SAAHJ Celebrates 20th Annual Scholarship and Awards Gala

The San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists (SAAHJ) celebrated their 20th Annual Scholarship and Awards Gala Saturday, August 11, 2018, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. This annual event recognizes deserving students and highlights leaders in the Hispanic community for their journalistic and community achievements.

The highlight of the evening was the awarding of $47,500 in scholarships to 13 students from San Antonio or Bexar County allowing them to continue their educational pursuits in journalism and communications at schools across Texas. SAAHJ awarded $34,500 to the students and for the third year in a row local community leader, Guillermo Nicolas, bestowed an additional $1,000 to each scholarship recipient bringing the grand total of scholarships awarded to $47,500.

The 2018 Scholarship Recipients are:

  • Renee Muniz, University of the Incarnate Word
  • Bethany D. Melendez, University of the Incarnate Word
  • Amanda M. Fierros, University of Texas at Arlington
  • Colin Spalten, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Brassant K. Richardson, University of the North Texas
  • Kailey N. Lopez, Trinity University
  • Micah J. Palomo, Texas Tech University
  • Jenna M. Carroll, Texas State University
  • Jennifer Gutierrez, Texas State University
  • Andres Meza, Texas State University
  • Ruben G. Betancourt, Texas A&M University
  • Brianna M. Rodrigue Silva, San Antonio College
  • Paulette V. Carreon, University of Texas at San Antonio

In addition to the scholarship presentation, each year SAAHJ recognizes journalists and members of the Hispanic community for their outstanding contributions. The 2018 recipients were Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico recipient of the Corazon de Oro Award; San Antonio Express-News journalist Elaine Ayala, recipient of the Henry Guerra Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Journalism; and American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions, recipient of the SAAHJ Community Service Award.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg introduced Mayor Cruz, who also served as the gala keynote speaker and presented her with the Corazon de Oro Award.

In her keynote address, Mayor Cruz said, “I am so thankful to you, to San Antonio and to the reporters because while others are claiming that the truth is fake news. You know that the truth is about shaping the world to be a better place.”

The annual gala was one stop on Mayor Cruz’s San Antonio visit which also included a meeting with DACA students, Catholic Charities – Archdiocese of San Antonio, RAICES and others.

Mayor Cruz is an advocate for and a champion for the rights of immigrants. As a result of her tireless commitment to the people of San Juan and Puerto Rico and dedication to recovery efforts post-Hurricane María, she has received various recognitions and awards, including the Martin Luther King Centre Justice, Peace and Freedom Award and Humanitarian Leadership Award in 2018. This year, she was in TIME Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People of 2018”.

Guests of the sold-out event were entertained by El Trio Mio and welcomed by SAAHJ’s 2012 Henry Guerra Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, KSAT 12 news reporter Jessie Degollado. Linda Ximenes, a member of the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation, delivered the Native American invocation. In this special ceremony, Ximenes burned copal in a sahumador to invoke the seven directions, north, south, east, west; the creator, the ancestors and Mother Earth.

Special guests for the evening included Mayor Nirenberg and first lady Erica Prosper, chairwoman of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber; Congressman Joaquin Castro, Congressman Henry Cuellar, Former Secretary Julian Castro, Former Secretary Henry Cisneros, Bexar County Commission Tommy Calvert, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, Sylvia Rodriguez of Valero Energy and Mr. Gerardo Hernandez.

A special thanks to the 2018 Scholarship & Awards Gala Sponsors:

  • Presenting sponsor – UETA Duty Free Americas
  • Platinum – Valero Energy Foundation, Telemundo San Antonio, Phipps Deacon Purnell PLLC
  • Gold – BudLight/Silver Eagle Distributors.

The 2018 event was presented by Gala co-chairs Martha Tijerina and Angelica Garza. In addition, SAAHJ’s 2019 Board of Directors was installed at the event:

  • Joey Palacios – Texas Public Radio / President
  • Nora Lopez – San Antonio Express-News / Vice President
  • Sergio Chapa – San Antonio Business Journal / Secretary
  • Angelica Garza – SAISD Foundation/ Treasurer
  • Tony Quesada – San Antonio Business Journal / At-Large Print
  • Nikiza Goga – The RK Group / At-Large Communications
  • Astrid Mendez – Telemundo 60 /At-Large Broadcast.

New board members for 2019 introduced at the event are Nikiza Goga, The RK Group /At-Large Communications and Astrid Mendez – Telemundo / At-Large Broadcast.

A special thanks to Margaret Garcia and Diego Aparicio for their service on the 2018 board!