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2014 Conexiones Hispanic Student
Achievement Awardees

By Sara Martinez

On Wednesday May 14, 2014, several hundred people gathered in the auditorium of Long Reach High School to celebrate the accomplishments of 104 soon-to-be high school graduates. These aren't just any students; they are 104 of Howard County's accomplished, intelligent driven Hispanics who have been recognized for their dedication to academics, serving the community and overcoming life obstacles. This year students from each of Howard County's 12 public schools were honored.

Among all the speeches, there was a common theme: dedication, service and hard work. David Lee, representing the county executive, Ken Ulman, announced May 14 as Conexiones Day in Howard County. "Conexiones inspires bright futures," stated Lee in his address. In 2004, there were six awardees, and now in 2014, there are 104. Conexiones is broadening its base to touch the lives of more and more Hispanics in the Howard County community.

Dr. Renee Foose, the superintendent, Elisa Montalvo, Hispanic achievement specialist, and Reverend Angel Cartagena Jr. from Bridgeway Community Church all made speeches to the students. Their messages included those of changing the world by embracing technology. Be bold; be brave, and think about other people. Take responsibility, and appreciate the privilege to work for the common good. Money is never an objective; it's trying to improve humanity and make everyone better off. Life gives everything one needs if you are who you are. You make the world a better place by being a better you.

The students were recognized and awarded based upon their qualifications in one of the following three areas: academic achievement, community service, and overcoming obstacles. The academic achievement awards students who have pursued and succeeded in a rigorous course load. The overall winner in this category is Lucas Reis Conti from Atholton High School. Lucas was born in Brazil, is an athlete, was president of National Honor Society, was Vice President of MESA (Math, Engineering, Science Achievement), and has plans to be a doctor.

Overcoming obstacles awards students who have pursued and succeeded academically despite community and family challenges. The overall winner in this category is Ricardo Rosario from Reservoir High School! Ricardo was a cross-country runner, was a member of the National Honor Society, received Gold Honor Roll every quarter of his high school career, and would like to attend Harvard University.

Community service awards were given to students who have an outstanding record of service, including support to the Hispanic community. The overall winner in this category is Elijah Robert Baroncinni from Centennial High School. Elijah has heritage from Bolivia, was a member of the National Honor Society, and has career goals in psychology and psychiatry.

The final award is the Feli Solá-Carter Leadership Award that was awarded to one student. This award was established by her colleagues upon her retirement as a leading Federal Government Agency executive. The award recognizes a student who is an outstanding leader in academics and service to the community. This student demonstrates characteristics of all Conexiones awards. The winner of this award is Michelle Soto-Leal from Hammond High School. Michelle has heritage from Mexico, has received awards from the United States Achievement Academy National Award, has been on both the Gold and Silver Honor Roll, and has career goals in psychology or social work.

A huge congratulation goes to all the students who have won an award! A heartfelt thanks is sent to everyone who donated to sponsor the awards, and those who attended the ceremony to support the students. It wouldn't have been possible without any of you!

A complete list of all of the 2014 Awardees presented on May 14th:

