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Latino Heritage Night/Latino Scholarship Day with the Toledo Mud Hens features a variety of Latin entertainment

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

The 15th annual Latino Heritage Night at Fifth Third Field this year took on a new twist: the first time the event was held on a weeknight. But the predicted rains held off and hundreds of Latino individuals, couples, and families enjoyed a pleasant evening of pre-game entertainment and a Thursday night summer baseball game between the Toledo Mud Hens and Columbus Clippers.

Award-winning recording artists Yvonne y Fuego [música tejana] provided the musical entertainment for the hometown crowd on an outdoor stage at Hensville Park, the first Latino entertainers to do so. The popular band brought fans from all over Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan, including Archold, Wauseon, Defiance OH; and Adrian, Blissfield, and Lansing MI.

“Just getting people to come out (on a weeknight) was a little bit of a challenge, but moving it along it’s getting closer and closer to being what we want,” said Phil Barbosa, president of the Spanish-American Organization (SAO), which co-sponsors the annual event with LaPrensa.

The proceeds from ticket sales will go toward funding Latino scholarships. Six of those were presented to deserving college students during a pre-game ceremony at home plate.

Shane Curtis McCormick carried a $500 mock check with him, a scholarship from Latinos United to continue his education at The Ohio State University. While the recent St. Francis High School graduate will study nursing as an undergraduate, he has plans to eventually go to medical school to become an anesthesiologist. While in high school, McCormick was a member of the Latino American Student Support Organization (LASSO).

“This basically makes it a little easier to afford college once I’m closer,” said McCormick, whose grandmother came to the U.S. from Panamá in her late 20’s. “I’ve always been interested in science and the medical field, and I feel that covers a broad range of things you can do.”

Alexandria Huerta is entering her second year at Lourdes University, also to study nursing.

“I really want to do missionary work, so I really want to help people in more of a physical way,” said the Bedford High School graduate. “I think nursing in the missionary field is going to be awesome.”

Ms. Huerta received a $500 scholarship from Latins United to continue her studies, which also admittedly will involve brushing up on her Spanish. Her desire for missionary work may take her to South America or her family’s native México, her preferred destinations to make a difference.

“This helps me out immensely because I have to pay my own tuition,” she said. “It helps me to focus on the nursing program more and helps my tuition tremendously.”

Ms. Huerta is the first in her family to go straight to college from high school, but both of her parents are now pursuing a higher education. Her mother already has earned an associate’s degree in gerontology. The Lourdes nursing student also works at a jewelry store to help fund her higher education, calling it “fun” to already be “in a professional working environment.”

Alex García, Jr., has big plans for his future as he enters his third year as a business management major with a human resources minor at Kent State University.

“I want to open my own establishment, learn the skills of a leader, and through that, my employees are treated just like the customers—treated well,” he said with conviction.

The Central Catholic High School graduate wants to one day open a “music-themed” entertainment venue, with “a big dance floor with different genres of live music,” including swing and jazz.

“I’m an old man at heart, deep in my soul,” he said with a grin. “We can do community events in there as well, even Latin nights.”

García was quick to point out how the $500 scholarship from Latins United will help him to continue his studies and realize his dream.

“Books, tuition, anything—there’s a lot of hidden fees when it comes to college,” he said. “I’ve learned that, so this will definitely go towards those and will make a big difference.”

Garcia’s grandmother attended college but never finished a degree. His mom went back to school about the same time he headed to college, so he calls her “his biggest inspiration.”

Perhaps the biggest applause during a pre-game scholarship ceremony on the field went to 35-year old Andrea de la Roca, a single mom of three kids who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work at Lourdes University.

A part-time youth advocate at Adelante, Inc. is also a Latino community advocate of sorts. Her story and struggles are well-known to her many friends in attendance at the game. So the $1,000 scholarship she received from SAO will go a long way in setting an example of what an education can do for her kids—even though they see it firsthand when doing homework together at the same table each evening.

“I’m excited. It means that the community cares about someone like me who’s working hard to provide a better life for my kids,” she said. “I want to inspire youth. I want the Latino youth to know that we need leadership that’s prepared to advocate for the community. That’s why I’m doing this. I believe in leading by example, so I can’t expect my kids to go to college if I don’t do it. I think they’re pretty impressed.”

Her two sons attend St. John’s Jesuit Academy in eighth and sixth grades. Her daughter is a third grade student at St. Benedict’s. The children spent five weeks with their grandparents this summer while Ms. de la Roca went to Italy for a study abroad opportunity.

Lourdes University via SAO also awarded a $1,000 scholarship to early childhood major Taylor Tafelski, who plays on the school’s softball team and is active in the Toledo Labre Project, which provides meals to the needy. Ms. Tafelski plans to join the Army Reserves and teach elementary school.

“It’s always better when there’s hope for tomorrow,” said Barbosa. “We’re trying to reinforce that by giving them a better chance to succeed at what they want to do. (I feel) better and better about the future.”

Owens Community College via SAO presented $825 scholarships to Samantha Bridget, a social work major and Madison Soltis, who could not be present.

Dr. Greg Guzmán, the Northwest Ohio representative to the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs (OCHLA), and Jesús Salas, senior attorney at Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) each were nominated by LaPrensa and SAO to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

“This is a great night to celebrate Latino heritage here in Northwest Ohio,” said Guzman, who practiced with his son, a pitcher in youth-league baseball. “I’ve got to make sure I snap the ball. I have to remember to come over the top and snap it at the end. He knows I’m not the greatest.”

“I’m honored. I’m totally honored,” said Salas, who worked his son attending medical school.

“I think it’s for a great cause—Hispanic kids and scholarships. I don’t think there’s a much better honor than this.”

Both men lobbed the ball with precision over home plate to a Toledo Mud Hens catcher, completing another successful Latino Heritage Night/Latino Scholarship Day attended by thousands of people. The Toledo Mud Hens, however, did not fare as well, dropping a 5-3 decision to the Clippers in a game that served as the opener to the second half of the minor-league baseball season.

Copyright © 1989 to 2017 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/18/17 21:04:26 -0700.




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