By Grace Moody, The Miami Student

Six students were recognized on Oct. 27 as winners of the Hispanic Scholarship Award at the Hispanic Chamber Cincinnati USA’s annual gala, which celebrated its 20th anniversary. More winners from Miami University were awarded the scholarship this year than any
previous years.

Seniors Ricardo Calles and Anna Capre, junior Kenia Viezcas, sophomore Angela Evans and first-year Giovanna Farinazo were recognized and each awarded a $1,000 scholarship. Junior Ricardo Ugas was awarded a $5,000 scholarship.

Qualifications for the scholarship include involvement in Cincinnati’s Hispanic community, volunteer experience and high academic performance. Applicants needed to be of Hispanic descent or from a Hispanic country.

Ricardo Calles was born in El Salvador and moved to the United States in 2006 when he was 12. He didn’t know any English. After coming to Miami, Calles got involved working for an international school in Hamilton, where he teaches English to native Spanish speakers. Most of the students he works with, Calles said, are adults who have only received up to a fifth grade education.

The people he works with are working to earn their high school diploma.  Funding an education can be difficult for many Hispanic families, Calles said.

“My parents weren’t able to support me financially for college as much as they would have liked,” Calles said. “I think many times Hispanics want to get an education but can’t — not necessarily because they don’t have access to it, but because they can’t afford it.”

When he graduates from Miami in May, Calles hopes to be a high school Spanish teacher. He is also interested in working for Dr. Luimen Formulas, a company that aims to help those in the Hispanic community without access to healthcare.

During Thursday’s celebration, Calles said he enjoyed listening to the keynote speaker at the banquet, former President of Mexico Vincente Fox Quesada.

Fox’s speech, “Relationships between the U.S. and Mexico,” brought up the notion that students should work not to build walls, but bridges, in order to continue the partnership between the United
States and Mexico.

“He swung it around to the idea that we all have a purpose, and if we want to see any changes then it has to start with us because we are the ones building the future,” Calles said.

Junior Kenia Viezcas said it was surreal to meet and shake hands with Fox. She lived in Mexico for five years when she was young, during Fox’s presidency.

“I think it’s important for people to know that making connections, not borders, is so important,”
Viezcas said.

Viezcas is interested in working with immigration rights when she graduates. She said she hopes to work for an organization that helps immigrant families, especially students, become immersed in American culture.

Junior Ricardo Ugas, another winner of the scholarship, said he enjoyed the banquet and
hearing Fox’s talk.

“It was a very great meeting to see and understand the relationship that we, as Latinos, have and the influence that we can have in the community,” Ugas said.

Ugas came to the United States in 2009 from Venezuela. Like Calles, he didn’t speak any English. Since he began his time in the United States, Ugas has volunteered with food pantries and church events.

Ugas said he has worked to become very involved on campus. He is the student body president of Miami’s Hamilton campus and started the Association of American
Latino Students.

His experiences in the United States and at Miami, Ugas said, have connected him with the Hispanic community.

“It’s been a wonderful experience, showing that despite financial struggle and despite lack of representation that we can make a difference and make our community a better place,” Ugas said.

Jacqueline Rioja Velarde, the associate director of Miami’s Center for American and World Cultures (CAWC), is from Lima, Peru and said she has a big heart for Miami’s Latino/Hispanic students because she shares their heritage.

“There was a lot of energy in the investment our students do to be the best they can be to represent our community,” Rioja Velarde said. “This is a collective effort that gives students opportunities to be more engaged with not only the Latino/Hispanic community, but the community at large.”

Rioja Velarde works to advocate for diverse students and help students find opportunities to volunteer within the community. She received a Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Award from the Ohio Latino Affairs Commission in October.

Rioja Velarde said the accomplishments of these students are meaningful to the goals of both CAWC and Miami.

“This is a big achievement for Miami because one of my goals has always been to make sure that we gain visibility in the Latino/Hispanic community of Ohio,” Rioja Velarde said. “I think over time this has proven that we not only have visibility, but we now
have a presence.”