Hispanic Heritage Awards Ceremony Honors Individuals for Contributions to Hispanic Community and Society

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 6, 2000 — On Saturday, September 9, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the five winners of the Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation’s annual honors will be presented with their awards. While the ceremony has been aired on television for the past four years, this year it will be aired for the first time as a prime-time special on the NBC network (10:00 – 11:00 PT/ET).

“Our Hispanic Heritage Awards Honorees are familiar to all Americans,” said Raul R. Tapia, chairman of the Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation. “As they gather together on one stage, we are reminded of the meaningful impact Hispanic-Americans have on every aspect of American life.”

The Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation was established to promote Hispanic excellence, provide a greater understanding of the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the U.S. and to recognize role models who inspire the country’s youth. The Foundation also honors the achievements of Hispanic high school students with its Youth Awards.

This year’s recipients of the prestigious award include: Oscar Hijuelos, for literature — the first American-born Hispanic to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction; Dolores Huerta, for leadership — cofounder of the first successful union of agricultural workers in the history of the United States; Anthony Quinn, for the arts — one of the first Hispanic actors to become an international star, with a career that spans more than 60 years; Cruz Reynoso, for education — appointed by President Clinton to serve as vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; and Sammy Sosa, for sports — in 1998 he, along with Mark McGwire, broke Roger Maris’ 37-year-old record of 61 home runs in a single season.

In May, Microsoft teamed up with the Foundation to offer an expanded range of scholarships to some of the country’s most promising Hispanic high school students. The students received cash awards, software donations and an all-expenses-paid trip to Microsoft corporate headquarters in Redmond, Wash., where they met with Orlando Ayala, Microsoft’s group vice president of Sales, Marketing and Services, and Santiago Rodriguez, Microsoft’s director of Diversity.

“By developing the talents of Latino students, we can cultivate a more diverse workforce and ensure that Latinos have an equal ability to compete for jobs in the technology sector as well as in other industries,” said Ayala, the company’s highest-ranking Hispanic executive.

In attendance at the awards ceremony will be six national winners, chosen from a group of 60 students honored by the Hispanic Heritage Youth Awards program. Among them is Microsoft’s national Hispanic Youth award winner in Science and Technology, Jose Barraza, Jr. Thanks in part to the scholarship he received, Barraza is attending his dream college, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He turned down scholarships from Stanford and Cal Tech.

“We are committed to supporting excellence in the Hispanic community: the role models who inspire it, the youth who achieve it, and their communities that encourage it,” Rodriguez said.

Extending that commitment, Microsoft today announced a $1.7 million Technology Leadership Grant to The ASPIRA Association Inc., a national nonprofit organization devoted to the education and leadership development of Latino youth.

“With Microsoft’s help, we can reach out to thousands of Latino youth across the country and provide the skills they need to not only compete, but to excel in their chosen fields,” said Ronald Blackburn-Moreno, president and CEO of ASPIRA.

This latest grant and the company’s sponsorship of the Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation are part of Microsoft’s many diversity initiatives. In the last three years, Microsoft has committed more than $7 million in cash and software to community organizations, educational institutions and human service agencies serving the Hispanic community. To enable excellent technology infrastructure, teacher preparedness, staff training and computer access for primarily Latino students, Microsoft has supported — through the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) and other organizations — 20 traditionally Hispanic colleges and universities with $4 million in software (retail value) and $623,000 in cash grants.

This kind of support helps students like Barraza achieve their goals, and what inspires Barraza about technology holds true for most things in life, and aptly describes the values that Microsoft, the Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation and ASPIRA promote in their continuing efforts to bridge the digital divide.

“It’s always changing, and it’s always a challenge,” Barraza said. “You always go forward.”

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