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Papke Appointed to West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors

January 11, 2011

Varnum partner Melissa Papke has been selected to be a member of the 2011 West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Papke is a corporate attorney who focuses her practice on real estate and financial services and is also fellow of the American College of Mortgage Attorneys.

The New York City native's unique background prompted her to seek out the Grand Rapids' Hispanic community. Papke was born to a first generation Spanish-Mexican mother and a Russian-Jewish father, with Spanish and Yiddish spoken fluently by her grandparents.

"Because I was raised in a culturally blended household, I grew up with a wealth of traditions, and was greatly influenced by my Latino grandparents," Papke recalled. "They instilled in me a love for their language, their music, their food and their stories of life in Santander and Chihuahua."

Though her grandparents spoke their native languages fluently, her parents spoke mostly English in the home. As a result, Papke had to work very hard to learn Spanish as a young adult. During her undergraduate years at Dartmouth College and her time at the University of Michigan School of Law, Papke joined various Latino groups to stay connected with that part of her background.

Upon moving to Grand Rapids, Papke felt it was important to make strides to remain connected with her heritage. She immediately sought out opportunities to serve the Hispanic community and got involved with organizations such as the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan and attended the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce bi-monthly meetings.

Professionally, Papke sits on Varnum's Diversity Committee and is spearheading the launch of a Spanish section on Varnum's website. She also serves as Varnum's liaison to Hispanic law student groups.

Last spring, Carlos Sanchez, president of West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, prompted Papke to apply for the open board position. Each term is for two years.

"We're thrilled that Melissa will take a larger role in the evolving mission of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce," Sanchez said. " Her unique heritage and experiences in both the Latino community and non-Latino community will be useful in progressing the mission of the Chamber."

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