Annual Hispanic Achievement Awards
On May 18th, 2011, at the 10th Annual Hispanic Achievement Awards Ceremony, Conexiones helped enrich the lives of 39 well deserving students from schools across Howard. Conexiones President since 2007, Felícita Solá-Carter, could barely contain her enthusiasm as she presided over the ceremony. The awards ceremony was held at Long Reach High School, or "The Reach," as Principal David Burton calls the school. The 39 students gathered to be recognized for their outstanding achievements during their high school tenure. From excelling in class to overcoming obstacles, barriers were broken with drive and ambition.
At a time in which our nation faces great challenges, Conexiones is taking steps to ensure that these challenges are met by enriching the lives of talented young Hispanics within the community, who are an integral part of the future of our nation. The ceremony recognized each student by giving awards to these exceptional individuals to provide support for their upcoming college careers and future endeavors.
Federal, State and County government showed their support for the Conexiones award ceremony. Certificates were given to the students from Senator Barbara Mikulski and Senator Benjamin Cardin to recognize their support. In addition to Senator Mikulski, Senator Cardin also had representatives present to show his support for the work of Conexiones and of each student. Mrs. Christina Diaz-Malone, who serves on the Governor's Commission for Hispanic Affairs, represented Governor Martin O' Malley. County Executive Ken Ulman issued a proclamation declaring May 18th, 2011 Conexiones Day in Howard county.
In 2000, when Dr. Murray Simon founded Conexiones, Hispanic students comprised of only 1.8% of the student body. Dr. Murray, though, cared about the talents and achievement of each individual. Deputy Superintendent Perkins stated that since then the Hispanic student body has grown to become 8.3% of the student body which totals 4,210 students. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 out of every 4 student in the United States is Hispanic.
Keynote speaker, Carlos Lopez, who works for Northrop Grumman, shared his story with the awardees. He acknowledged the obstacles each student had overcome to get where they were, and he warned them that more challenges would be ahead. "Achievement does not come without overcoming obstacles", Mr. Lopez proclaimed, "So get out there and dare to be exceptional".
Conexiones Board Member David Rodriguez recognized all of the progress that Conexiones has made as he read out the awardees. The students who received awards were:
Atholton High School: María Eugenia Espinoza, Melisa D. Noriega and Yuri C. Villatoro Centennial: Juliana N. Heckman, Gariela L. Perdomo Hammond: Amanda V. Saco, Monica R. Santizo Howard: Victoria N. Lentz, Xaviera V. Rosado, Gregory Ryan Toland Long Reach: Jimmy H. Archaga Erazo, Fabian Castro, Lacy Hall Mt. Hebron: Marielena Carmona, Jacqueline R. Dawson, Garrison E. Goth, Ana K. Hedges, Sarah K. Martinez, Izabelle Mendez Oakland Mills: Heriberto A. Arevalo, Stephanie Montes, Jeanette Munoz Saborio, Soraya Paul-Blanc, Pamela Quiroga, Carlos A. Riveros Sabogal, Joseph L. Young Reservoir: Vera Lucia Berna, Bruno I. Garcia Gonzalez, Amy V. Porras River Hill: Andrea D. Hale, Marjory Mayen Velasquez, Isaura Cristina Oporto Romero Wilde Lake: Karen Daniela Castillo, Sarai Colon, Marina P. Garay, Jason A. Ling, Christopher D. Marsh, Maria Alejandra Sandoval, Yenny Zamora.
Of special note, the recipient of the Academic Achievement Award was Melisa Noriega of Atholton High School with a 4.67 GPA. Melisa will be attending Harvard University in the fall.
Leading the way in the spirit of resilience, the winner of the Overcoming Obstacles Award was Joseph L. Young.
And, the student recognized with the highest award, the Feli Solá-Carter Leadership Award, for excellence in academic achievement, community service, and leadership was Xaviera Rosado. This award was established by her then colleagues to honor Ms. Solá-Carter's contributions as a leader during her career at the Social Security Administration (SSA). The award was presented by Ms. Carmen Salcedo, representing the Hispanic Affairs Advisory Committee of SSA.
Mr. Rodriguez recognized Conexiones' success in Howard County, and expressed his desire for it to be a benchmark for the rest of the nation. Mr. Rodriguez noted that every second he spends with Conexiones is a precious second away from his family, but he realizes how important Conexiones is to the Hispanic students of Howard County.
The evening was full of both pride and joy for the students, parents, educators and administrators. It was a night to mark the undertakings and success, not only of the students, but of Conexiones as an organization. The representation of County, State and Federal Government showed the level of accomplishment by these students in Hispanic community as a whole. Conexiones is recognizing the hard work and dedication that leads to a better tomorrow for students, Howard County, Maryland and the nation.
Credits: Ariednarelis Z. Padilla and Ryan Engelbretson