Student Name High School Award Category
Alessandra Jesús González-Callán Hammond Overcoming Obstacles
Alex Enrique España-Hernández Hammond Overcoming Obstacles
Alex Lee Mercado Long Reach Academic Excellence
Alexandra María González Reservoir Academic Excellence
Alondra Magaña-Espinoza Oakland Mills Community Service
Alysa Noel Vega Oakland Mills Overcoming Obstacles
Amani Mariama Sakinah Coleman Oakland Mills Community Service
Amaya Shoshannah Phillips Reservoir Academic Excellence
Ambar Aileen Petersen Hammond High School Graduation Recognition
Anais Janice Molina-Torres Oakland Mills Overcoming Obstacles
Andrea Naomi Akamine-Vega Oakland Mills Community Service
Andrea Valeria Robles Long Reach Community Service
Andrea Gissell Padilla Long Reach Academic Excellence
Anzony Jared Baide-Hernández Mt Hebron Overcoming Obstacles
Arturo Aramis Rosales Hammond Overcoming Obstacles
Ashely Fryne Domínguez-Santiago Reservoir Overcoming Obstacles
Ashly Estephane Pineda Hammond Overcoming Obstacles
Benjamin William Mai Wilde Lake Overcoming Obstacles
Brenda Ramón-Escobar Long Reach Overcoming Obstacles
Brendan Ramón Nieto Reservoir Overcoming Obstacles
Brianna Xiomi Baleno Wilde Lake Academic Excellence
Brigitte Francesca Burrell Centennial Academic Excellence
Brittani Shaneese Alomar Oakland Mills Overcoming Obstacles
Carlos Ismael Lucero Centennial Overcoming Obstacles
Carlos Armando Orellana-Menjívar Oakland Mills Overcoming Obstacles
Carly Janae McBride Wilde Lake Overcoming Obstacles
Cristian Marcos Amador Marriotts Ridge High School Graduation Recognition
Cristina Angelique Gregory Mt Hebron Overcoming Obstacles
Daniel Alejandro Vázquez-Escobar Reservoir Academic Excellence
David Fernando Domínguez-Espinoza Glenelg Academic Excellence
Deja Keyona Ballesteros Reservoir Community Service
Dominic Joseph Mandile River Hill Overcoming Obstacles
Edwin Armando Piña-Muñoz Oakland Mills Overcoming Obstacles
Elijah Robert Baroncinni Centennial Overall Winner - Community Service 
Emilio Daniel Rodas Reservoir Academic Excellence
Erick Javier Medina Long Reach Community Service
Erika Patricia Morales Long Reach High School Graduation Recognition
Francis Alfred Mandile River Hill Overcoming Obstacles
Gabriela Esther Nagle-Alverio Marriotts Ridge Academic Excellence
Gary Francisco Cidre Reservoir Academic Excellence
Gian Carlo Serrano Reservoir Overcoming Obstacles
Heather Yomeda Henríquez Oakland Mills Academic Excellence
Hope Genevieve Loiselle Marriotts Ridge Academic Excellence
Irene Margarita Irizarry-Cruz Wilde Lake Academic Excellence
Isabella Gargiulo Romero Atholton Community Service
Jaelene Miranda Taylor Reservoir Overcoming Obstacles
Janel Kyler Pérez Oakland Mills Overcoming Obstacles
Jared Aaron Rodríguez Howard Community Service
Jason Aldair Ramírez Oakland Mills Community Service
Javier Orlando Mata Long Reach Overcoming Obstacles
Jayson Ovidio Pérez Oakland Mills Overcoming Obstacles
Jillian Elizabeth O'Neill Howard High School Graduation Recognition
Jocelyn Alina Peña Long Reach High School Graduation Recognition
Jocelyn Carolina Rogel Reservoir Overcoming Obstacles
Jonathan Bryan Morais Hammond Academic Excellence
José Salvador Anaya-García Oakland Mills Overcoming Obstacles
José Alejandro Gómez Centennial Overcoming Obstacles
José Armando Cova Reservoir Academic Excellence
Joseph Edward Boccher Wilde Lake High School Graduation Recognition
Josselin Corina Angel-Pacas Oakland Mills Overcoming Obstacles
Julian Ramón Perales Wilde Lake Community Service
Julianne Andrade Glenelg Academic Excellence
Julio Christian Valles Wilde Lake Community Service
Justis Ramón Perales Wilde Lake Community Service
Karina Ileana Núñez-Escobar Mt Hebron Overcoming Obstacles
Karla Yaren Ramírez-Bravo Mt Hebron Community Service
Katlin Elizabeth Woodall  Reservoir Academic Excellence
Louis Anthony Chaverini Oakland Mills Academic Excellence
Lucas Reis Conti Atholton Overall Winner - Academic Excellence
Madison Anne Albornoz Centennial Community Service
Marcelo Enrique Vargas-Palacios Reservoir Community Service
Marcos L. Meirelles Marriotts Ridge Overcoming Obstacles
Marcus David Santiago Glenelg Overcoming Obstacles
Mareya Elisabeth Rikae Norris Long Reach Academic Excellence
Maricela Raya Wilde Lake Overcoming Obstacles
Marlon Bladimir Ruiz-Mazariego Oakland Mills Community Service
Marques Dante' Pittman Reservoir High School Graduation Recognition
Melissa Maximina Porras Atholton Community Service
Michelle Yadira Orozco-Fuentes Reservoir Overcoming Obstacles
Michelle Soto-Leal Hammond Feli Solá-Carter Leadership Award
Monica Jessenia Cruz Reservoir Overcoming Obstacles
Monica Faith Redmond Howard Overcoming Obstacles
Monica Elaine Albizo Wilde Lake Community Service
Nadia Vanessa Valentín Marriotts Ridge Community Service
Nioby Ruth-Ann Scarbrough Wilde Lake Overcoming Obstacles
Olivia Hannah Rojas River Hill Community Service
Pablo Antonio Trueba Reservoir Academic Excellence
Paola Lara Reservoir Overcoming Obstacles
Reina Jacqueline Canales Reservoir Academic Excellence
Ricardo Rosario Reservoir Overall Winner -  Overcoming Obstacles
Rosana Marie Amaro Centennial Overcoming Obstacles
Rubén Darío Rodríguez Glenelg Overcoming Obstacles
Rut Noemi García Reservoir Overcoming Obstacles
Sadie Martina Ramos Reservoir Overcoming Obstacles
Samuel Joseph Marthinuss Centennial Academic Excellence
Santiago Pérez-Roldán Long Reach Academic Excellence
Sergio Leandro Rodríguez Howard Academic Excellence
Sindia Gabriela Gómez-Mejía Long Reach Overcoming Obstacles
Tessa Andrea Patino  Hammond Community Service
Tomás Eugenio Loayza Hammond High School Graduation Recognition
Vanesa Patricia Martínez-Chacón Oakland Mills Overcoming Obstacles
Victoria Michelle Rhodes Hammond High School Graduation Recognition
Waldo Gil Vázquez III River Hill High School Graduation Recognition