocacy in marketing. His early exposure to the media world began with selling ads in high school. His career exemplifies his foresight and adaptability in a rapidly evolving industry, marked by a progressive climb through various renowned media outlets. Dans demonstrated a unique understanding of market needs and audience engagement from his impactful sales tenure in television at WAMI-Channel 69 and WFLX to his strategic leadership at Univision Network. In 2005, he channeled this expertise into founding WOW Factor, which transformed into WOW MKTG, a full-service agency dedicated to amplifying the voice of the Hispanic market and beyond. Under Dans’ stewardship, WOW MKTG has expanded from a modest startup to a thriving multi-million-dollar enterprise.

James R. Haj
President and CEO
The Children’s Trust
Haj has significantly improved the lives of children and families in Miami-Dade. Under his leadership, The Children’s Trust has seen unprecedented growth, expanding its reach and impact across the county. His tenure at Southwest Miami High School, his alma mater, was marked by his ability to drive positive change, leading the school from a ‘D’ to an ‘A’ grade, a testament to his transformative leadership. This success was a precursor to his significant roles in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system, where he served as Assistant Superintendent of Labor Relations and Compensation and Administrative Director for both South and Central Region Offices. His time at MDC was a pivotal period that shaped his path as an educator and advocate for children.

Public Safety- Fire
Chief Raied S. Jadallah
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue
With a distinguished career in the fire service spanning over 28 years, Jadallah has been a cornerstone of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. As the Fire Chief, he leads nearly 3,000 employees, oversees various critical aspects of fire rescue operations and coordinates with county leaders and government agencies to enhance public safety goals. He began his career with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, advancing through the ranks from firefighter to Deputy Fire Chief. As an adjunct professor at Florida International University, he co-developed the Incident Command System Simulator Program, which integrates design factors and adult learning principles. His involvement in major incidents such as the Surfside Champlain Tower South Collapse and COVID-19 response showcase his leadership in critical situations, and earned him numerous awards and commendations, reflecting his exceptional service and dedication.

Public Service
Ashley V. Gantt
State Representative, District 109
Florida House of Representative
Gantt’s journey from inspired educator to the founder of Gantt Legacy Law, P.A. (GLL), exemplifies her dedication to service. She joined Teach for America and taught at Miami-Dade County Public Schools, where she shaped the minds of middle and high school students. She later transitioned into law to champion the rights of the underserved. As a Broward County Assistant Public Defender, her prowess in the courtroom was recognized with consecutive “Hat Trick” awards, highlighting her exceptional trial skills. Gantt’s leadership within the T.J. Reddick Bar Association, a fellow with the Florida Bar Wm. Reece Smith Jr. Leadership Academy, and the Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association illustrates her dedication to mentoring and elevating others in the profession.

About the Miami Dade College Foundation
Founded in 1965, Miami Dade College Foundation raises essential private funds to support scholarships, academic programs, and support services so MDC students have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. MDC Foundation also supports world-class arts and cultural programming at MDC that enriches the community. In 2022-2023, MDC Foundation distributed $26.8 million to benefit the students and programs of MDC. Known as Democracy’s College, MDC changes lives through accessible, high-quality teaching and learning experiences that prepare students for tomorrow’s workforce. Miami Dade College is the largest degree-granting institution in the nation. The college’s eight campuses offer more than 300 distinct degree pathways, including several baccalaureate degrees in biological sciences, engineering, data analytics, information systems technology, education, public safety, supervision and management, nursing, physician assistant studies, film, and others. For more information about the MDC Alumni Hall of Fame, please visit

MDC Foundation Contact: Dr. Stephanie Zapata, Director of Communication and Digital Engagement, 305-237-3240,