Exemplary Latinos to Be Honored at 2018 UnidosUS Awards Gala

WASHINGTON, DC—On Monday, July 9, UnidosUS (formerly NCLR) will present five awards to Latino leaders and organizations that have shown stellar leadership in the fields of advocacy, philanthropy and communications. UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía will recognize the honorees during the Awards Gala, an annual ceremony that honors the outstanding contributions and achievements of Latino luminaries, as well as the lives and legacies of the renowned Latino leaders for whom each award is named. The event concludes the third day of the 2018 UnidosUS Annual Conference held July 7-10 in Washington, DC.

“This evening, we are delighted to present these awards to a group of Latinos who have distinguished themselves in their fields and who have done extraordinary work in service to the Hispanic community and the nation. Their remarkable achievements and exceptional commitment and efforts to effect positive change in our society have made a difference in the lives of so many,” said UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía.

The 2018 honorees include UnidosUS Affiliate PODER, a nonprofit organization based in Chicago, IL; Sonia Gutiérrez, President Emeritus and Founder of the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School; Lourdes Meluzá, a highly esteemed national news correspondent; Ruby Jade Corado, a grassroots legend and head of Casa Ruby and The Ford Foundation, a leading UnidosUS partner and long-time collaborator that helps bring UnidosUS’s work to fruition.

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This year, we are proud to present the Affiliate of the Year Award to PODER. An Affiliate since 1997, PODER has opened new doors for Latinos in the Chicago area via its comprehensive English literacy, education and job training programs. PODER has helped thousands of Latinos earn high school diplomas and launch successful new careers. Its unique work-study program helps students take home salaries while learning and developing the new skills they will need to land jobs in the corporate world. PODER has worked alongside UnidosUS to empower Spanish-speaking Latino immigrants through joint efforts in civic engagement, education, workforce development and job placement. PODER is an incredible force for good in the Latino community and UnidosUS looks forward to many more years of continued partnership.

The Affiliate of the Year Award is the most distinguished honor bestowed upon a UnidosUS Affiliate for its extraordinary efforts in collaboration with UnidosUS to promote positive, meaningful, long-term change for Latino individuals and communities.

Sonia Gutiérrez, a longtime educator, activist and advocate for Latinos, and a pioneer of the charter school movement, will receive the Graciela Olivarez La Raza Award for her unwavering commitment to empowering adult students and communities and promoting literacy, workforce development and equal opportunities for thousands of immigrants. Gutiérrez has a distinguished background in education, counseling, community building and organizing, and facilitating social change. She transformed a small, under-funded ESL program—originally known as the Program for English Instruction to Latin Americans (PEILA)—into the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, the first school of its kind in the nation, and now a renowned comprehensive adult-education program and nonprofit consisting of multiple campuses and academies. A legend in our nation’s capital, she has received numerous awards for her four decades of service to the Hispanic and Black communities, including the American Dream Medallion in Education from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and the Administrator of the Year Award from the Commission of Adult Basic Education (COABE). She is the only Latino in the District of Columbia to have an honorary street bearing her name—Sonia Gutiérrez Campus Way.

The Graciela Olivarez La Raza Award recognizes an individual or organization that has made significant contributions to promoting the interests of Hispanic Americans.

Ruby Jade Corado will be honored with the Maclovio Barraza Award for Leadership. A stalwart champion of Washington, DC’s LGBTQ and Latinx communities, Corado heads Casa Ruby, the only bilingual multicultural LGBTQ community center in the nation’s capital. She came to Washington, DC, when she was 16, fleeing civil war in El Salvador, and has fought for the rights of those communities, and access to health care, immigration equality and legal protections ever since. Casa Ruby has lent DC’s queer community a helping hand and provided critical and life-saving support since 2004. The center offers case management, emergency housing referrals and legal counseling, as well as hot meals, clothing, support groups and the use of its computer center.

The Maclovio Barraza Award recognizes those who have worked for the betterment of the Hispanic community at the grassroots level and whose leadership has been as a source of strength and inspiration to the Hispanic community.

Lourdes Meluzá, a nationally-renowned correspondent, will receive the Ruben Salazar Award for Communications. Last year, the nation’s capital said goodbye to Lourdes, long one of our most trusted television correspondents. For 24 years, millions of Latinos tuned into her daily report on Univision News to learn what was happening in the United States and around the world. Before joining Univision News in 1993, she worked at the Miami Herald. Throughout a career spanning more than 40 years, her accurate and in-depth portrayals of the White House, Congress, the Latino community and its advocates across the nation were a constant. She held policymakers accountable and informed and mobilized millions of Hispanic viewers on issues ranging from immigration to health care to civil rights, and for that, we are grateful.

The Ruben Salazar Award for Communications goes to an individual who has devoted his or her professional life to disseminating important issues, concerns or news to contemporary Hispanic America, and presenting the positive contributions that Latinos make to U.S. society. Lourdes Meluzá has done all of that and more.

This year’s Raul Yzaguirre President’s Award, given annually to an individual or organization that has shown outstanding support for UnidosUS’s mission, will be awarded to the Ford Foundation, which has been an unwavering advocate for diversity and Latino interests and a leading partner to UnidosUS for more than five decades. Accepting the award on the Ford Foundation’s behalf is Darren Walker, its President since 2013.

The close ties between UnidosUS and the Ford Foundation date to our founding in 1968, when Ford officials—prompted by community activist Hermán Gallegos, and professors Julián Samora and Ernesto Galarza—approved a grant for the Southwest Council of La Raza, an organization to promote the interests of Mexican Americans, and later, of all Latinos in the United States. Our relationship has only deepened over the years. The foundation not only helped UnidosUS construct its headquarters in DC—within walking distance of the White House—but it has been a key supporter of our civic engagement and canvassing efforts, which have led 600,000 Americans to register to vote. Now, thanks to a Ford BUILD grant, UnidosUS will be able to fortify its nonprofit capacity in evaluation, technology and leadership development to better meet the needs of our community and America in the future. The Ford Foundation shares our intense commitment to the Latino community and to the principles of equality and social justice, and we can’t imagine a better partner to honor here today and to help us in our next chapter.

The UnidosUS Awards Gala is co-sponsored by AARP, Ford Motor Company Fund, Nationwide, PepsiCo and UPS.