ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Orange County Government closed Hispanic Heritage Month with “Noche de Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope,” a gala that honored youth leaders of the Hispanic community and celebrate the culture.
The celebration also included the Hispanic Youth Leadership Awards (HYLA), a brainchild of Yetzenia Negrón, president of the Hispanic Heritage Committee of Greater Orange County. This year’s HYLA was the third edition of the awards that, to date, have recognized 23 youths from around Orange County.
“In my heart I envisioned us coming together as a community to truly honor the youth who are excelling, who are truly contributing to everything we truly represent as Hispanics,” Negrón told FNN News. “In my heart, I wanted to provide them with that platform. When I first came to Orlando it was a fresh start for me, coming from a community that was ridden with violence and crime. I found myself in Orlando wanting something different, and Orlando gave me that fresh start.”
“I decided to work with my community, to work with my youth, in violence prevention work, to show them that they don’t have to lose their hope, they can hold on really tight to their esperanza, to their hope, and excel,” she added.
The Hispanic Youth Leadership awardees (above) include volleyball star Isabella Umpierre, 13, who volunteered sewing masks for the community near the beginning of the pandemic; climate activist Lorena Sosa; Daniela Tavera, who works actively to help immigrant families find opportunities for civic engagement; Mia Nicole Rivera, winner of the National Hispanic Recognition Program by College Board; Giana Santoni, who volunteers for multiple non-profits like Relay for Life and hand On Orlando; Estrella María Marolla, a frequent volunteer in her church feeding the poor; Valerin Arias, aspiring Gospel R&B artist and future physician’s assistant; and Faith Sutton, creator of the “Loving Our Trail” youth community clean up that helps Orange Blossom Trail clean.
The organization also gave scholarships to Sebastián Montalvo and Sebastián Peralta (above), who will both attend the University of Central Florida to get Bachelors’ in Economics and Electrical Engineering, respectively.
TV news anchor Nancy Álvarez (above) was also awarded the Hispanic Service Award for her reporting and her public speaking, as well as for her job at working against domestic violence and for special needs children in school.
“The community leaders being recognized tonight, besides being of Hispanic descent, have one additional attribute in common, and that is, esperanza, hope,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings (above) in his opening remarks for the evening. “Even in the face of adversity, they all look at life with optimism. They convert challenges and obstacles into opportunities, focusing on the good things to come. It reminds me of a quote by Jonas Salk, that says hope lies in dreams and imagination and the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.”
The evening was hosted by Univision journalists Hazel Ortiz and Ambar Rincón, and had presentations by Venezuelan dance group Isladanza and Latin Passion Dance Academy, as well as a recital by Opera Orlando.
Juan Carlo Rodriguez is a politics and entertainment reporter for Florida National News, as well as the Content Coordinator for FNN News en Español. | email@example.com
Article was corrected to reflect that this year’s Hispanic Youth Leadership Awards was its third year, not the first.