Ceremony celebrates Latino achievements

India Hunter and India Hunter

Students were honored for their academic achievements and contributions to the Latino community during the 18th annual Diamante Community Awards Friday night.

Family, friends, students and dignitaries gathered in the Union Ballroom for the awards ceremony.

The Diamante Awards were created in 1989 by IMAGE, a chapter of a northwest Ohio Latino nonprofit organization, in order to recognize Latino contributions in the Toledo area and raise scholarship funds.

Four Diamante awards and 40 scholarships were presented to students from BGSU, the University of Toledo, Owens Community College and Lourdes College. These four universities form a partnership, and awards are given annually to students from these colleges.

“Tonight signifies an opportunity to recognize outstanding students and the Latino community,” said University President Sidney Ribeau.

Among the students honored was senior Naomi Valdez, who received the Diamante award for Latino Youth Leadership for her service to the Latino community.

Valdez said she believes giving back is important and also helps the growth of personal development.

“Volunteering helps you to understand yourself; it is a part of who you are,” Valdez said.

Valdez assisted with the Hurricane Katrina relief effort in Alabama, supports diversity programing with the Center for Multicultural and Academic Initiates and is the student chair of the Latino Issues Conference.

Other students to receive scholarships were Michelle Bologna, Jacqueline Hernandez, Nathaniel Olmeda and Jonathan Visalden.

Students were selected for awards based on several criteria, including leadership, grade point average, financial need, and dedication and commitment to the Latino community.

One of the scholarship recipients, Ryan Garcia, said he believes events like the Diamante Awards are necessary to promote the Latino community in a positive way.

“There is not enough information out there that shows Latinos as leaders, so it’s nice for people to see that there are Latinos doing good things in the community,” Garcia said.

Rebecca Aguilar, University alumna and award-winning reporter for a FOX affiliate station in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, served as the keynote speaker for the evening’s ceremony.

Aguilar encouraged students to embrace opportunities, take risks and be dedicated to their work.

“If you don’t have passion for your job, then you won’t succeed,” Aguilar said.

She also urged students to make a difference in the world.

Marcy Kaptur, U.S. congresswoman for Ohio’s ninth district, also spoke during the evening,

The event included a dinner, silent auction and entertainment from the University’s Graduate String Quartet and Tejano music from Jesse Ponce of Toledo.