2016 Estrella Awards

Last month, LATINO Magazine celebrated Veteran’s Day by recognizing Latino veterans in corporate America.  The first annual ESTRELLA Awards were presented during a luncheon at the Austin Hilton which included veterans, community leaders, members of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GAHCC)and representatives of Hilton, BP, UPS, and MasTec.

“We all owe a debt to the men and women who serve our country to provide them with good jobs,” said LATINO Publisher Alfredo Estrada, “and so does corporate America. But it’s also good business. With their unique leadership skills and training, Latino veterans have a tremendous economic contribution to make.”

The luncheon began with the presenting of the colors by the Reagan High School AFJ ROTC Color Guard, led by Sgt. Randy Taylor. The audience was then welcomed by Mark Madrid, the president and CEO of the GAHCC, which partnered with LATINO to present the event.  Recently, the United States Army Reserve 75th Training Command bestowed  upon Madrid the title of Honorary Colonel. He saluted the veterans present and announced that the GAHCC would support a series of veterans initiatives in 2017.

Other speakers included Nora Comstock, founder of Las Comadres, an international networking organization for Latinas. Comstock was recently elected as  Trustee of Austin Community College, Place 6. The audience also heard from Philip Gutierrez, Veteran Affairs Commissioner of Austin who also serves as the Central Texas Regional Commander for the American GI Forum. Gutierrez spoke of his work as Executive Director of Heroes Lodge, which provides housing for veterans.

The first company recognized for its support of veterans was Hilton, the host of the luncheon. The award was presented by Andrea Richardson, Director, Multicultural and Diversity Marketing at Hilton Worldwide, to Mario Hernandez. Mario served as an infantryman in the U.S. Marine Corps, with a nine-month tour in Iraq as well as in the Asia Pacific region. He is an employee at the Austin Hilton, where he has demonstrated leadership skills shaped by his service. Recently, he was selected to be a service training coach for the hotel’s new restaurant, Cannon + Belle.

The second ESTRELLA Award was presented by Teri Poulton, BP America’s Director of Veteran Outreach. Teri is herself a veteran, an Air Force Academy graduate and retired Lieutenant Colonel who piloted KC-135 tanker planes. The recipient was Erika Castillo, a Navy veteran who deployed in the Persian Gulf as well as Afghanistan. Erika’s pride in her heritage was instilled by her parents. “I am most proud of my morivation,” she said. “My father always taught me to fight for what is right and to work hard for what I want.” Her current position is Administrative Assistant, BP Global Projects Organization.

Representing MasTec was Ramon Mas, Senior Vice President, Professional Services. The company helped establish an innovative program called  Warriors4Wireless, which recruits, trains and places veterans in the telecommunications field. He recognized the accomplishments of Jeff Flores, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who is still an active reservist. Jeff has won high praise from his supervisors as a Field Installer, “an exceptional team player that relies on both his knowledge and the knowledge of his team” to succeed.

The final ESTRELLA Award was presented by Ron Mayorga, District Operations Manager at UPS, to Luis Martinez. Luis served 8 years of active duty in the Air Force before joining the company, where he has been active with the UPS veterans network.  His position is Director of the UPS Red River District Automotive Function.

The luncheon ended with words of encouragement from Austin’s mayor, the Hon. Steve Adler. He praised LATINO Magazine as well as the GAHCC and the companies represented for their support for Latino veterans.

Many thanks to all who attended the 2016 ESTRELLA Awards, including our partners Hilton, BP, MasTec and UPS; the GAHCC, American GI Forum, Reagan High School, Tejanos in Action, People’s Community Clinic and Las Comadres; and Latino veterans everywhere. ¡Saludos!