Latino gala to honor achievements of 9

Angeles Ortega-Moore, head of the Latin American Coalition, and Cynthia G. Marshall, president of AT&T North Carolina, will be among those honored Friday for contributions to the Latino community.

They are two of nine winners of the 10th annual Latin American Excelente Awards, granted for notable achievements and contributions to Charlotte's Latino community. More than 600 people are expected to attend the black tie gala.

Ortega will receive the Community Service Person of the Year award for her work leading the city's largest Latino nonprofit organization.

Marshall will receive the Non-Latin Person Most Supportive of the Latino Community award for her work expanding AT&T's role with the community, including its support for the Latin American Festival, the Latin American Chamber of Commerce, and the Latin American Women's Association.

Hilda Gurdian, publisher and chief executive of La Noticia Spanish-Language newspaper, which hosts the event, said the award ceremony is a chance to celebrate Latinos and non-Latinos “who have helped the Latino community in its development.” She says it also presents the Latino community in a positive light and shows how vital it is within the community at large.

Five Latino students will also be honored and will receive $2,500 scholarships to further their educations. The Excelente scholarships go to “Latino students who have the grades and the desire to go to college, but not the financial means to do so,” Gurdian says.

Felipe Gonzalez, 18, who came to the United States from Colombia nine years ago, graduated from Ardrey Kell High School with a 4.02 GPA. He will attend UNC Chapel Hill and study business administration and finance.

Sarah Garcia, 20, also from Colombia, graduated from Statesville High with a 3.89 GPA. She will attend UNC Greensboro and study nutrition.

Ana Karen Rodriguez, 17, moved to the United States from Mexico seven years ago. The South Mecklenburg High graduate has a 4.43 GPA and will attend Belmont Abbey College.

Andres Rodriguez, 18, graduated from Ardrey Kell High School with a 3.89 GPA. He will study marketing and business administration at UNC Charlotte.

Talina Velazquez, 17, was born in Mexico. She graduated from Renaissance School at Olympic with a 3.68 GPA. Velazquez will attend Queens University of Charlotte and pursue a degree in education.

Other Excelente honorees:

Businessman of the Year: Ric Elias, a native of Puerto Rico, came to the U.S. in the early 1980s without speaking a word of English. Today he is the CEO and co-founder of Red Ventures, a Charlotte-based company that specializes in high-tech, online customer acquisition marketing.

Businesswoman of the Year: Denisa Leach grew up in New York, learning Spanish and English from her Venezuelan mother and Cuban father. Leach is vice president, acquisition banking director and Latino market leader at Wachovia.