Gabriel Esparza has been supporting Latino organizing and education issues his entire adult life. As a teenager in Boulder, Colorado, he applied to Stanford University so that he could learn about the Latino experience in California. Once in California, he quickly realized the need to establish an environment for nurturing Latino leaders. He began by participating in Latino student groups on campus at Stanford. His involvement in Latino issues started early in his Stanford career: as a freshman, he was elected to the board of the Latino Student Association. After graduating for college, he continued to lead Latino groups. While he worked in corporate America he helped to build some of the strongest corporate affinity groups (Disney’s Hispanic Resource Group and American Express’s AHORA) and while at Harvard for his MBA, he founded the Harvard Business School Latino Student Organization (LASO). He is still actively involved in all of these organizations.
Now, he is working on ensuring educational access to minority elementary-school aged students. A founding board member (and current Board President) of the Bronx School of the Arts, Gabriel helps to provide young minority students with the opportunity to study arts in one of the toughest neighborhoods in New York City. He was instrumental in securing funding and developing a strategic plan for the school, which has won several awards for its innovative design and mission.
Esmeralda Gutierrez, Teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, is HSF’s 2006 Brillante – for realizing extraordinary achievements early in her career and generating even greater expectations for contributions to come. At the age of 14, Gutierrez was diagnosed with a degenerative hearing disability. She began taking college classes at night in addition to working and attending high school so she could pursue a college degree before her hearing disability worsened. At the age of only 16, Esmeralda was accepted to Loyola Marymount University. After three years, she graduated and by the time she was 20, Gutierrez had a B.A., a teaching credential and the beginning of a career as an elementary school teacher. Gutierrez teaches in the neighborhood where she grew up and feels her most important contribution is sharing her story.
One of the driving themes of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund is “breaking the cycle of under-education.” The Inspirador is a true role model who personifies the hard work and sacrifice made by Latino families in pursuit of a college education.
“My father always said to me, reach for the sun, you just might hit a star. Today I work with astrocytes or star cells in the brain. I often think about that,” said Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa. Born in Mexico, Alfredo started working at his father’s one pump gas station at age 5 to help the family survive. He recalls when his father was forced to sell the gas station to feed the family during a time of deep recession. The picture of his father crying is a painful memory that stays with Alfredo today.
Still, the Quiñones family had high expectations for their children; they urged Alfredo to get as much education as possible.
At age 14, Alfredo got a scholarship to become an elementary school teacher in Mexico and graduated at the top of his class with a BA at only age 18. But the young teacher was eager to pursue his education. Speaking little English, he hopped the fence in Calexico and worked as a migrant farm worker in the San Joaquin Valley.
He was determined to create a better life for himself and started a one-truck company. His dreams of independence ended in a crash on the highway. He lost everything.
Yet he never lost his drive and, supported by relatives, he took ESL classes at a local college and soon began to tutor others. He then started a program to teach English to migrant farm workers so they could better themselves.
Alfredo finished at the local community college and headed to Berkeley, where he mentored other Chicanos and graduated with Highest Honors with a B.A. in Psychology. At Berkeley, he met a Hispanic professor of neuroscience who helped Alfredo secure a spot at a Harvard laboratory.
While at Harvard he received the Medical School Multiculturalism Award for his contributions to diversity and for working to improve the success of minority group students. Dr. Quiñones is also an active mentor through the HSF mentoring network.
Today, Dr. Quiñones is a very highly respected surgeon and Director, Brain Tumor Surgery Program, John Hopkins Bayview Hospital. He mentors, recruits, and speaks out on behalf of under-represented minorities in medicine. At the same time, he established his private practice and set up his laboratory, which has attracted an unprecedented number of grants.
The Hispanic Scholarship Fund is proud to award the 2006 Inspirador to Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa.
The Optimista award honors success through unflagging persistence in the face of adversity. Where most people see barriers, the Optimista sees only the possibility of success.
“I met a group of Chicanos from East LA. That was the first time I didn’t have to explain things, the first time I had my own group of people,” said Jose Gamez. Jose aims to change academia so that ideas of tolerance, the value of difference, and the maintenance of cultural identity can have an open forum.
Jose grew up in Commerce, Texas the son of a college professor from Spain and a mother from Ecuador. Both parents encouraged Jose and his sister to go to college.
As a young man in school, Jose always enjoyed drawing and he took drafting classes in high school.
Jose remembers experiencing discrimination in his hometown, but persevered through the support of his family.
Jose earned his undergraduate degree in environmental design in Texas; he then earned his Master’s degree in Architecture at University of California at Berkeley. He later earned his Ph.D. in Architecture at UCLA, where he was the only Latino in the program.
Jose joined CASA, the Chicano Architectural Student Association and soon became co-chair. He helped organize a major symposium bringing speakers to Berkeley to talk about issues important to Hispanic identity and culture. At UCLA Jose’s academic focus in architecture was greatly influenced by his longing for the Latino community he did not have growing up.
Jose taught a design studio entitled “Building/Border/Culture: Charlotte as the Gateway to the New (Latin) South,” which won the 2003 Architecture for Social Justice Awards Program: Partnerships in Teaching. Today, Jose has established a national reputation for his design work and research in the field of architecture. His work reflects an interest in engaging the growing Latino communities in the Charlotte area and explores the changes that this growth brings from an urban perspective.
Through his award-winning work and talents, Jose represents HSF’s Optimista (the Optimist), awarded for his driven success through perseverance.
The Hispanic Scholarship Fund is proud to award the 2006 Optimista to Jose Gamez, Ph.D.
Aida L. Maisonet Giachello, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Jane Addams College of Social Work and Director and Founder of the Midwest Latino Health Research at the University of Illinois – Chicago, is HSF’s 2006 Triunfador – awarded for realizing the ultimate achievement in her profession and for personifying HSF’s value of “raising the bar.” Born in a poor barrio in Puerto Rico, Dr. Giachello said getting an education was not easy. Family and teachers discouraged Dr. Giachello and instead encouraged her to be a wife and mother. Dr. Giachello earned a B.A. in Sociology and Psychology. She earned an M.A. and a Ph. D. at the University of Illinois - Chicago, where she studied health and ethnicity. She founded the Midwest Latino Health Research, Training and Policy Center, where she developed a curriculum that is used by international universities and government agencies. Time Magazine named Dr. Giachello as one of the 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America.
The HSF Alumni Hall of Fame event, now in its fifth year, celebrates the incredible stories of five Hispanics who, through their accomplishments, contributions and lifetime challenges, demonstrate the power of higher education and mentorship to change a life and positively impact the world. Each honoree’s story illustrates the possibilities offered by higher education and personifies the mission and values of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.