September 17, 1999


Six Hispanic Youth Win National Honor

Far from the countries where they claim their heritage, six American high school students, are in the national spotlight. These accomplished young people are headed to Ivy-League colleges, editing their high school newspapers, playing varsity sports and setting records, all while serving their communities. They are all-American students who have won the coveted Hispanic Heritage Youth Awards. They will be in the nation's capital where they will appear on national television and meet a host of celebrities and Hispanic leaders at the annual Hispanic Awards ceremony and gala in The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on September 14th (airing nationally on NBC on October 2nd).

Raul Tapia, Chairman of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, the nation's most prestigious organization promoting Hispanic excellence announced the names of these national winner of the 1999 Hispanic Heritage Youth Awards. "It was difficult to select the national winners in each of the five categories —Leadership, Arts, Literature/Journalism; Academic Excellence and Sports — from the impressive line up of regional winners," said Tapia. "The Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation is proud to be able to recognize these young Latinos who will surely be tomorrow's leaders."

The 1999 national Hispanic Heritage Youth Honorees are:

Michelle Mayorga, Weston High School, Miami, for Leadership and Community Service;

Joseph Puma, Marta Valle High School, New York City, for the Arts;

Claudia Patricia MacMaster, Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, Miami; for Literature/Journalism;

Jasmine Vallejo, Grace Dodge High School, Bronx, New York for Academic Excellence; and

Magdalena and Adolfo Lara, Manuel High School, Denver; co-winners for Sports.

Michelle Marie Mayorga, from Miami, Florida, is the recipient of the Second Annual Youth Award for Leadership and Community Service sponsored by the Fannie Mae Foundation. She participated actively in Weston High School's National Honor Society and was veledictorian of her graduating class. Of Nicaraguan descent, Michelle has received numerous recognitions including: Advanced Placement Scholar; National Hispanic Recognition Scholar Finalist, Miami Herald Silver Knight, and was a Daughters of the American Revolution nominee. Her extensive community service involvement has led to participate in Habitat for Humanity, she has also volunteered helping victims of domestic abuse as well as tutoring adults in English as a Second Language. Michelle will be attending Yale University this fall.

New York City's Joseph Puma, winner for the Arts, finds creative ways to bring together his photographic abilities and community service. Also Yale-bound, Puma, of Puerto-Rican descent, was a volunteer for the Bureau of Young G.R.A.P.E.'s and worked as a writer, editor, researcher and layout artist to help produce We're in Print: The Whole Story by Kids for Kids, a how-to book to encourage children worldwide to start their own publications. Puma, who attended Marta Valle High School, has won prizes for his photography in the Scholastic Art Awards and has been exhibited in local galleries. All-state Insurance Company sponsors the award for the Arts.

Miami's Claudia Patricia MacMaster; winner for Literature/Journalism, sponsored by the NBC Television Stations; is passionate about writing in both English and Spanish. Claudia attended Our Lady of Lourdes Academy where several of her creative works have been published in the school's Literary Magazine and have earned her numerous prizes. A self-describe aspiring poet of Colombian descent, she won first place this year in her school's Novice Debate Competition and served as editor-in-chief for the school's newspaper The Grotto. Claudia will be attending the University of Florida this fall.

The Bronx, New York's Jasmine Vallejo, winner for Academic Excellence, aspires to a career in politics and eagerly seeks out positions of leadership in her community. She was valedictorian of her graduating class at Grace Dodge High School, were she also served as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper and yearbook. Of Puerto Rican descent, Jasmine is concerned that other young Hispanics are unaware of their ethnic history, she therefore gives workshops at various city colleges about her great uncle Don Pedro Albizu Campos —leader of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party in the early 1900s. She is the recipient of the distinguished Posee Leadership Scholarship to Brandeis University. The Chase Manhattan Bank sponsors the Academic Excellence award.

Magdalena and Adolfo Lara, siblings from Denver, Colorado, are the co-winners for Sports. This brother and sister pair attended Manual High School where they were actively involved in varsity athletics, graduated in the top of their class. Magdalena has played varsity basketball since her freshman year and also competed on the varsity track, cross-country and volleyball teams. She volunteered with the Ambulatory Surgical Unit at Thomason General Hospital and participate in National Honor Society and Student Council. Despite her extensive extracurricular activities, Magdalena maintained a 3.7 average and fulfilled her academic requirements early enough to graduate last January. Adolfo, Magdalena's younger brother, also graduated early at the age of 15. Adolfo started playing varsity baseball at the age of 13 as an ambidextrous pitcher —at the end of last season, he was pitching 78 mph fastballs! He is very involved in his church youth group, an experience he believes taught him to work well with others and to respect individual beliefs. Denny's Restaurants sponsored the Sports award.

National and regional Hispanic Heritage Youth Awards recipients were selected for their personal qualities, strengths and goals, significance of their heritage, accomplishments in their chosen discipline and their community service. The now-annual process began in March when eligible high school students of Hispanic parentage submitted entries in nine U.S. cities Chicago, Denver, Miami, New York City, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio and San Francisco. Applications are available each year through the sponsoring organization, high schools and the HHA Foundation web site.

In May, regional finalists were awarded in each city, in each of five areas of accomplishment: Leadership, Arts, Literature/Journalism, Academic Excellence, and Sports. These regional winners each received a $1,000 educational grant, and a $500 donation to the community service organization of their choice. From these 45 regional winners, the National Winners were selected and will receive an additional $4000 grant toward their education.

The Hispanic Heritage Award Foundation (HHAF) was established 13 years ago to promote Hispanic excellence, provide a greater understanding of the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the United States and provide role models to inspire youth. Expanding on this mission and in an effort to engage Hispanic youth and foster leadership in the community, the Hispanic Heritage Youth Award for Leadership was created last year through the generous sponsorship of the Fannie Mae Foundation.

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