2016 Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month Awards

Our Hispanic/Latino heritage is something that needs to be celebrated and there is no better way of doing that than by sharing our stories and showcasing our successes. The 2016 Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month Awards, held on October 14, 2016, did exactly that. 

It was a night dedicated to celebrating and honoring those individuals who have demonstrated exceptional achievement, made significant contributions and have been influential in the public or private sectors serving Doña Ana County. It was hosted by the beautiful Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces and started with a cocktail hour followed by a dinner, awards presentation and ended with dancing to the band, El Son del Barrio.

This exciting event was a collaboration between Tu Revista Latina and Puentes Events in celebration of Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month, observed from September 15th through October 15th as a time to recognize the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans in the United States and to celebrate our heritage and culture.

Mr. Juan Albert, the emcee of the evening, delivered an impressive welcoming speech that paved the way for the presentation of awards in the following four categories: Excellence in Leadership, Excellence in Education, Outstanding Health Professional and Senior Plus. 

A Selection Committee was carefully chosen and consisted of Irene Parra who currently serves as the Community and Special Events Coordinator for the Town of Mesilla; Estela Miyazaki, a Dental Hygienist with Ben Archer Clinic and the wife of Chef Tatsu Miyazaki; Eldelisa Nava, an Independent Associate with LegalShield;  Roman Jimenez who spent the last 21 years with the New Mexico State Police where he retired recently with the rank of Captain; and Paul Ponce, a NM State Property Tax Certified Appraiser, NM Certified Public Assessment Officer, NM Certified Public Official, and Chief Deputy Assessor for Doña Ana County. 

The 2016 Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month Awards were possible in part because of the generous sponsorships of Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces, Signature Sponsor; Aprendamos Intervention Team and Sitel, Corporate Table Sponsors; and Roberto’s Mexican Restaurant, Wine Sponsor. 

It is anticipated that the 2017 Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month Awards will be just as great as last year’s, if not better.

Many excellent nominations were received and all were worthy and deserving of an award. However, after much deliberation, the Selection Committee made their choice.

Excellence in Leadership
The Honorable Chief Judge, Fernando R. Macias is a staple of the New Mexico community. He has assisted generations of New Mexican’s fight for their rights, improve their community and transition into leadership roles themselves.  

Judge Macias comes from a long line of public servants including his great-uncle, Jose Natividad Macias, who as one of the signatories of the Mexican Constitution. During the trajectory of his work, Judge Macias has signed many important pieces of legislation into law while he was New Mexico State Senator. He has served in three branches of government: As Chief Public Defender for Dona Ana County, State Senator for over 16 years, and as Chief Judge of the 3rd Judicial District Court. He served as NMSU’s first Hispanic ASNMSU President, Executive Director of Legal Aid, General Manager for Border Environment Cooperative Commission, County Manager for Dona Ana County and Executive Director of Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance. 

However, he is not someone who is interested in only being a leader himself but in developing those around him into future leaders. He has fought to unite families, for social justice reform, and for issues within education.

Excellence in Education
Margarita Porter engages at all levels and where necessary to develop her staff and to provide students an education which will open up opportunities that would otherwise be closed to them. Her background is similar to some of the constituents in the student body.  She was born and raised in Las Cruces to amazing Mexican immigrants with a humble and an impoverished background making her a first-generation American success story.  Her personal development is noteworthy as she recently earned certification in Educational Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Ms. Porter worked many days and hours to help the upstart New America School which had no teachers and no students.  It was just a concept until she created a movement.  Unbelievably she recruited over 215 new students to the New America School and the school has continued to grow year after year.  All with students out of the public school system whom some would consider as broken, too old, or with no hope of getting an actual education or high school diploma.  

She has been the Principal of the New America High School for five years and since its inception.  The start-up charter faced many challenges initially but through Ms. Porter’s strategic planning and strong execution, the school is now serving many students. She is a significant part of an organization which has had dramatic and visible impact on changing people’s lives.

Senior Plus
Apolonia Luera has a passion for the people of this community. She has been a resident of Las Cruces, Doña Ana County since 1954. She was born on October 24, 1925. With only a 3rd grade education, she has been a very active and accomplished person. 

Mrs. Luera has won many ribbons at Southern New Mexico State Fair for her oil paintings of our beautiful Organ Mountains and oil portraits of a Native American Woman, and of her children. She has also written memoirs, poems, personal journals and read writings at writers groups held in Old Mesilla. 

Mrs. Luera volunteered for the Foster Grandparent Program at Hermosa Heights Elementary School for 10 years, assisting the teachers in the classroom and reading to students. She attended Philadelphia Bible Institute in El Paso, Texas where she graduated salutatorian of her class in 1991, after which she acquired her ministerial license with the Central Latin American District of the Assemblies of God, and later became an instructor at Silo Bible Institute in Las Cruces for 5 years where she taught Bible History and Christian Education. 

Apolonia was also very involved in church as Sectional Women’s Ministries Representative for 7 years and then continued to be a Missionette’s (Girls Ministries) Representative for 25 years. She was also involved in Royal Rangers (Boys Ministries) as a commander for 5 years. She has worked in Jail Ministry in Doña Ana County Detention Center for 7 years assisting inmates through their personal struggles. Apolonia is presently a retired Assembly of God minister. 

On September 4th of 2014 at the age of 89, Mrs. Luera was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent 6 treatments of chemotherapy.  On October 24th she will be 91 years young and a cancer survivor.

Outstanding Health Professional
Dr. Alvarez has committed his profession to helping children and adolescents throughout Doña Ana County. His dedication is worthy of distinction because he has given his career path in response to our communities needs. 

Originally from Lima, Peru, Dr. Alvarez and his wife Patricia came to Las Cruces after completing his residency in New York and his child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at Darmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. He began his trajectory in Las Cruces at Mesilla Valley Hospital where he specialized in working with children between the ages of 13 and 18 and worked in the in-patient Residential Treatment Center. For the past 4 years, his work with the non-profit Ben Archer Health Center has been concentrated on a Hispanic demographic of predominately lower income patients. He believes that it is important for the parents of his patients to have a provider that understands their culture and speaks their primary language for the overall progress of the child.

His work in mental health and psychiatry allows him to work with youth suffering from problems such as depression, anxiety, aggression, ADHD as well as other ailments. His passion for working with children and adolescents stems from his belief that the sooner mental health issues are dealt with, the better the possibility for a healthy adulthood. Dr. Alvarez is one of only a few psychiatrists locally with specialized training in working with children.

Winter 2017


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