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MAY 19, 2023


“Carolina Latinx Center Celebrates Graduates’ Excellence and Achievements at Annual Éxitos and Awards Ceremony”

Chapel Hill, NC—The Carolina Latinx Center celebrated the accomplishments, contributions, and resilience of the Latinx community during its annual Éxitos and Awards Ceremony held on Thursday, May 11 at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center on the university campus. The ceremony highlighted the impactful work of Latinx students, faculty, staff, and community partners.

“We take great pride in recognizing the exceptional achievements of our Latinx community members and allies at the Exitos and Awards Ceremony,” stated Josmell Perez, director of the Carolina Latinx Center. “Their unwavering dedication, resilience, and passion have significantly contributed to the progress and empowerment of the Latinx community, both at UNC-Chapel Hill and beyond.”

UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz joined the ceremony, extending a warm welcome to attendees and sharing his reflections from the year, including his participation in the CLC’s open hour and Latinx Heritage Month keynote address. The event, organized by Perez, and Marcela Torres-Cervantes, the Center’s assistant director, brought together a diverse audience, including students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members, fostering a vibrant atmosphere that beautifully showcased the richness of Latinx culture and their collective pursuit of success.

A significant highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Éxitos Awards, recognizing five remarkable individuals from the UNC Latinx community—students, faculty, staff, and community members. These awards celebrate individuals who exemplify the Center’s five pillars: Diversity, Innovation, Empowerment, Familia, and Orgullo. The deserving recipients of this year’s awards were:

  • Diversity Award recognizes a person who has worked to create an inclusive community at UNC. This award went to UNC senior Kevin Emanuel Gomez-Gonzalez – “Kevin has been an outstanding student, exploring Latinidad and intersectional questions of identity, belonging, and struggle throughout his time at UNC. The Center has had the privilege to watch him blossom into a leader in the classroom and in the community. Emanuel is a natural storyteller, equally analytical and emotive in his approach. We cannot think of a student more deserving of the Center’s Diversity award.
  • Familia Award recognizes a person who has built and maintained deep connections between our community. America Juarez-Maldonado –  “America is familia. She is someone who folks have found community, safety, and joy with. From her campus roles to her community advocacy, she is always looking out for those who others may overlook. She is relentless in her goals, and lives by the belief that you must lift while you climb. In addition to her focus, America is a total goof. She is quick to laugh, dance, and don’t let us get the karaoke started. Thank you for being a pillar para toda la comunidad America!” 
  • Empowerment Award recognizes a person who has built scholarship beyond the classroom and developed an awareness and celebration of Latinx identity. María R. Estorino and the University Libraries –  “To say the Center was excited at the appointment of María’s role as the Vice Provost of the University Libraries, would be an understatement. One of María’s signature initiatives at Wilson Library has been the development of a vibrant fellowships program to support undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty and community researchers in their scholarly and creative uses of Carolina’s special collections. This means that María has been making research and libraries more accessible for everyone! María has been a powerful voice and under her leadership, Wilson Library staff have advanced efforts to review and update descriptions of library materials with more accurate and inclusive language. Special collections units have also deepened their engagement with communities that have historically been underrepresented in rare and archival collections – she is making the libraries more reflective of our true narratives! The Center recognizes both María for her incredible leadership and the University Libraries for their commitment to representing our stories with care and integrity.”
  • Orgullo Award recognizes a person who has embraced and performed service, scholarship, leadership, or advocacy with strength and joy. Kevin Ortiz – “Embodied each part of the Orgullo award from the moment he arrived at the Carolina Latinx Center. From his first days on campus, he took the long walk from Kenan Flagler Business School to Abernethy Hall to chat and share his plans for the next two years. In a few short months, his plans began to take shape and he became a bold presence at the Center. People know him from his work with the LÍDER program, but the Center wants to highlight Kevin’s lesser talked about work. His daily interactions with his peers, his storytelling and sharing of his experiences, and his constant need to move! Seriously, catch him on any dance floor or soccer field! Kevin is a first-generation, DACA-mented, son, brother, teammate, and friend. He literally doesn’t understand the concept of a stranger. Orgullo glows off of Kevin and the Center could not be more excited to see where life will take him.” 
  • Innovation Award recognizes a person who has generated new scholarship to help in approaching a problem or developed new insights and research within their field. Ricardo Crespo-Regalado – “ Ricardo a third-year medical student and is part of the Kenan Primary Care Rural Medical Scholars, a UNC School of Medicine program that prepares students to pursue rural, underserved patient practice in North Carolina. As he trains to become a doctor, Ricardo is working to make a direct impact now as a co-director of the Student Health Action Coalition, or SHAC. The group is the oldest student-run free clinic in the U.S., having started in 1968 to serve underserved populations. Ricardo began volunteering with the student organization while he was an undergraduate at Carolina and when COVID-19 halted SHAC’s operations and forced in-person clinic visits to cease, Ricardo helped to spearhead SHAC’s efforts to initiate a multilingual telehealth program. He worked to ensure that the hundreds of wellness check-in calls that SHAC made to its patients could reach all patients, regardless of native tongue. Without his leadership and herculean efforts to recruit, train and organize a large team of interpreters, SHAC’s sizable population of patients for whom English is not their first language would not have been able to receive care this year. Thank you, Ricardo, for your innovation and eagerness to make medical care accessible to so many, especially those from our community.” 

The Exitos and Awards Ceremony hosted by the Carolina Latinx Center stands as a compelling testament to the significance of recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments of the Latinx community at UNC. Through the acknowledgment of these achievements, the university fosters a supportive environment that empowers Latinx individuals and actively promotes inclusivity.