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La Liga de Las Americas

LEON celebrates its 4th Awards’ dinner with inspiring speech by Silvia Mata

By Marivel Aguirre-Aranda, La Prensa Reporter


The Latino Empowerment Outreach Network (LEON) celebrated its 4th Annual Community Awards Dinner and Silent Auction last Friday at Villa Milano in Columbus, Ohio.  León is Spanish for “lion.” The celebration began with a reception and silent auction.

Shown above are: Elizabeth Martínez, the Program Coordinator of the Hispanic Mentoring Initiative in Central Ohio, and William Meléndez, president of LULAC.


The reception allowed attendees to mingle while the auction offered them the opportunity to bid on some very tempting items. The auctioned items were donated by area businesses such as La Plaza Tapatia, CASA of Franklin County, and South-Western City Schools. Some of the auction items included tickets to a Columbus Crew soccer game, gift cards to La Plaza Tapatia, a case of Girl Scout cookies, and a Peruvian mask.


The auction was followed by dinner. Ezra C. Escudero, the director of Ohio’s Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs (OCHLA), read proclamation notes from Ohio Governor Bob Taft and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman. Paula Brooks read the proclamation notes from the Franklin County Board of Commissioners.


LEON was praised by Director Escudero as the model organization of how to grow, develop, and serve the community.


The special guest of the evening was Silvia Mata, a third year student at the Ohio State University. Mata is the editor-in-chief of the newsletter “Field of Dreams.”


Mata was accepted to OSU through the College Assistance Migrant Program, or CAMP, and she spoke of her experience as the daughter of migrant parents who followed crops to pick throughout the United States.


Mata spoke poignantly of her parents’ hard work and her struggle to get to college. Her parents’ reluctance to let her attend college was because they did not want her to be disappointed. Once she was accepted at OSU she spoke of the difficulty she faced due to lack of encouragement.


She said she felt alone being a migrant and being Latina, especially because while growing up education was never mentioned to her.


Once she was accepted to OSU, teachers and people who supported her sent her emails and letters telling her “I knew you could make it!” and she wondered why they couldn’t have said that to her from the beginning—why wait until she struggled so much to get there.


She emphasized that children need encouragement and somebody to believe in them. Her story makes it obvious that students find it more difficult to fulfill their potential when they are constantly being told they can’t do any better than their parents. In her case, she was able to rise above those challenges and she has become an example for other students to emulate.


Mata urged the audience never to give up on individuals who need our help, to tell them that you believe in them because they don’t always know even if you do.


LEON’s Community Awards were presented to: Elizabeth Martínez, the Program Coordinator of the Hispanic Mentoring Initiative in Central Ohio.  Elizabeth won the Youth Award for her work to develop and expand mentoring programs for Latino youth of all ages.


Other honorees were: Natalie Coles for Communication, Brailin Cepeda as Outstanding Youth, Lisa López Snyder for Advocacy, Roxana Pérez for Education, and Jennifer Villanueva Hinkle for Health. According to LEON, all of these outstanding people empower Latinos through their tireless work and community involvement.


Entertainment was provided by DJ Felix Leonardo.









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