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La Liga de Las Americas

OCHLA celebrates Distinguished Ohioans

By Marivel Aguirre Aranda, La Prensa Reporter

[email protected]


The Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs (OCHLA) celebrated its Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Recognition Dinner last Friday, April 28, at the Columbus Renaissance Hotel.


Nationwide Insurance Company based in Columbus has been very supportive of OCHLA and its activities.

The night featured eight Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan winners and four Nuestra Familia winners. According to OCHLA, the Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan award is presented to Ohio citizens of Latino ancestry who have exhibited leadership and exceptional, tangible community service to all Ohioans.


Recipients of this award included: Richard Gandarillas and Cecilia Roman Gerling from Columbus. Gandarillas has been a Nationwide Insurance employee for 25 years and a founding member of Nationwide’s “Raising Interest in Spanish Awareness” (RISA) employee club.


He also serves as Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio. He has been involved with BBBS since 1986 and was recognized as the National Big Brother of the Year in 2003.


Cecilia Roman-Gerling is a noteworthy entrepreneur and is recognized for her contributions to an award-winning series of legislative fact books on Ohio’s children as well as her community service as co-chair of La Clínica Latina, among other recognitions. 


Other recipients were: Juan Santiago of Home Savings and Loan from Youngstown, Nuestro Rincon from Cincinnati, Angie Martínez and Juanita Senquiz from Lorain, and Consuelo Hernández from Toledo.


The Nuestra Familia awards are presented to individuals on non-Hispanic ancestry and Ohio-based organizations or corporations that have performed service or exceptional benefits to Hispanic Ohioans.


Recipients of this award were: Home Savings and Loan of Youngstown, Dr. Gregory Stewart and Midwest Latino represented by Michael Beck both from Cincinnati, and the Office of Minority Affairs at The Ohio State University.


In their acceptance speeches recipients acknowledged what a rewarding job it is to serve their community and how important it is for more people to get involved.


The evening began with a reception and cash bar. Important personalities of the Columbus community were present. The Commission’s Executive Director, Ezra C. Escudero, was also the Master of Ceremonies.


At the posting of the colors by Ohio Highway Patrol officers, the attendees recited the pledge of allegiance followed by the Governor’s message.


Following dinner, the keynote speaker, Betty Montgomery, spoke of the power of one. She said that “one person can and does make a difference.” She encouraged the attendees to do whatever they can, however small, to change things for the better because they can make a difference.


She said that if Rosa Parks had thought about what she was doing, she would not have started a movement that changed civil rights in the United States. Parks is famous for her refusal on December 1, 1955 to obey a bus driver’s demand that she give up her seat to a white passenger.


Montgomery said people can make a difference “by recognizing the plroblem and doing whatever little [they] can to solve the problem.” Following her speech, which was very well-received, the awards were given out.


Montgomery is the state auditor and a candidate for re-election as Ohio’s Attorney General.


The message of the night was that we should do whatever we can because it does make a difference and that united we can accomplish even more. The evening concluded with closing remarks by Director Escudero.

For more information regarding the Ohio Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs, please visit http://www.ochla.ohio.gov/ or 77 South High Street, 18th Floor, Columbus, Ohio 43215 (614) 466-8333 Fax (614) 995-0896.






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