February 08, 2001

Nearly 500 business and government leaders, community activists and civic organizations joined the Pennsylvania Governor's Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs (GACLA) to honor the 2001 GACLA Pride Award recipients.

The awards ceremony capped off a gala celebration commemorating the commission's 30 years of service to the state's Latino community.

"GACLA is proud of its 30 years of dedicated service to Pennsylvania's Latino community," said Pedro Cortes, Executive Director of the Latino Commission. "Rest assured, GACLA will continue its valuable work to ensure the Latino community prospers in Pennsylvania for years to come!

"Tonight, we pay tribute to 12 individuals and one corporation whose tireless work and generous contributions are making a positive difference in the lives of Latinos in Pennsylvania.

"The commission's Pride Awards honor those individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the Latino community, and are committed to improving our state."

This year's Pride Award recipients are:

-- Brent G. Rondon, Pittsburgh, Arts and Culture;

-- Dr. Diego Castellanos, Philadelphia, Communications and Media;

-- Jacqueline Torres, Bethlehem, Northampton County, Community Development;

-- Judge Juan R. Sanchez, West Chester, Chester County, Criminal Justice and Human Rights;

-- Guillermo Rivera, Kennett Square, Chester County, Economic Development;

-- Patricia J. Mazzuca, Philadelphia, Education;

-- Jose A. Ruiz, Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Health;

-- Ada Tuleja, Warminster, Bucks County, Public Service;

-- Margarita Marengo, Bristol, Bucks County, Social Service;

-- Alicia Romero, Gettysburg, Adams County, Sports;

-- Carlos E. Fernandez Sr., Philadelphia, Volunteerism;

-- Ketzy Ramos, Lebanon, Youth; and

-- Allfirst Bank, Corporate.

Cortes noted that under Gov. Tom Ridge's leadership, GACLA has continued to play an integral role in the prosperity of the Latino community.

As the Commonwealth's advocacy agency for its Latino residents, GACLA has helped to secure funding and technical assistance for numerous community projects. GACLA also worked closely with local Latino organizations to ensure an accurate count of Latinos in the 2000 census. To support statewide economic development, GACLA helped to establish the Pennsylvania Latino Chamber of Commerce.

Cortes also noted that GACLA facilitated the creation of the Pennsylvania Association of Latino Organizations (PALO), a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to the capacity building and strengthening of local community-based organizations. GACLA and PALO currently are working with the Pennsylvania Department of Education to establish community learning centers throughout the state. The centers will provide a culturally and linguistically appropriate vehicle to support lifelong learning for Latino middle- and high-school students, school dropouts and adults in need of continuing education and training.

Last June, the Commission partnered with the state Health Department and the Pennsylvania Tobacco Prevention Network to sponsor the first statewide Latino conference on tobacco use and prevention.

The one-day conference, "Promoting a Tobacco-Free Latino Community"/"Promoviendo una comunidad latina libre de tabaco," was funded by the Department of Health and the American Cancer Society.

The Governor's Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs advises the Governor on policies, procedures and legislation.

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