Victor Ruiz, Executive Director of Esperanza, Inc. said the event takes a brief moment to recognize the hard work put in by the organization, its students and the sacrifices made by parents.
The students honored, he said, are cream of the crop but the graduation statistics for many of their peers in the region are still bleak. “The work does not end here, we must start working on next year’s graduates,” he told the 450 guests at Windows on the River.
Ruiz said with the help of partners, mentors and community Esperanza is prepared to rise to the challenges and contribute to Cleveland’s success. He reminded students their lives will changes in ways they cannot imagine as they enter university life and encouraged them to turn to Esperanza for mentors, assistance with applications and more.
This year’s keynote speaker—Andrés González—epitomizes the leadership and success achieved by Esperanza scholarship recipients.
He can identify with the dreams and aspirations of the scholarship recipients, as 19 years ago he was in their shoes.
He moved to Cleveland from Puerto Rico as a teenager with limited English proficiency and became involved with Esperanza at the suggestion of his science teacher. In 1991 he graduated Westshore Technical High School and with a scholarship from Esperanza attended Cleveland State University. After earning his Bachelors and Masters Degrees at Cleveland State University, he is now the Director of Diversity & Community Outreach at the Cleveland Clinic.
González epitomizes leadership and credits his involvement with Esperanza, and the guidance of mentors for laying the foundation of his success. He said while the students are pursuing a vast array of professional and academic fields the three commonalities among all of them is the drive to succeed, make their parents proud and give back to the community.
Service to community and helping people is a passion for Alama Diaz Rani who will be attending Baldwin Wallace this fall to become a social worker. “I am so grateful for the scholarship, my mom is a single mother and this really helps a lot,” she said.
Alama moved from Honduras at the age of seven and will be the first one in her family to attend college. “My mother completed 6th grade and my dad finished high school; now I am going to college,” she said beaming with pride. She first considered social work while designing a project for her social studies class and reading the job description. “I am a humanitarian,” she said.
Throughout high school, Alama tutored students with developmental disabilities and was involved in many other organizations.
Nicole Miller’s dream career is becoming a marriage counselor who uses art therapy to help couples resolve tension in their partnerships. “They can work through their problems in creative ways; through paint or music,” she said. Miller will be attending Kent State University, and her mother Yael Timoch could not be more excited for the possibilities before her.
José Millin is a sophomore at Kent State University, obtaining his bachelors in Computer Sciences and the ROTC program. He said the scholarship from Esperanza goes a long way in easing the financial pressures. “It helps a lot, while I still have to take out loans they are lessened by this generous gift,” he said.
José looks forward to tutoring with Esperanza and, meantime, is setting a strong example for his brother Giovanni. “I tell him to stay in school, it’s tough to get a decent job with an associate’s degree and almost no opportunities with just high school,” he said.
González said many of these students stay in Northeast Ohio to benefit the region’s economy, and why corporations like Cleveland Clinic continue to invest in Esperanza’s mission.