Alejandro said she was surprised to hear she won the award.
“I’m honored to be among the others who have won the Estrella,” she said. “They are the pioneers and the mentors because of their leadership. I hope this recognition helps to raise awareness about Latino health disparity so that others can support our Coalition efforts.
Ms. Alejandro will be among those honored at a recognition event Nov. 17 at the college. Distinguished alumni, scholarship winners, and donors will also be recognized during the ceremony which will be from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in Building B, Room 101.
Ms. Alejandro has been active in the Latino community since she was in her twenties. She began in legal services for Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) and served as a paralegal in its Migrant Farm Worker Unit. She helped develop legal programs to protect the rights of migrant farm workers in various legal issues including wages, terms of employment, education, and public benefits.
Later, Alejandro began working in inner city Toledo and its Latino communities through agencies of Adelante Inc. and the Cordelia Martin Health Center. She facilitated alcohol and drug prevention sessions in the Toledo schools and at the agency. She worked with pregnant women suffering with crack addiction, battered women and at-risk Latino youth. She conducted outreach efforts and facilitated support groups. For eight years, she was also a grant writer.
“I helped develop a lot of programs for Latino youth and women that are still there,” Alejandro said. “That’s where I felt I could make an impact in someone’s life. You can see the problems and then you do something about it.”
With all of her advocacy activities, Ms. Alejandro is a full-time student at Terra Community College. She plans to graduate in the spring of 2006 with an associate’s degree in social work. She is currently organizing a Latino Student Union there.
“We’re excited about it,” she said. “I think it makes the Latino students feel like they have some ownership and support at Terra.”
Alejandro and the Ohio Latino Health Coalition
Since 1999, she and two other Latinas have developed the Ohio Latino Health Coalition.
“We saw the problems—language barriers, no health insurance, cultural differences and health issues like diabetes, cancer and heart disease,” said Ms. Alejandro, who lost her 46-year-old sister to cancer four years ago.
“My sister’s memory is one of the motivating factors for me in working to close the gap in health disparity for Latino families.”
The health coalition has developed a Latino aerobic video that emphasizes the importance of exercise in the prevention of some health issues. The group has also tried to educate the Latino community about early detection screenings in such diseases as cancer, diabetes, and heart problems. And they have developed bilingual cookbooks with traditional Latinos recipes but with high fat ingredients replaced by more healthy alternatives.
The coalition is currently planning its third annual Latino Health Disparity Conference schedule, beginning Oct. 28 in Toledo, Dayton, and Cleveland.
Last year, the coalition completed a state-wide Latino Health Needs Survey of 2,000 Latinos. It resulted in a 214-page comprehensive report and a 15-page executive summary.
“The survey is significant because there was no data on Latino health disparity,” Ms. Alejandro said. “One of the many reasons for this is that Latinos are not a race, we are an ethnic group, and not identified as Latinos in the studies or surveys that are conducted.
“Now we have some baseline data that shows the needs and the prevalent health conditions in the Latino population in Ohio.”
One of Ms. Alejandro’s newest activities is working on the Clean Indoor Air Campaign in Cleveland. She has helped collect more than 2,000 signatures in the Latino community on a petition calling for smoke-free public places.