Reflejos honors suburban Latino students, business leaders, nonprofits
Roughly 40 awardees, including seven suburban Latino students, were recognized Wednesday for contributions to Latino communities during Reflejos' seventh annual Reflecting Excellence Awards.
"There is still a lot of room for us to grow as Latinos," said Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti as she addressed the crowd of more than 200 guests at the Stonegate Conference and Banquet Centre in Hoffman Estates.
Sanguinetti, who received a Reflejos "Latina Leadership Award," talked about many career firsts, including becoming the highest-ranking Latina in Illinois' history and the first Latina lieutenant governor in the country. A daughter of immigrants -- a Cuban refugee mother and Ecuadorian father -- she tailored her message to scholarship recipients.
"Anything is possible," she said. "I would like to see more of you saying, I could see myself serving on school boards ... serving as a judge ... I could see myself doing anything and everything.
"Know that in life you are going to be going through a lot of ups and downs ... but you always have to challenge yourself."
High school seniors Andrea Vera, Jorge Trejo, Jessica Garcia, Ricardo Morquecho from Northwest Suburban High School District 214 and Monserrat Zarco, Caroline Chwalisz and Elisa Arce from Elgin Area School District U-46 received $1,000 scholarships.
Recipients were chosen by readers of Reflejos, a bilingual weekly publication, based on nominations. Among the other honorees:
• Elgin High School, whose student population is 74 percent Latino, was recognized for marking its 150th year.
• Two Latina McDonald's franchisees -- Carmen DeCarrier and Tanya Lawrence -- received "Latina Leadership" awards. DeCarrier was chosen for her investment in Latino communities around her Chicago franchises. Lawrence was honored for ensuring employees at her family's 12 suburban franchises participate in McDonald's educational benefits.
• Gabriela Vargas, of Algonquin, for sharing her experience, "My Story is Hope," raising awareness about suicide in the Latino community and ways to seek help. Vargas is a volunteer for the Chicago-based nonprofit Hope For The Day and a bilingual interpreter at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin.
• Joliet Junior College for being the nation's first community college and for its continued growth and focused outreach to the Latino community.
• Goya Foods.
• Waubonsee Community College for embracing diversity.
• St. Augustine College's social work education.
• The Kane County Fair.
• The Elgin Hispanic Network.
• Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin.
• The Ecker Center for Mental Health in Elgin
• The Renz Addiction Counseling Center in Elgin.
• The Family Health Partnership Clinic in Crystal Lake.
• The village of Hanover Park.