The Centro Hispano Leadership Awards have been announced and they will be presented at the 23rd annual Centro Hispano banquet titled “The Power of a Dream: Education and Opportunity” Friday, Oct. 19, at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center.
Oscar Mireles an educator, writer, and school administrator will be receiving the 2012 Roberto G. Sanchez Educational Leadership Award for promoting educational opportunities in the Latino community. The Sanchez Award is given to an individual or organization in the community that has demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to promoting educational and career opportunities for Latinos in Dane County.
“There are a lot of deserving people in the community doing a lot of great work, so I was honored to be chosen [for the Sanchez Award],” Mireles tells The Madison Times. “I know [Madison College Associate Vice President for Diversity and Community Relations] Maria Banuelos won it [recently] and she’s done so much great work in the community. Just to be mentioned in the same breath as her is amazing.”
Mireles has been the executive director of Omega School for the past 18 years. Omega School provides adult basic education services (GED Preparation) in several sites in Dane County, including its main facility on Badger Road, two neighborhood centers, and the Dane County Jail.
“For me, I enjoy what I do at work [at Omega School] and the other things I’m involved in with the Latino Education Council and the work at Centro and at MATC,” Mireles says. “I like being involved with the scholarships selections [at Centro]. There are just a lot of students who are doing all the right things — they are doing well in school, they are involved in the community, and they are working hard. That’s a picture of our Latino community that people don’t see sometimes.”
Media and television will too often showcase the Latino students who aren’t doing well, Mireles laments. “When you meet the kids who are doing well and you meet their parents, it’s the best example of the American way,” Mireles says. “I love to see young people working to better their lives because it not only impacts them, but it impacts their children and their communities.”
Mireles has received numerous awards for his community service and activism including the Literacy Advocate of the Year from Wisconsin Literacy (2011), the Dane County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recognition Award (2009), and the Citizen of the Year-Citywide Distinguished Service Award from Madison Metropolitan School District (2009). He has been a community advocate but also an advocate for Latino students, who, he notes, are here to stay. “At one point somebody said, ‘Each generation has to fight for their civil rights,’” Mireles says. “It’s become more evident now as I get older. It would be nice if people just accepted the changes — or, rather that things have changed — but the struggle still continues. But I’m optimistic of where we are headed as a Latino community. I think the more people get to know each other [of different cultures], the more they will realize that they have much in common.”
Among many other community endeavors, Mireles currently serves on the Grants Review Board of the Foundation for Madison Public Schools. He is president of Africasong Productions which coordinates the longest running state-sponsored Martin Luther King Jr. celebration and he is a member of the Education Committee for the new Overture Center. During his tenure at Omega School, Mireles has assisted over 1,500 young adults with securing a GED/HSED credential. The GED/HSED credential serves as an access point for entry level employment and/or post-secondary education.
“If I didn’t have a great staff at the [Omega] School, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to get involved in other things,” Mireles says. “I have a great supporting staff and want to accept this award partly on their behalf.”
Mireles will be just one of the many people and things celebrated at the 23rd annual Centro Hispano banquet. The event, usually attended by more than 500 attendees, will also feature dinner, socializing, and dancing to the music of Madisalsa. Hosted by La Movida’s Luis and Lupita Montoto, the keynote speaker will be award-winning poet Michael Reyes. The banquet will also be a time to present the Hilda Conteris Thomas Community Leadership Award to longtime community activist Yolanda Salazar.
The Thomas Leadership award is given to an individual, group, or organization that has demonstrated outstanding efforts in ensuring that Latinos have a strong voice in Dane County through tireless service, advocacy, and leadership.
“I was surprised and happy when I learned that I won this award,” Salazar tells The Madison Times. “I love being in contact with the community and doing as much as I can in the community whether it be events, health fairs, parties, or festivals. To win this award is very exciting for me and I’m grateful that Centro thought of me.”
Salazar is the cultural diversity specialist for the Northeast Madison Senior Coalition and is responsible for outreach, assisting, and connecting Latino senior adults with the appropriate activities and services at the Madison Senior Coalitions and Dane County Senior Focal Points. She coordinates health and wellness educational programs, identifies community resources and services, and plans social activities to keep Latino seniors independent while still active in their communities.
Salazar has a whole family of active community members here in Madison. Her daughters — Dr. Patricia Téllez-Girón and Teresa Téllez-Girón Salazar — are extremely active in the Latino community. “They helped me to get involved in the community here,” Salazar says. “And I’m so thankful that they did.”
The oldest of ten children — five boys and five girls — Salazar was born and raised in Mexico City and still gets back there every year to see her relatives. Salazar studied at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and earned a law degree in 1988.
“My mom and my dad were my role models when I was growing up and they inspired me to be the best that I could be,” Salazar remembers. “I started to work when I was 14 years old and my aunt Martha helped me to study and was a great influence on me, too.”
With her presence at so many events in the Latino community, Salazar understands that she is somebody that young people will look up to and will emulate.
“If I am seen as a role model in the Latino community, that is great,” says Salazar, who is also an active member of the Latino Support Network (LASUP) and Latino Health Council, “but I would like to see more young leaders and that is why I’m always trying to involve my grandchildren in more events and festivals with the community. I want to see our young people really step up and get involved more.”
“This is a great recognition for me and I’m very proud that they will be honoring me at the banquet,” Salazar adds. “All of these years working with Latino seniors, I feel like I’ve made a difference in their lives and I’m so happy for our agency, the Northeast Madison Senior Coalition. They gave me the opportunity to work with them when I came here and to be a part of the community.”
Also at the banquet, Maria Sibri and Nadia Mora will receive Centro Hispano Youth Leadership Awards, which are given to young people from Centro Hispano’s youth programs that have shown outstanding leadership and commitment to service within the Dane County Latino community. Sibri and Mora will receive $500 scholarships for post-secondary education.
Founded in 1983 to address the needs of Latino families and individuals, Centro Hispano seeks to empower people, to enable them to participate fully in the community at large. Centro has administered numerous programs and cultural events over the past two decades, always with the goals of fostering hope, responsibility, and encouragement to the Latino community.
The 23rd annual Centro Hispano banquet titled “The Power of a Dream: Education and Opportunity” will be held Friday, Oct. 19, at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center.
For more information, visit http://micentro.org.