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OCHLA honors Latino Leaders, Veterans


By La Prensa Staff


The Ohio Commission on Hispanic-Latino Affairs (OCHLA) hosts an annual gala to honor Latino leaders and veterans and wrap up Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations across the state.


The Governor’s 39th annual Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Awards Gala honors individuals and organizations that have demonstrated outstanding achievements in their professional or community service endeavors, and who serve as role models for the growing Latino community in Ohio. The event will be held Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, 6 to 9 p.m., in the Governor’s Ballroom at the Sheraton Columbus at Capitol Square, 75 E. State St., Columbus.


As previously reported in La Prensa, three Northwest Ohio Latino individuals and institutions will receive the Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan (DHO) award: José Luna, longtime Hispanic Outreach Coordinator at Toledo Public Schools, will be honored with a DHO award. Ezekiel Villa of Toledo will be presented the Latino Military Service of Distinction Award. Nueva Esperanza Community Credit Union will receive the Nuestra Familia Award.


The Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Award recognizes outstanding Hispanics who have excelled in the professional arena, leadership and community services.


The Latino Military Service of Distinction Award pays tribute to serving men and women who continue to support our country through their engagement in their communities, along with leadership and success in their careers.


The Nuestra Familia (Our Family) Award acknowledges non-Latino individuals, organizations, and businesses who are making a difference through their inclusion efforts to improve the lives of Latinos and help them integrate to the communities where they live. 


This year’s complete list of award winners is as follows:

Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan AwardeesAngel Colón (Cincinnati), Amy García (Bedford Heights), José Luna (Toledo), Julio Mateo (Dayton), Hector Medina (Mason), Jorge Pérez (Cincinnati), Yahaira Pérez-Caraballo (Westerville), Mary Lou Reyes (Youngstown), and Victor Ruiz (Cleveland).


Military Service of Distinction AwardeesAir Force Colonel Walter Bustelo (Dayton) and Air Force Technical Sergeant Ezequiel “Frank” Villa (Toledo).


Nuestra Familia Awardees: Dr. Christopher Babiuch (Lorain), General Electric Hispanic Forum Cincinnati Chapter, Nationwide Children’s Hospital (Columbus), Nueva Esperanza Community Credit Union (Toledo), Rocking Horse Community Health Center (Springfield), Inna Simakovsky (Columbus), Suzanne Smaltz (Copley), and Bryan Wright (Cincinnati).


This year’s keynote speaker is Judge Marilyn Zayas, who serves in Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. Judge Zavas was born in Spanish Harlem and grew up in tough New York City neighborhoods as the daughter of a printer and seamstress. She graduated with a college degree in computer science and moved to Cincinnati to work as an IT manager for Procter and Gamble. But she later went to law school and served as a private practice attorney for 20 years.


Judge Zavas was elected to the appeals court in 2016 and was selected to sit on an Ohio Supreme Court case last year. After becoming a judge, Ms. Zavas created the “Educating Tomorrow’s Leaders” program, an educational program for high school students, inviting them to interact with judges and attorneys and learn about the law.  


As an attorney, Ms. Zayas partnered with local police on victim’s advocacy issues to develop best practices so that foreign born victims would overcome their fears, report crime and cooperate with investigations, and appear in court. Judge Zavas was awarded the LULAC Women's National Convention Service and Commitment Award in 2014. 


Originally the Hispanic Service Award, the Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Award was established in 1980 by the Ohio Latino Affairs Commission. This award was created to fulfill the Commission’s mandate to “secure appropriate recognition of the accomplishments of Hispanic/ Latino people of this state.” In 2010, the DHO Awards started honoring Latino service members through the Latino Military Service of Distinction Award.

The event is open to the public. Tickets cost $75 per person with dinner included and can be purchased at https://2019dho.eventbrite.com.






Copyright © 1989 to 2019 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10/22/19 10:25:59 -0700.




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