PERRYSBURG TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Northwest Ohio community leaders and organizations, as well as area college and university students, recently were honored for their achievements and service to the Latino community as Owens Community College served as host to the 23rd annual Diamante Awards.
In addition to recognizing four Diamante (diamond in Spanish) Awards recipients, scholarships were presented to over 20 students from Owens Community College, Bowling Green State University, Lourdes University and The University of Toledo – the four Northwest Ohio academic institutions whose partnership in the awards program benefits their Latino students.
Diamante Award recipients are chosen based on recognition of exemplary leadership/achievements within the Latino community or community at large, or demonstrated excellence in their fields; dedication and commitment in an ethical and inclusive fashion, and modeling qualities and behaviors of a mentor for youth and the community.
The Diamante Award recipient in the category of Corporate/Community Agency is Nueva Esperanza Community Credit Union (NECCU). The organization was federally chartered in 2010 to provide access to financial service to the largely underserved Hispanic population of Toledo. The credit union was created to offer services to immigrant and low-income Hispanic families and has obtained a low-income designation from the National Credit Union Administration. NECCU is the first Latino community credit union in Ohio.
NECCU provides services in the Old South End of Toledo, an economically underprivileged area of 4,406 households. Due to the unique characteristics of this target market, NECCU integrates financial services with education to improve members’ financial literacy. In addition to basic financial services, NECCU staff offer one-on-one 15-minute orientations to new members when they inquire about share savings or share certificates of deposit (current services).
Alberto Serrano-Chavez of Maumee received the Diamante Award in the category of Latino Youth Leadership. Serrano-Chavez was born in Logrono, Spain and moved to Ohio at the age of three. He graduated with honors from Maumee High School in 2012. Serrano-Chavez was born with a congenital heart defect called transposition of the main arteries and underwent several open heart surgeries and other, less intrusive, operations to correct his heart issues throughout his life.
Now fully recovered from his health problems, Serrano-Chavez has been heavily involved in community service and leadership, which began with his acceptance into the 2009-10 class of Youth Leadership Toledo. After graduating from Youth Leadership Toledo, he was a two-year member of YIPEE during his junior and senior years in high school. While in YIPEE, he learned about fundraising, grants and non-profit organizations alongside other Youth Leadership Toledo graduates. Both years that he was a member, the organization raised more than $17,000.
Serrano-Chavez, who plans on studying individualized-business with an emphasis on fundraising and a minor in music at Bowling Green State University, wants to help others with the valuable life lessons he has learned and envisions working for Musicians On Call, which is an organization that brings musicians to hospitals so they can perform for people who are too sick to leave their beds.
The recipient of the Diamante Award in the category of Latina Adult Leadership is Cynthia “Cindy” Geronimo of Toledo. Geronimo serves as the Executive Director of the Lucas County Land Bank, whose mission is to preserve property values and strengthen neighborhoods. She is a dedicated public servant who is passionate about making a positive impact in the surrounding communities.
After graduating from Libbey High School, Geronimo enlisted in the 180th Ohio Air National Guard where she served for nine years and attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. She was honorably discharged in 1995 and received several honors including two medals of Honor for Expeditionary Service and Meritorious Service.
Geronimo has served in the community as a past member of several boards such as the City of Toledo Youth Commission, United Way Steering Committee, Diamante Awards, Latino Vote and the Viva South Community Development Corporation. She currently holds board-level membership with ProMedica Insurance Corporation and is a member of the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commissions, Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities and the City of Toledo Board of Community Relations.
The Diamante Award recipient in the category of Latina Adult Professional is Celeste Taylor of Toledo. Upon arriving at EOPA years ago, Taylor began her advocacy for services within the Latino community to include translating all materials into Spanish to provide self-sufficiency opportunities, facilitating Spanish-speaking workshops and raising funds to help children and families receive new clothing for winter and toys for Christmas.
In her quest to ensure that Latinos are treated fairly, Taylor has instituted several procedures and programs to meet their needs. Such efforts include hiring a Bilingual Family Service Worker that provides services to the Latino families in Spanish, securing multiple grants to enhance the lives of area residents and obtaining school supplies, with the help and support of family and friends, for Latino children. Taylor’s dedication and commitment to EOPA goes above and beyond her regular job duties and has had a profound impact on the Latino community and the organization.
In addition to Diamante Award winners, scholarships were awarded to students exhibiting academic excellence, service and leadership at the highest level. Scholarship recipients include Stephanie Garcia of Goshen, Ind. (BGSU student) (BGSU Diamante Foundation Scholarship), Diana Gonsalez of Claypool, Ind. (BGSU student) (BGSU Diamante Foundation Scholarship), Maria Figueroa of Goshen, Ind. (BGSU student) (BGSU Diamante Huntington Bank Endowed Scholarship), Rachel Martinez of Oregon (UT student) (Diamante Image Latino Scholarship), Mia Steen of Maumee (UT Student) (Diamante Image Latino Scholarship), Andres Zapata of Gibsonburg (UT student) (Diamante Image Latino Scholarship), Andres Zapata of Gibsonburg (UT student) (KeyBank Diamante Latino Scholarship), Elisea O’Donnell of Holland (Lourdes student) (Lourdes University Diamante Scholarship), Maria Symeou of Toledo (Lourdes student) (Lourdes University Diamante Scholarship), Krystel Castilleja of Toledo (Owens student) (Owens Community College Foundation Diamante Latino Scholarship), Rajesh Felix of Perrysburg (Owens student) (Owens Community College Foundation Diamante Latino Scholarship), Sarah Felix of Perrysburg (Owens student) (Owens Community College Foundation Diamante Latino Scholarship), Esperanza Gonzales of Toledo (Owens student) (Owens Community College Foundation Diamante Latino Scholarship) and Hanna Guerra of Toledo (Owens student) (Owens Community College Foundation Diamante Latino Scholarship).
Diamante Award scholarship recipients also are Nichole Plasensio of Toledo (Lourdes student) (PNC Diamante Latino Scholars Fund), Larry Sloan of Rossford (UT student) (PNC Diamante Latino Scholars Fund), Gina Voltaire of Findlay (Owens student) (PNC Diamante Latino Scholars Fund), Corina Flores of Leipsic (UT student) (Owens Corning Foundation Diamante Latino Scholars Fund), Diana Lagunovich of Findlay (Owens student) (Owens Corning Foundation Diamante Latino Scholars Fund), Amparo Pecina of Toledo (Lourdes student) (Owens Corning Foundation Diamante Latino Scholars Fund), Samantha Berryhill of Toledo (Owens student) (Spanish American Organization Scholarship) and Dianna Ysasi of Toledo (Owens student) (Spanish American Organization Scholarship).
The annual Diamante Awards, comprising Owens Community College, Bowling Green State University, Lourdes University and The University of Toledo, was founded in 1989 by IMAGE of Northwest Ohio, a local chapter of a national Latino non-profit organization, to recognize individuals and organizations in the local Hispanic community for their outstanding contributions. The initiative includes providing scholarships and other support to make it possible for Latino students to achieve their fullest potential by attending an institution of higher learning.