When HA Executive Director, Adela Mendoza, received the 14th Annual Diversity Leadership Award for Outstanding Contributions in International Diversity, she made it very clear that the ones being honored were youth without any permanent status in the US – DREAMers. In a letter announcing her acceptance, she states:
“…it is my honor to dedicate it [this award] to a group of young people who do much of the unrecognized work of promoting international diversity in the Upstate of South Carolina and beyond. To me, this award symbolizes a meaningful moment in time in which DREAMers…are emerging as the silent heroes who are building more inclusive communities…they are the most courageous, optimistic, and driven “citizens of the world” that we – who promote the strength of diversity – could hope to engage and serve….my voice and stage will be theirs.”
True to her word, Adela populated her table at the award ceremony with DREAMers, encouraging them to build relationships with other guests, and featured them in many celebratory photos holding her trophy. Though Adela persistently refocuses her spotlight on others, the irony is that what she did for these young people on her special night, is the very reason she received the award in the first place. Working to foster true diversity is a task devoted to raising up and lauding the beauty and strength of unique individuals whose voices are not yet loud enough to rise above the noise of the majority.
This is not the first time Adela has been to the Diversity Leadership Award Ceremony. The Hispanic Alliance (then the Alliance for Collaboration with the Hispanic Community) was honored in 2009 with the same award. These two awards act as bookends on a decade in which we have successfully completed the work of elevating not only the voice of the Hispanic community, but a chorus of other diverse people. For the decade to come, “we envision a vibrant and inclusive community where everyone has access to opportunities for success and prosperity” – every DREAMer, every Hispanic resident, every person.