Centro Hispano of Dane County announced that Valentina Ahedo will win its coveted Roberto Garza Sánchez award. The Sánchez award, which is given to a person who shows outstanding leadership in helping further education in the community, is named after one of the most beloved professors in the history of UW-Madison.
Ahedo is currently the Dean of Students at the new Goodman South Campus for Madison College and has dedicated her life to making sure that students, particularly students from traditionally underrepresented communities, are able to experience the best education possible at Madison College. Her work firmly represents the vision of Professor Sánchez, who was a first-generation college student himself before becoming a full tenure professor at the University of Wisconsin in 1963. Dr. Sánchez established scholarship funds at Madison College, the University of Wisconsin, and Madison Metropolitan School District that have benefited more than 90 students.
His legacy is not lost on Ahedo, who was overwhelmed at being chosen.
“In my prior role at Madison College — cuz I’ve been at Madison College for a while — we supported one cohort of Roberto Sánchez Scholarship students,” Ahedo told Madison365. “Many of them were undocumented students. Now, we don’t ask if they’re documented or not of course, but the students who won the scholarship, many of them could not apply for financial aid. So that kind of tells you. Anyways, they decided to make a book about the students. This was during Professor Sánchez’s last days before he passed away and he was living out in California. And he was tickled pink! He was just so grateful to see the book of the students who were receiving a college education. He then died and subsequently left the college and Centro Hispano some money so he would provide support for students coming through the bachelor program.”
As Ahedo told Professor Sánchez’s story it became clear that his life mission and the work that has been done overall at Madison College over the past several years were one and the same.
Ahedo has been a leader at Madison College and today, in the wake of a grand opening of the sparkling new Goodman South Campus, she is primed to make her own legacy of impact on the lives of the students there. Goodman South is not just a new branch of Madison College. The types of programs it has and its locale give Goodman South the potential to alter the educational opportunities for Madison’s most underprivileged and at-risk communities. Ahedo will be at the forefront of spearheading that effort.
“This man who was unassuming and frugal used his money as a tool,” Ahedo told Madison365. “He was able to impact lives and still does. It was just mind-blowing. Most of us are in this narrow box of how can I spend or save money. He turned that on its head.
“So for me to think about this award and that I was the one they decided on takes on a different meaning for me,” she adds. “It’s a huge responsibility when I think about what his commitment was and the challenge that he gave to us.”
The Sánchez Award, along with several others, will be presented on Saturday, Sept. 21 at Centro’s 30th Annual Celebration Gala – ESPERANZA – at the Premiere Park Hotel in downtown Madison.