A Night for Latino Youth and Education.

By Lupita Peimbert. It was all about the students. The event by the Sonoma County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce accomplished its goals: to give $1,000-dollar scholarships to 20 Latino students, to acknowledge their parents for their efforts, and to continue co-creating a community that embraces the Latino culture and supports the education of deserving youth. The 26th Gala, held on June 21, 2014 at the Wells Fargo Center for the arts in Santa Rosa, was a success.

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Scholarship recipients. Photo: Veronica Madrigal. Madrigalphotos.com

The overall criteria for selecting the scholarship winners: dedication to studying despite economic and other challenges. Each student from a high school, community college, or university, has a story to tell. A scholarship was granted to them because of merit.

“Every morning my father leaves very early to work in the fields, and my mother takes care of us. I go to school, work part-time, do my homework, help my family with chores, and go to the library to read, study, and focus. It is hard, but I know I can and want to have an education,” said a scholarship recipient who has perfect academic score.

Past scholarship recipient Maria de Los Angeles was guest speaker. The young woman, in Santa Rosa for summer, is getting her Master’s in Fine Arts at Yale University.

“When I finish my studies I want to be back in my community and help kids learn and go to college,” she said.

Maria de Los Angeles donated a couple of paintings to the scholarship fund, as part of a live auction. Sonoma County Board of Supervisors’ member Mike McGuire, District 4, did a fantastic job as the auctioneer –hypnotizing the audience to a $21K amount for the scholarship fund.

The Chamber’s president, Pedro Toledo, says he is humbled by the tremendous support from business leaders, politicians, educators, and the public.

“We had over 300 people in attendance, and we raised over $60,000 in sponsorships, ticket sales and donations, including over $21,000 during the live auction. It’s amazing what a small group of committed individuals can do when we work together.”

Octavio Diaz, chef and owner of Agave Restaurant (Healdsburg, CA), says he is a happy supporter of this cause. “When I see people working for something important, and they are serious about it, I do what I can.”

California Hispanic of Chambers of Commerce’s CEO Alice Perez was keynote speaker. Dr. Frank Chong, President of the Santa Rosa Junior College was the emcee for the event along with Socorro Shiels, Superintendent of Santa Rosa City Schools.

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Ballet Paquiyollotzin, from Petaluma. Photo by Lupitanews.

The Ballet de Danza Folckórica Paquiyollotzin performed beautifully. Orquesta Son de Caña played as lively as usual, prompting everybody to dance salsa, honoring Havana Nights –as the event was called. Above the fun and the entertainment, the event truly was all about the students.