2016 Celebración Award Winners Announced
This year’s Celebración awards ceremony, hosted at the McAllen Convention Center last night, officially honored the 2016 winners in the community categories.
College of the Year
Cabrini University (Radnor, PA)
Cabrini University is the host university for the Northeast CWS program. NHI is the first organization that the Philadelphia-area Catholic university, founded in 1957, partnered with in its aim to be a Hispanic Serving Institution.
“The NHI and Cabrini partnership is built upon a common mission to cultivate leaders and make a college degree more accessible,” notes Dr. Donald Taylor, President of Cabrini University. “When I accepted the position of President at the University, I knew the partnership between Cabrini and NHI was a natural fit. Cabrini University’s namesake is the patroness of immigrants, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, whose work provided education and health care services to people in the US, Latin America, and across the globe. The increase in Hispanic students seeking a college degree today only reinforces the need to provide further outreach and support to these communities.”
High School of the Year
Panamerican School (Panama City, Panama)
Panamerican School, the second high school in Panama to receive honors from NHI, has partnered with NHI since 2009, sending students to Great Debate, LDZ, and CWS programs in the United States and Panama.
“Panamerican School has always been focused on critical thinking development, and NHI is helping us to achieve that goal,” said Principal Debora Stanziola. “We’re proud to have won awards in the Great Debate, LDZ, and CWS. These awards have shown how prepared and dedicated our students have become.”
Female College Student of the Year
Sandy de la Tejera
Sandy, attending the University of Texas at Austin, is a veteran of the Texas Great Debate, the Colorado LDZ, the Texas CWS, and multiple Celebracion events. She’s currently involved with NHI by helping to establish the new Fort Worth region for future Texas Great Debates.
She notes, regarding her ongoing NHI involvement, “Being around NHIers, having those conversations and experiences that you only really have with those people, is the easiest way to stay connected to the organization and its principles. But beyond that, I implement NHI principles in my day-to-day life. I always have been and continue to be a very reflective person. I actively decide the kind of person I want to be and the kind of life I want to live, and I make concerted efforts to always act in accordance with those goals. I appreciate, share, and attempt to learn about my culture. When reflecting, I consider how being a Latina affects and shapes me, and how I want to affect and shape it.”
Male College Student of the Year
Juan Luis Contreras Lora
Juan Luis, a student at Universidad Catolica Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic, attended the 2011 Texas LDZ program and joined the LDZ staff the following year to continue his commitment to NHI and help bring the program to other students.
“For me, it was not enough to live an experience,” he says of his decision to work at an LDZ program. “I wanted to be part of those who make the experience possible. I felt that I need to share this message, so I started recruiting my friends from school and then students from other places. Fighting against a whole system is not an easy task, and maybe you cannot change an entire country. However, you can change your friends’ way of thinking, their mentality, their life project.”
School District of the Year
Cotulla ISD, in the South Texas city of Cotulla, has been engaged with NHI since 2003, with Cotulla High School sending its students to multiple NHI programs. “They’re students who exhibit leadership characteristics and have great qualities,” said Superintendent Jack Seals. “They’re respectable, they have good character, and they represent the school in a sterling manner.”
According to Cotulla High counselor Marlene Costley-Maldonado, NHI alumni graduating have gone on to the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, and Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
(The photo with this article shows the Cotulla High School students who participated in 2016 summer programs.)
Counselor of the Year
Cecilia Phillips works at El Paso High School, where she’s been actively involved in recruiting students to NHI programs for the past six years. As awareness and participation in the program has evolved, she notes that students have taken more ownership in recruiting their peers, complementing her efforts. “Our students come away from their NHI experience full of confidence and self assured,” she says. “They have an enthusiasm about them carries over into whatever project or event they participate in on campus.”
Citation of Merit
Amy Alderson, who teaches at Grayslake North High School in Grayslake, Ill., and serves as faculty advisor for the Latinos Stand Up Club, has been working with NHI for more than a decade. She’s been instrumental in recruiting students to NHI programs, working closely with NHI’s Director of Midwest Relations, Karla Martinez in developing one of the organization’s best-represented regions.
“Participating in NHI gives students confidence, leadership skills, and momentum,” she notes. “It gives them an academic identity and a network of students and adults who they know will support them. If we have bright young Latino students who are already learning how to participate in our democracy and change our country for the better, that means a promising future for the rest of us.”