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Ohioans, groups recognized by OCHLA at annual gala
By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

The Ohio Latino Affairs Commission (OCHLA) presented 9 Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan, 5 Nuestra Familia, and 4 Latino Military Service Distinction awards  at the “¡Celebración!’ Gala held on Oct. 7, 2011 in Columbus.

Chief Warrant Officer Kenneth Ramos (US Army, Army National Guard), Master Sgt. Tamara Gonzáles (Ohio Air National Guard), Col. Blanche Aviles Casey (US Air Force, retired), and Corporal Luis Martínez (United States Marines Corps, retired) received the Latino Military Service of Distinction Award.

“Today we celebrate our community heroes, those individuals who wake up every day and dedicate themselves to ensure that everyone in the most rapidly growing demographic in Ohio has the opportunity to realize the American Dream,” said OCHLA Chairwoman Mary Santiago

Recipients hail from all corners of Ohio and were honored as Distinguished Hispanic Ohioans, for excelling in professional, community service and leadership; Nuestra Familia awardees for non-Latino organizations, individuals and business making a difference through inclusion and service to Latino communities; and Latino Military Service of Distinction Award, paying tribute to serving men and women.

“It is our honor to pay special tribute to Latina women, you will always be the foundation of our homes, the strength of our neighborhoods, and the guardians of our heritage,” said Santiago.

Lucas County Auditor Anita López received the nascent Outstanding Latina Award for her commitment to public service and taking a customer-service approach to servicing the citizens of Lucas County. López encouraged active participation in local politics and said more Latinos need to consider themselves as viable candidates. “Do not wait to run for office, run today,” she said.

López reminded the audience “nothing is impossible” and as the Latino demographics and needs shift in more public officials should reflect and present their voice at a state-wide governance. López is the first Latina in Lucas County to be elected both Recorder and Auditor; she defeated a 13-year incumbent for the position in 2006 and was re-elected for a second term as Auditor in 2010.

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown congratulated OCHLA and recipients and said the community represents a richness that is invaluable and he is proud to advocate on behalf of in the Senate. Senator Brown said he is perturbed by the decisiveness in national politics that is attacking rights and common sense proposals like the DREAM Act. He said the collaborations between community leaders and organizations give the community a stronger voice, “We sound a whole lot better as a group.”

Anita López

Keynote speaker Dr. Gabriela D. Lemus stressed more work needs to be done. As the Senior Advisor and Director of the Office of Public Engagement at the Department of Labor she represents the agency at Senior Policy Operating Group on Trafficking in Persons; the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status and various interagency working groups on immigration policy.

Citing statistics and regulations changes in the previous years, Lemus said progress is slow, “But we always know it is steady.” She said the department has prevented Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from interfering in field disputes so all workers, authorized or not, have access to their rights and unauthorized victims can receive visas.

Lemus said at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial, which opened recently at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., that efforts are underway for a Smithsonian American Latino Museum. “We have contributed a lot to this community, and we are not going anywhere anytime soon,” she said.

Cleveland honorees include: Dr. María Pujana, who has made notable differences in the landscape of the Cleveland Latino community through her dedicated work and service on boards devoted to children’s health, women’s initiatives, and educated programs targeting minority communities. She was a key advocate for the Hispanic Alliance. She is the only Latina to serve on the Board of Directors at the Cleveland Foundation and is currently working with Red Cross and the Cleveland Department of Safety to create a safety alliance in the city for children and adolescents. Besides her philanthropic endeavors Dr. Pujana is the founder of Mariese Designs legacy designer jewelry that merges elegance and style seamlessly with exotic handpicked gem stones.

Dr. Evelyn Rivera, PhD, received the distinction for her passionate service to increasing education on behavioral health. As a bilingual Outreach Coordinator for National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in the Cleveland area, she advocates for those with mental health issues. Dr. Rivera founded Latino Mental Health Network, which brings together more than 300 professionals who work to improve the quality of service in mental health, educate the public about Latinos and mental health needs.

José Feliciano Jr.,
president of Young Latino Network, is determined to encourage, connect, and increase the number of Latino leaders in Ohio.  His passion is to reverse the dropout rates of young Latinos and he works closely with organization like Esperanza, Inc. and Cleveland Bridge Builders to mentor and motivate the next generation.

Other Distinguished Hispanic Ohioans included: Dr. Raúl Soto (Columbus), Luis Alcalde (Columbus), Joel Díaz (Columbus), Lourdes Ribera (Cincinnati), Angel Cabranes (Lorain), and Victor Pérez (Tiffin). 

La Prensa’s Adrianne Chasteen, Nannete Nieto, Arooj Ashraf, and Claudia Annoni.

Cleveland recipients of the Nuestra Familia Award include: immigration attorney David Leopold, Judge Ronald Adrine, and Policy Bridge, an organization committed to keeping minority communities engaged and informed on important issues. Other awardees included: Lauren Hines (Columbus) and Procter & Gamble (Cincinnati).

Corporal Luis Martínez, retired from the United States Marines Corps, received the Latino Military Service of Distinction Award. Martínez received two Purple Hearts for wounds sustained in combat while serving with Combined Action Group. He worked as an Executive Assistant for Mayor George C. Voinovich, and was an instrumental leader in foundation of Esperanza Inc.

Other military recipients included: Master Sgt. Tamara Gonzáles (Ohio Air National Guard), Chief Warrant Officer Kenneth Ramos (US Army, Army National Guard), and Col. Blanche Aviles Casey (US Air Force, retired).

For complete biographies of all recipients visit: http://ochla.ohio.gov/Campaigns_Initiatives/dho.aspx

Distinguished Ohioans

Dr. Gabriela D. Lemus

 Dr. María Pujana family

 Dr. María Pujana and Richard Romero

Senator Brown

Anita Lopez family



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Revised: 10/11/11 13:19:46 -0700.





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