Esperanza awarded its first college scholarship in 1983 and has
since set out to improve the academic achievement of Latinos in
Metro Cleveland by supporting students to graduate high school
and promoting post-secondary educational attainment.
“Our board wanted to create a legacy project that positioned the
organization for long term sustainability, said Victor Ruiz,
Esperanza executive director. “We realized that there were
thousands of Hispanics in the greater Cleveland area that were
positively impacted by our programs and scholarships. We also
realized that we needed to engage those alumni in meaningful and
Esperanza’s role in the community has evolved over the years
well beyond awarding scholarships to deserving Latino students.
The organization added a dropout prevention program in 1989. The
organization has advocated for policy changes to benefit Latino
students in the Cleveland Public Schools and elsewhere, as well
as served as a link between community leaders, agencies, and
schools to help students overcome barriers to education and
ensure they receive a quality education.
“The alumni association is another piece in our efforts of
continuing to grow and provide services for many more years,”
explained Ruiz. “Our alumni will serve as the mentors,
volunteers, donors, board members, advocates that we need to
successfully run and grow our organization.”
There are plenty of Esperanza alumni to draw from. The
organization has awarded scholarships to over 1,200 students
over the past three decades and provided direct services to
thousands of additional students and their families. The
nonprofit group has even hired an Alumni Association Coordinator
to oversee the effort.
“She has been holding a series of informational meetings with
alumni and is in the process of creating an alumni association
Executive Committee, whose role will be to create year-long
engagement opportunities for Alumni,” said Ruiz.
The Esperanza executive director called the alumni association a
“legacy project” on the part of the agency’s board of directors.
It’s also an opportunity for past scholarship recipients to “pay
it forward” to help future generations of Latino
students—through contributions to scholarship funds, helping
students to succeed in school, or showing them the pathways to
personal and professional success.
When a student joins Esperanza, he or she can participate in any
number of academic, mentoring, or leadership programs. It starts
with the completion of an Individual Service Strategy (ISS),
in which their current school performance and career goals are
analyzed and an action plan is established. That, in turn, may
lead to tutoring, mentoring, Saturday Academy college visits,
preparation for the Ohio Graduation Test, and daily afterschool
The alumni event is being billed as a celebration of the past
year and excitement for the opportunities ahead. The event will
feature hors d’oeuvres, valet parking, and live music by Son
Gitano. Tickets are $50 per person/$90 per couple and can be
purchased by calling 216.651.7178 or visiting