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16th Annual Dallas Youth Awards at SMU

Hispanic Heritage Foundation

High-Achieving Youth Promoted as Role Models, Connected to Large National Network and Received Educational Grants

DALLAS – The Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) and its sponsors honored 21 Latino high school seniors from the Dallas region for their accomplishments in the classroom, community and their focus on various categories during the 16th Annual Dallas Regional Hispanic Heritage Youth Awards on November 18 at SMU. HHF also promoted the young leaders as role models for their peers through social media as they move forward to college and provide them with grants, which can be used for their education or social entrepreneurship to support their leadership for years to come.  Past Youth Awardees joined elected officials, educators, community and business leaders, and families in celebration of the students’ achievement. After the Regional Youth Awards Ceremonies in 10 markets, one recipient was chosen in each of the categories to attend the National Youth Awards in San Juan, Puerto Rico in January 2015 with celebrities. (Recipients’ average GPA is over a 3.5). The Youth Awards Ceremony took place at SMU – Meadows Museum – Jean and Jerry Jones Great Hall/Bob & Gene Smith Auditorium, 5900 Bishop Blvd, Dallas, TX 75205.

  • Business & Entrepreneurship – sponsored by BBVA Compass
    • Gold: Esmerelda Aguilar, Duncanville High School
    • Silver: Carlos Mayorga, Duncanville High School
    • Bronze: Geneva Martinez, South Grand Prairie High School
  • Community Service – sponsored by Colgate-Palmolive Company
    • Gold: Mariano Stephens, Stephen F. Austin High School
    • Silver: Sonia Saldivar, Duncanville High School
    • Bronze: Ilanna Villagran, Young Women’s Leadership Academy
  • Education – sponsored by Southwest Airlines
    • Gold: Damaris Melgar, Rosie M Collins Sorrells School of Education and Social Services
    • Silver: Daniella Castilla, Crockett High School
    • Bronze: Jovahana Avila, School for the Talented and Gifted
  • Engineering & Mathematics – sponsored by ExxonMobil
    • Gold: Christopher Garcia, Stephen F. Austin High School
    • Silver: Abigail Rivera, Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School
    • Bronze: James Garza, Port Isabel High School
  • Healthcare & Science – sponsored by CVS Health
    • Gold: Diana Garcia, School of Health Professions
    • Silver: Dalma Pena, Dubiski Career High School
    • Bronze: Nora Candelaria, Rosie Sorrells School of Education and Social Services
  • Innovation & Technology – sponsored by Entertainment Software Association
    • Gold: Bryant Colin, Harding Charter Preparatory High School
    • Silver: Juan De Hoyos, CC Winn High School
    • Bronze: Samantha Vail, Duncanville High School
  • Sports & Fitness – sponsored by NASCAR
    • Gold: Matthew Reitman, Business Careers High School
    • Silver: Mireya Ramirez, St. Teresa’s Academy
    • Bronze: Andrea Flores, Red Oak High School

“The Hispanic Heritage Foundation is looking forward to another group of young leaders from the Dallas area that we can count on for the future and right now,” said Antonio Tijerino, President and CEO of HHF.  “We want don’t want to simply honor the outstanding students but more importantly put them in a position from which to lead.  Our model is to support innovative leaders to impact thousands of others in industries and fields which are priorities for America’s workforce. And we are grateful to our dedicated sponsors who also realize the importance of tapping a resource like our Latino youth to move not just our community but America forward.”

After receiving the awards, the students are funneled into HHF’s LOFT (Latinos On Fast Track) award-winning, leadership and workforce development program focused on 10 “Tracks” or fields including healthcare, science, technology, engineering, education, public service, entrepreneurship, media and entertainment, finance and Latinas. Tens of thousands of students and young professionals are connected to each other through the LOFT Network;  thousands are prepared through trainings, priority-field-tailored symposia, workshops, and Charlas (online Google hangouts with experts); and hundreds are placed into internships, mentorships, fellowships and full-time positions with Fortune 500 companies and government agencies.  Join and follow LOFT on Facebook and Twitter.

Youth Awards Regional Ceremonies took place in:

Phoenix, Oct. 21, 2014, Arizona State University

Los Angeles, Oct. 22, 2014, University of Southern California

Miami, Oct. 28, 2014, University of Miami

Atlanta, Nov. 18, 2014, Georgia Tech University

Dallas, Nov. 20, 2014, Southern Methodist University

Chicago, Nov. 24, 2014, Loyola University

Houston, Dec. 2, 2014, University of Houston

San Jose, Dec. 4, 2014, Stanford University

Washington, DC, Dec. 9, 2014, Capitol Hill

New York, Dec. 16, 2014, Viacom

National Youth Awards, January 29, 2014, Puerto Rico

Additional partners of the Youth Awards included: UPS, PhRMA, Google, NRCCUA, Direct Auto Insurance, Rebuild the Dream, Qlovi, Foundation, OCI Group, Es Tiempo, and Voto Latino.

About the Hispanic Heritage Foundation
The Hispanic Heritage Foundation – a nonprofit established by the White House in 1987 – inspires, prepares, and connects minority leaders in the classroom, community and workforce to meet America’s priorities in 10 areas of focus.  HHF also promotes cultural pride, accomplishment, and the great promise of the community through public awareness campaigns seen by millions.  HHF is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has offices in Los Angeles, New York, Miami and the LOFT Institute is housed at Michigan State University (Visit

Santiago Melli-Huber
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