March 12, 2001

Ny High School Senoirs Win Scholarships From Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation. The Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation, one of the nation's most prestigious organizations promoting Hispanic excellence, will present seven New York area Hispanic High School Seniors with scholarships at a ceremony on April 30, 2001. The much-anticipated event will culminate in a lunch reception, which will take place at the NBC Saturday Night Live Studios, located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

This year, 84 students in twelve metropolitan areas - Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, San José, Washington, DC, and New York will receive nearly half a million dollars in cash and awards. The winners each receive $2,000 to use toward education as well as a state-of-the-art personal computer. In addition, the Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation will make a $1,000 donation to a community-based organization chosen by each regional winner further fostering community responsibility among Hispanic youth.

"With the support of some of our country's most respected corporations, we are proud to reward these young people's hard work with cash awards that will further their educational endeavors. Moreover, it brings us great satisfaction to know that we are also making strides toward bridging the digital divide, thanks to Exelon's generous gift of personal computers to each of our winners," states Raul R. Tapia, Chairman of the Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation.

This year's Hispanic Heritage Youth Award winners are:

Carlos Vaquero
Brooklyn College Academy
Leadership and Community Service Award
Sponsored by the Fannie Mae Foundation
(the founding sponsor of the scholarship program)

The youngest of four, Carlos was born in Brooklyn, NY. Although working multiple jobs and long hours left his parents, Mexican immigrants, few opportunities to obtain an education, they instilled in Carlos the importance of hard work and determination. His father died when he was very young, all the while struggling to get back to work. Carlos promised his dad he would carry this tough philosophy in everything he does-- his schoolwork and helping his community. He regularly participates in community church fundraisers and volunteers by providing reading lessons to children at a local elementary school. He washes cars in order to raise money for the homeless, all the while maintaining solid grades. Carlos aspires to a career in sports medicine and plans to use his future success to help benefit his community.

Melanie Díaz
Townsend Harrris High School
Literature and Journalism Award
Sponsored by NBC Television Stations

Melanie is a living testament to success against the odds. Born with mild cerebral palsy, she has faced challenges all her life, yet consistently shatters the barriers others have set before her. Her "can do" spirit vehemently refused to allow gym teachers to exempt her from a required .25 mile race. Melanie insisted if her classmates were to complete the project,
then so should she. She finished the course to roaring cheers as she collapsed into the arms of her friends and upporters. It's with that same passion that Melanie approaches her writing. Her poetry has already been published in many anthologies and she has won countless awards for her work. Melanie is currently working on a science research project sponsored by Intel on the relationship between self-esteem and success in math and science among minority youth. She has been accepted to Columbia University and as one teacher noted, she has a "rare gift of combining academic learning with a personality brimming with enthusiasm and dedication." In one poem entitled A Glimpse Melanie explains . . . "the curtain fluttered . . . I glimpsed . . . I saw it . . . I saw hope."

Sandra Gil
Hillcrest High School
Science & Technology
Sponsored by Microsoft

Born in Puebla Mexico, Sandra arrived here at age 16 to live with a guardian. She was alone, without her immediate family, facing a strange culture and a strange language. Back home, Sandra was an honor student maintaining a 98 average, but due to a clerical error, her grades were not transferred to her new school and Sandra had to start building her academic history from scratch. After only one year in the United States Sandra learned enough English to work her way to a current 94 average with a strong emphasis in Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science & Physics -- all of which she applies to Aerospace Technology. Not only has she won numerous awards, among them the State Wide Mathematics Award for Excellence and the Academic Award for Excellence in all subjects, but she is also a member of the National Honor Society. In addition, Sandra has found time to learn to fly a Cessna 150 Aerobat (a two-seater airplane designed for aero-acrobatics) and is training
for her solo flight and her private pilots license. Sandra aspires to become a medical doctor and judging from her past accomplishments, no matter what this young lady chooses to do with her life, the sky's the limit!

