Ibero-American Action League’s 52nd Gala and Hispanic Scholarship Recognition Awards will be presented virtually this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In light of the cancellation of the in-person award ceremony, the organization decided to move forward with plans to host a virtual gala, which is scheduled for July 23 at 7 p.m. via Zoom.
“We still wanted to do something to recognize the kids, since a lot of them did not have a graduation either, so we didn’t want to take this away from them,” Julio Saenz, Ibero’s chief communications and development officer and the host of this year’s event, told El Mensajero Católico July 9.
Ibero will once again award scholarships to more than 90 college-bound Hispanic students from the Rochester area who are being celebrated for their academic achievements.
According to Saenz, the virtual gala will focus more on the students vs. the agency but still will include such traditions as speeches given by Ibero President Angie Perez-Delgado as well as a keynote speaker. This year’s keynote speaker is Orlando Ortiz, president of Rochester’s Puerto Rican Festival who is a past scholarship recipient.
The scholarships are made possible through donations from area colleges, nonprofit organizations, individuals and businesses.
“With the economic downturn, we were really worried that we wouldn’t have enough scholarships and were amazed that the community really stepped up to make donations and contributions, so that we could give all the kids scholarships as well as sponsor the event without having to turn anyone away,” Saenz said.
To be eligible to receive a scholarship, an applicant must:
• be of Hispanic origin;
• be a graduating high-school senior;
• demonstrate academic achievement with a minimum grade-point average of 3.0; and
• must be entering college in the fall of the year in which the scholarship is awarded.
Additionally, applicants were each asked to submit two letters of recommendation.
One of the students who will receive a scholarship is Sophia Caruana, who recently graduated from Irondequoit High School. She will be awarded the ninth-annual El Mensajero Católico/Catholic Courier scholarship.
“I was motivated to apply (for the El Mensajero Católico/Catholic Courier scholarship) because I wanted to shed light on my grandmother’s story, and to demonstrate how it’s inspirational,” Sophia told El Mensajero July 14. “It pushes me to be my best, and I thought the tenacity and passion it instills in me would fit the nature of the scholarship.”
The best part of receiving the scholarship is that it honors Hispanic heritage, she added, noting that she is of Guatemalan as well as Italian decent.
“I have an insatiable curiosity for understanding the intricacies of my culture,” she said.
For example, Sophia said that during her academic career, she studied Italian and enjoyed listening to both Hispanic and Italian artists from an assortment of genres. She also performed the artists’ music as a member of the school orchestra and jazz choir. In addition to being involved in her school’s music groups, she also was involved in such clubs and activities as tutoring and the National Honor Society.
Sophia said she will attend St. John Fisher College in the fall and plans to study economics and statistics in hopes of becoming an economist, a financial/business analyst or a professor.