Conexión Américas is proud to announce the winners of the 2012 Hispanic Heritage Essay Competition, My Hispanic Roots, My American Dream.

First Place

Nereida Zuñiga
Glencliff High School

Honorable Mentions

Jacob Maldonado
Glencliff High School

Edith Amaya
John Overton High School

This year’s winners presented powerful, well-expressed and beautiful writing on topics as personal as family separation and as topical as immigration, the judges said.

Taken as a whole, the essays submitted by the winners, and other local high school writers, offer a detailed portrait of what it is like to be a young Latino in Nashville during an era of unprecedented growth, opportunities and challenges for Hispanic families.

Conexión Américas is honored to give their stories voice.

Excerpt of Nereida’s essay

“Mi Gran Sueño Americano es llegar a ser una persona muy exitosa en todo lo que me proponga, ser un orgullo hispano no solo para mis padres pero para todos los hispanos en este país y poder tener la habilidad de poder devolverle a Estados Unidos algo de lo mucho que me ha brindado. Mis padres son la primera razón por la que yo les dedico todos mis sueños, ya que ellos lo dejaron todo por sus hijos.”


“My Grand American Dream is to be a successful person in all that I strive for, to be an example of Hispanic pride, not just for my parents, but for all Hispanics in this country and to have the ability to give back to the United States some of what it has offered me. I dedicate all my dreams to my parents because they left everything behind for their children.”

Also, look for an editorial on the essay competition by judge Dr. Laura Clark in the Saturday, Sept. 8 Tennessean.

Orgullo Hispano Award 2012

This year, two dedicated Latinos have received the Orgullo Hispano (Unsung Hero) Award.

They are:

Ruben de Pena Metro Nashville Public Schools

Ruben de Peña, community outreach specialist for immigrant populations, for Metro Nashville Public Schools.

He is known as the voice that calls families homes with announcements for workshops, events, and snow days. He is also well known for his weekly radio shows about Metro Schools. Ruben is a trusted resource for the school district as well, assisting staff to develop culturally proficient and relevant programs and services for Latino and immigrant families and organizing events that help Latino families celebrate milestones.

For being a trusted resource and well of support for thousands of Latino families in Nashville, we celebrate Ruben as our Orgullo Hispano.

Luisa Hough Nashville Hispanic Heritage Award

Luisa Hough, a longtime  multicultural services coordinator and Hispanic services outreach specialist in the mental health field.

Luisa Hough arrived in Nashville in 1962 from Cuba, as part of Operation Pedro Pan, which brought unaccompanied teens to the United States to escape the early days of Castro’s Cuba. When she and her sister finally were reunited with their family, they settled here, in a very different Nashville.

Luisa’s compassion and tireless efforts on behalf of immigrants stems from her roots and experience as an immigrant, and because she is a natural counselor who has positively affected and helped change the lives of countless Hispanic girls, women and families.

As a longtime Multicultural Services Coordinator and Hispanic Services Outreach Specialist in the Mental Health field, Luisa has led support groups, worked with women facing domestic violence and she runs a vital networking group for medical and mental health professionals who serve Latinos in those settings.

Luisa is a hidden gem because she serves her clients and groups in private settings, never seeking to shine a light on her work or their struggles. But her impact is felt across the city. She truly wants to ensure that her gente get the respect and care that they deserve, and even though she has been here for many decades, her heart is firmly with her comunidad and for that she is our Orgullo Hispano.

Amigo We Love

Terry Horgan Catholic Charities Nashville

The Amigo We Love award always goes to a community member who has helped empower Latinos through their work, their service or actions.

This year, we recognize Terry Horgan, Hispanic Services Director for Catholic Charities.

Terry has worked tirelessly to champion and empower Latinos and immigrants in Middle Tennessee. When Conexión Américas founders were looking for direction and advice for starting the agency and programs 10 years ago, they turned to Terry Horgan for counsel and advice. He has been a long-time, trusted friend.

So, for his many years of service and steadfast commitment to social justice for Latinos, and all immigrants, Terry Horgan is our Amigo We Love.


The winners will be honored during  a 6 p.m. ceremony at Conexión Américas’ annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration Sept. 15. For details visit our event page. (The party with music, food and dancing begins at 7 p.m.)