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Latino Scholarship Day provides fun in the sun and recognition of our students

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

Latinos from across northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan enjoyed a day of fellowship and Triple A baseball during the 11th annual Latino Scholarship Day during a Toledo Mud Hens game at Fifth Third Field on Sunday, July 28, 2013, hosted by La Prensa and the Spanish American Organization (SAO).

Lucas County Auditor Anita López and Toledo Board of Community Relations executive director Linda Alvarado threw a ceremonial first pitch during pregame ceremonies. Giant checks also were presented to students from Lourdes University and Owens Community College, reflecting the $1,000/$500 scholarships they received from the Spanish-American Organization (SAO). The scholarship recipients ranged from a teen to adult students. Co-host La Prensa acknowledged scholarships to LASSO of St. Francis De Sales HS.

Anita López

At age 17, Ilianna Otero is nearly halfway finished with a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Lourdes University and plans to continue her studies toward a master’s degree. She was home-schooled, tackling two grades each year and doing academic work during the summer so she could skip high school and go straight to college at age 15.

“It feels great. I was so blessed and surprised. I’m so thankful,” she said. “It’s going to help me stay out of student loan debt right now. That makes me even more thankful. Right now I’m doing well. The next few years will be up in the air.”

Ms. Otero also plays the guitar and piano—and hopes to open a music school or store someday.

Francisco Saucedo is working on a bachelor’s degree in biology at Lourdes, with an eye toward continuing his studies to become a physician assistant.

“I’m a big science nerd. I’m really obsessed with science and with medical science I’ve always been fascinated,” he said with a wry grin. “I work at a pediatrician’s office, so I have a little experience there. It’s what I want to do, ideally.”

One may question why Saucedo doesn’t pursue becoming a medical doctor, but he emphasized there’s a good reason for that.

“I love to perform in my free time—and I want to have free time when I’m older,” he said. “I also want to spend time with my family.”

Saucedo participates in theatrical productions at Lourdes and just appeared as an extra during a recent filming of the movie Captain America 2. He is also a magician.

“It’s obviously a big concern and I’m glad there are lots of things in place to help people like me—not just from local organizations, but from the government itself,” he said. “It really helps me a lot.”

Saucedo is impressed that SAO and other groups want to help students succeed—and that will inspire him to reach back to others when he is in a position to assist in the future.

“I am a strong proponent of the idea that education is the backbone of our country,” he said, readily admitting, as a 26-year old, he now is a non-traditional student. “I didn’t have the right mindset, didn’t have my goals in place—but now I do. I think it definitely helps—more maturity, more life experience. You’re there because you want to be there, not just because it’s something you feel you need to do.”

This is the second straight year that Samantha Berryhill has earned an SAO scholarship. 

“It feels just as good as it did last year,” she said with a grin. 

Ms. Berryhill hopes to transfer to Bowling Green State University to finish her bachelor’s degree once she’s finished at Owens Community College with an associate’s degree in social work. She hopes to attend law school someday. 

“There are many kinds of college students,” she said. “There are 17 and 18-year olds and people who are in their 30’s. It just depends on who wants to go back to school.”

Ms. Berryhill may have started as the traditional college student straight out of high school. But she now represents the changing face of college students as a 21-year old mother of a young daughter. She stated that role motivates her to finish her degree and the SAO scholarship will help keep her on that path.

“It’s not just about me anymore. I have someone else to worry about,” she said.

The only student unable to attend the pregame check presentation was Carmen Beltrán, an Owens student who is working on an associate degree in office administration technology.

“We’re getting more and more applicants, which shows we are growing in the educational community and they’re seeing what we can do,” said Phil Barbosa, SAO president. “We also have a lot more students willing to put in the time and the effort. They’re seeing the Latino community really means the hard work behind everything that we do.”

This is the eleventh year for the scholarships. Fundraisers are held throughout the year to fund the program, but the nonprofit organization also is seeking endowments to keep the scholarship fund going well into the future, as well as add more schools.

“It’s a sense of pride for the organization—especially for how long we’ve been doing it and to now see some of the students going for their master’s degrees,” said Barbosa. “Now that they’re going farther, it’s better for the organization, better for them, and better for the community. Everyone sees what we’re capable of.”

SAO members see the scholarship fund as a long-term investment in the future of the next few generations of Latinos. In the same breath mentioning the University of Toledo and Herzing University-Toledo as other schools he’d like to add, Barbosa also has hopes of other colleges and universities across the state, such as Ohio State University and Baldwin-Wallace College near Cleveland.

“Hopefully everyone sees what these young people can do with a little bit of a push,” said Barbosa. “Not all of our kids go to those (local) schools. They want to go everywhere else and we’d like to follow them and make our presence known state-wide.”

The SAO president was not surprised to find adult scholarship recipients in the fold in recent years, ranging in age from 20 to 42.

“There are a lot of people who are re-entering the workforce and changing their job description, changing their lives to a positive choice to move forward,” he said. “They’re moving forward from where they were before. They’re a little more driven, see what they can accomplish, and every little bit financially helps them. But getting good grades helps them see what’s at the end of the rainbow.”


Yvonne Ramos Ybarra of Grupo Fuego sang the national anthem while entertainment was provided by El Corazón de México dance group under the direction of Elaina Hernández and Los Mariachis Locos, courtesy of El Camino Real Restaurants and the Toledo Mud Hens.

The members of Los Mariachis Locos even got in on the fundraising effort, donating a part of their fee back to SAO after playing mariachi music during a pre-game party in a nearby bar and outside the ballpark.

“It’s a great feeling. Anytime we can give back to the community, because the community gives to us,” said Jacob Estrada, accordion player and drummer. “It’s also good for our culture to do this type of thing. In this economy, everybody’s cutting on their spending—and I think that’s most when we need to all pull together and help each other.”

Yvonne Ramos Ybarra

Some of the mariachi band members have other jobs, but some also play professionally. Estrada works at Cherry St. Mission Ministries, while his cousin Juan plays with several bands. Los Mariachis Locos has only been together for about a year, but each band member has roots in mariachi music that goes back generations. Estrada called it “part of his blood and culture.”

As for the ballgame, the Toledo Mud Hens defeated the Buffalo Bisons, 6 to 0, followed by a spectacular array of color in the form of fireworks.

More pics


Copyright © 1989 to 2013 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/30/13 20:39:20 -0700.




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