Chastidy Roman
Benjamin N. Cardozo High School
Academic Excellence
Sponsored by Chase & MasterCard International

The oldest of four, this Queens Village resident knows the full meaning of the words perseverance and commitment. Her mother, a single parent, struggles with long work hours in order to support herself and her family. Chastidy balances her time with studies and her role as surrogate parent to her younger brother and sisters. She strives to serve as a good example to her siblings as she maintains an above 90 average and regularly participates in her schools extra-curricula club functions. She was awarded the Arista certificate and was on the Principal's honor roll. Melanie is currently in
the Who's Who Among American High School Students. Melanie continues to excel in her schoolwork and has surpassed the expectations of many of her teachers. Her goal is to become a child physiologist because she wants to help people
and serve as a positive influence in their lives.

Tatiara Santana
Health Professions High School
Sports Award
Sponsored by Denny's

Ever since she was a little girl, Tatiara has always known what she wanted to do with her life. From her kindergarten days, well through high school, she has worked hard filling her scrapbook with awards, medals, and impressive report cards. While other teenagers focused primarily on the latest fashion, or the hottest CD, Tatiara spent her time at the library, researching, studying and learning. She joined the varsity basketball team having never played competitively, yet a combination of hard work and her capacity for learning enabled her to become an effective and fundamental player. She adds to her enthusiasm and good sportsmanship a great sense of humor. Tatiara is the recipient of the Scholar-Athlete Award and is on the Dean's list. She is also a member of the National Honor Society, Peer Mediation Team, Parent
Student Faculty Council and Peer Tutoring Group. Her goal is to become a medical doctor and utilize her bilingual skills to help health professionals and Spanish-dominant patients communicate better. Tatiara holds dear her mother's words that "being Puerto Rican entails much more than parading around with a flag and calling Boricua" Tatiara has shown her pride in who and what she is and as she says "I have found my place within the Hispanic Community."

Samayra Rios
Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom H.S.
Arts Award
Sponsored by Dr Pepper

At the School of Visual Art's open house Samayra read a quote, which was to become her personal mantra: "to be good is not enough if you dream of being great!" Samayra has never settled for mediocrity. She discovered her passion for art in her sophomore year and since has made her sketchbook her constant companion. Although her school only offered a small handful of art classes and it was too late to transfer to a specialized school, Samayra's innate determination grew stronger then the circumstances surrounding her. She knew she needed solid art experience if she was to be accepted in her first college choice where she heard those inspiring words. Set on a course to build up a strong portfolio, she embarked on a quest for information and took extra courses at Pratt Institute as well as the School of Visual Arts, where she combined book learning and Internet tutorials into her training. Her hard work earned her three scholarships to attend the weekend and summer classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology. For her graduation portfolio she transformed her classroom into a Japanese wonderland of art, where she discussed color, style, purpose, and the global impact of Japanese animation.
She will attend the School for Visual Arts, where she will study Computer Animation.

Christina López
Wings Academy
Mathematics Award
Sponsored by Exxon Mobil Corporation

Christina's parents were not raised to read or count. They were born in Tenares, Salcedo located in "el cibao" (countryside) of the Dominican Republic. Her parents received minimal schooling, yet their fortitude and
determination to insure their three daughters receive a formal education inspired Christina to push herself. For three summers she enrolled herself in a program called Proyecto Access/NASA-HACU and graduated the first female valedictorian. With a perfect 4.0 Grade Point Average, Christina earned a certificate of All Around Academic Excellence, the Perfect Attendance Award, is on the Honor Roll and is Vice President of the Accounting Department of the Bronx Art Movement, a virtual organization at her school. But life to Christina is not all about books and numbers. As the President of the
Juvenile Legion of Mary, she gives spiritual guidance to troubled kids and is involved in creating a database for Donors Choose, a program that provides students with supplies and scholarships. Christina as

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