On Thursday, October 19th, Conexión Américas hosted the 10th Annual Hispanic Heritage Awards ceremony and announced the winners of the Orgullo Hispano and Amigo We Love Awards.

Orgullo Hispano

The Orgullo Hispano, or Hispanic Pride, Award recognizes unsung heroes in our community: Latino adults or young people who have been persistently working to better their immediate community –neighborhood, school, work place, nonprofit or civic organization. 

This year we honored two outstanding young Latinos who have been part of our familia for years: Berenice Oliva and Arturo Prieto Valdes. Both participated in our college access program, Escalera, at Glencliff High School, with Arturo graduating in our first class of students in 2015, and Berenice in 2016. Both now study at Trevecca University and are recipients of the Equal Chance for Education scholarship, which helps undocumented students pay for college. They both have become outspoken advocates for the community of young immigrant “Dreamers” here in Tennessee.

Two years ago Berenice was a finalist in the high school essay contest. Her essay back then still exemplifies her attitude and determination:

“I am not going to give up. Nowhere in my American Dream have I listed “giving up” as an option. I will fall and cry, but I will get back up until I get to the finish line of my goal. I will seek out help from other organizations that want to support me on this new pathway of my life. I will look for scholarships that can put me through college, and I will work hard to pay for what cannot be covered by the gifts of others. I am determined to stay dedicated to my dream, even when things get really tough. I will always try to get on the positive side. I know my American Dream is big, but I know I can do this.”

She continues to pursue her dream now, as a student of social work at Trevecca Nazarene University, with plans to later pursue a master’s degree.

Arturo joined the Conexión Américas familia during his high school years as well, and along with his parents starred in our 2015 short documentary The Bonds that Drive Us- a powerful story of his parents’ sacrifice and his dreams as a young person growing up in Nashville. He also was one of the students selected to meet President Obama when he visited Casa Azafrán in December 2014. He has stayed very involved with organizations at Trevecca, where he is a junior studying international business and public policy and also volunteers with Casa Azafrán partner the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition’s Jovenes Unidos Por Un Mejor Presente (JUMP).

Conexión Américas is proud to see them both develop into strong young Latino leaders. They courageously speak out about their status as a DACA recipients and advocate for a just solution for the many Dreamers like them whose parents sacrificed so much to bring them to this country. They have traveled to Washington DC to meet with the staff of Senators Corker and Alexander, and Representative Jim Cooper. They bravely shared their stories and urged our legislators to approve a clean Dream Act that protects all immigrants.

Our last Orgullo Hispano award went to Beatriz Salgado, principal at Goodlettsville Middle Prep. Beatriz has been in Nashville 24 years, and started out as a counselor at Hillsboro High School.  Prior to becoming principal at Goodlettsville Middle Prep, Beatriz was assistant principal at Overton High School and was a member of the inaugural Governor’s Academy for School Leadership Fellows. Through her leadership, Overton High School partnered with several programs to provide leadership development and academic support to minority students. Beatriz has been a role model for minority students at the schools where she has worked. She constantly shows her students how to give back to our community continue to succeed. Conexión Américas honors Beatriz for her unwavering dedication to students and creating a supportive environment for Latino and other young people of color. It’s counselors and principals like Beatriz who make all the difference in our students’ lives.

Amigo We Love

Conexión Américas also presented the “Amigo we Love” award to Rashed Fakhruddin, president of the Islamic Center of Nashville. The Amigo we Love award recognizes a non-Hispanic individual who has helped empower Latinos through their work, their service or actions. Rashed has worked for Nashville Electric Service for over 20 years, and also serves on the Education Report Card Committee, MNPS’ Engineering, Manufacturing and Industrial Technology Partnership Council and the Mayor’s and Nashville Public Education’s Inaugrual Parent Cabinet.

Rashed has worked tirelessly to ensure Nashville remains a welcoming community, where Latinos and all immigrants and refugees, are embraced as integral members of our communities. Key in that work are the annual diversity brunches at the Islamic Center of Nashville, where the Center opens its doors to Nashville, and invites the community to come together to eat and learn from each other. Rashed’s passion for empowering minorities in our community is also evident in his professional life. Last summer, Rashed hosted two Conexión Américas Escalera students from John Overton High School to intern at NES. The interns learned what it takes to work in an engineering environment, and gained a wonderful mentor and role model.

Past Winners Include:


Alvaro Manrique Barrenechea, Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors

Alfonso Nieto, Hola Tennessee newspaper

Cecilia Gomez, Metropolitan Nashville Police Department

‘Amiga We Love’ Award: Alice Randall, Writer-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University


Leticia Alvarez, The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition

Luz Salazar, Neighborhood Health

Martha Zamudio, Community Volunteer

“Amiga We Love” Award: Lisa Quigley, Chief of Staff, Representative Jim Cooper


Verónica Zavaleta, Community Volunteer

José Flores, Metro Nashville Public Schools

The Latino Achievers Team of Carol Seals and Kathleen Fuchs

“Amigo We Love” Award: Dr. Michael Spalding and Equal Chance for Education.


Anne Moctezuma-Galicia, MLK Magnet School

Luz Belleza-Binns, Metro Schools Services

“Amiga We Love” Award: Kaki Friskics-Warren


Ruben de Peña,  Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Luisa Hough, Mental Health Association of Middle Tennessee

“Amigo We Love” Award: Terry Horgan, Hispanic Services Director for Catholic Charities