Meet the 2022 Champions of Change | Champion of the Year Nominees

2022 Champions of Change Champion of the Year Nominees

Denise Hernandez
Deputy Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Travis County Attorney’s Office

Denise Hernández is a lawyer, DEI Practitioner, and community advocate. She currently serves as the Deputy Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Travis County Attorney’s Office, working on social justice initiatives and criminal justice transformation. Additionally, Denise is the co-founder of Hustle for the Cause, a social enterprise focused on socially conscious event production and branding. Through her work, Denise helps community activists build sustainable social impact organizations and events. Denise also organizes Chingona Fest Texas, an annual Latina empowerment event that ignites Latina entrepreneurship, leadership, and philanthropy. Dedicated to social change and philanthropy, Denise and her wife formed the KDH Giving Fund in 2020 to support initiatives that uplift Black and Brown communities and LGBTQIA+ communities. Since launching the fund, they have raised over $10,000 in grants. Denise has been nationally recognized for her social impact work, honored as an Anne McAfee Leader of Cultural Change, and named a two-time finalist for Austin’s 40 under 40. She is driven by her lived experience to create social change and is deeply committed to mentorship and community building.

Monica Maldonado
MAS Cultura

Monica Maldonado is the founder of MAS Cultura, a nonprofit organization. MAS Cultura celebrates and advocates for the Music, Art, and Soul in underserved neighborhoods and we strive to create opportunities for underrepresented artists. Raised in South Austin by a single, undocumented, immigrant mother, Monica’s inspiration is fueled by early childhood struggles. As an Austin native, she has witnessed the city’s growth. It’s both her struggle and understanding of gentrification that drives her passion for culture preservation. All her efforts have been driven by the belief that art helps us remember who we are and unifies people. Her vision is to support and honor the Latino community, and that our stories should be reflected throughout our neighborhoods and city.

Terry Mitchell
Black Leaders Collective

Terry P. Mitchell is a native Austinite, born and raised by a single mother in the heart of old East Austin. Her love for her people and community has led her to a life long commitment to servitude and philanthropy. Terry is a passionate and successful serial entrepreneur, whom applies her business skills toward the pursuit of equity and inclusion for Black people of Central Texas. She is the founder of the Black Leaders Collective, an organization made up of more than 80 Black leaders that have bound together to forge new vision for Black liberation in Travis and Williamson County.

Mando Rayo
The New Philanthropists + Tacos of Texas

Mando Rayo’s experience is deep-rooted in over 20 years of uplifting and recognizing Latinx & BIPOC communities. As co-founder of The New Philanthropists (TNP), a nonprofit that works to create a more inclusive and equitable nonprofit sector, Mando takes on the necessary work that leads to sustainable and systemic change. Alongside Paulina Artieda, Executive Director of TNP, Mando is invested in creating cultural shifts on nonprofit boards that lead to authentic representation, and in helping organizations develop inclusion strategies at the leadership level. Since its launch, TNP has identified over 570 board prospects of color, matched 21 board members of color to nonprofits in Austin, matched 30 mentors with 146 mentees of color, hosted 19 equity workshops with 176 participants and currently is working with over 40 nonprofits on their DEI Journey. Mando's inclusive leadership goes beyond TNP's mission as he is also a digital story-teller, producer and partner for IDENTITY Network. This project is ignited by his upbringing in Texas as a Mexican-American and how he can inspire and build bridges through the showcasing of untold stories and experiences of communities of color. Lastly, but never to be forgotten, Mando also serves as the "Taco Journalist," producer and author of books & shows including: The Tacos of Texas book, PBS docu-series and KUT Podcast and the United Tacos of America TV Show on El Rey Network.

Dr. Jereka Thomas-Hockaday
Central Texas Allied Health Institute

Dr. Jereka Thomas-Hockaday was born in Baytown, Texas. She received a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences from Texas State University- San Marcos, both master’s and doctorate degrees from Capella University. Over her twenty-year career in healthcare, Jereka has worked as an Emergency Room Technician, Surgical Technologist and Surgical Assistant in various hospitals in the Austin area. In 2011, Jereka accepted a position as Surgical Technology Instructor at the newly opened Brown Mackie College-San Antonio. During her tenure, she served as Instructor, Clinical Coordinator and Acting Department Chair. In 2015, Jereka completed an Advanced Certificate in Surgical Assisting from Meridian Institute of Surgical Assisting in Nashville, TN. Jereka was then invited to become a partner and Managing Director at River City Assisting, LLC surgical assisting group. In this capacity, Jereka managed six employees. The group provided surgical assisting services for fifteen surgeons in Austin the areas of General, Orthopedics, OB/GYN, Plastics, ENT and Brain/Spine surgery. She is now co-founder of the Central Texas Allied Health Institute. A new institution of higher learning that seeks to bring allied health care training to individuals in vulnerable communities who have not historically had access to these types of training programs. She and the team of the campus are featured on the upcoming sixth season of Queer Eye for their work running a Travis County sponsored COVID testing and vaccination clinic in East Austin. Jereka and her husband, William “Ben” Hockaday live in rural South Travis County with their 3 year-old son Carter Thomas and their dog, Chula. Servant leadership and public service is family legacy as Ben is a career federal employee at the Veterans Administration.