Six suburban Latino students and more than 30 community organizations, businesses and individuals were honored Wednesday night during Reflejos' sixth annual Reflecting Excellence Awards.
Hundreds of guests filed into the Stonegate Conference and Banquet Centre in Hoffman Estates to recognize companies, nonprofits, students and residents for their contributions to Latino communities. Readers of Reflejos, a bilingual weekly newspaper, chose the scholarship recipients and award winners based on nominations.
"(Everyone) that is receiving an award has done something that has affected someone's life, has been uplifting, has made the community better," said Linda Siete, Reflejos manager of sales and operations. "There's an amazing amount of talent and goodness within all of our communities, and hopefully these awards reflect that."
John Hersey High School senior Alexis Delgado was among the six outstanding high schoolers chosen to receive a $1,000 scholarship based on their community involvement and leadership skills. The 17-year-old was nominated by his school counselor for his academic achievements and for serving as a role model for his younger brother in a single-parent household.
"Paying for college is a tough thing to do, and for me, every little bit helps," said Delgado, a Mount Prospect resident who plans to study accounting and economics at a college in Chicago. "I'm really honored to win this award."
The other recipients include Omar Roman of Elk Grove High School, and Wheeling High School students Stephanie Flores, Nancy Escobar, Jennifer Medina and Leslie Diaz. Each scholarship will be matched by Elgin Community College, National Louis University and Dominican University, should the student decide to enroll there.
In a surprise presentation, Reflejos honored its youngest award winner in the event's history: 8-year-old Galilea Gonzalez of Des Plaines, who sells bath salts and uses the money to buy plush unicorns for kids with cancer.
"When I heard my name called, I was so excited and proud of myself," she said. "I do it because I want kids to get better and feel a little better."
Reflejos, which is owned by Paddock Publications, has been serving suburban Latino communities for 27 years. Its Reflecting Excellence event, which has won national awards, aims to recognize outstanding groups, individuals and future leaders within the eight counties it serves.
State Sen. Cristina Castro, an Elgin native and a Larkin High School graduate, served as the event's keynote speaker. She shared her experiences of getting involved in her community at a young age, being the first in her family to graduate from college, and deciding to continue her public service career by running for the Kane County Board.
"I hope you are inspired today to be active, become engaged in your community, to speak for and represent those who are voiceless," she told the crowd. "It's time to be heard and not be ignored."
Winners of the Reflecting Excellence Awards included the Elgin Area School District U-46 Parent Leadership Institute; the Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 In-School Food Pantry; the Elgin Police Department's Citizens Police Academy; NorthWest Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Harper College Promise Scholarship Program; Lake County Opioid Initiative; Hispanic Heritage Advisory Board of Aurora; Law Offices of Shirley Sadjadi; Greater Waukegan Development Coalition; Boys 2 Men; Visiting Nurses Association; Transformate Mujer; Mano a Mano Family Resource Center; Associated Bank; Schaumburg Toyota; the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce's Hablamos Espanol event; the annual Day of the Immigrant event; Goya Foods' "Can Do" campaign; Joliet Junior College's Latinos Unidos; McHenry County College's Latino Empowerment Conference; Elgin Community College's LatinX Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month; Andrea Michel; Luz Canino-Baker; Muchacha Salsa; Rodriguez Home Inspection; Ramos Tax Services; Dream Hub; Club Guadalupano; Centro de Informacion; and Mariachi Universal.