Scholars are honored at last year's Centro Hispano Annual Celebration.

What Centro Hispano Executive Director Karen Menendez Coller loves most about Centro Hispano’s Annual Celebration is seeing all of the people in the community – young and old – coming together to recognize the educational achievements of area young people. They will also be celebrating the power of the community, whose support enables Centro to be able to run all of their programs and to follow their mission of nurturing the dreams of the Latino community.

“I think it’s a good time to come together and to reflect,” Menendez Coller tells Madison365. “When I speak at the event tonight, I’m going to be talking about where we were last year, where we are now, and where we are going to go next year and how to make sure to keep our community on track.”

Centro Hispano’s 28th Annual Celebration – Scholarship and Awards Mini Gala will be held Friday, Nov. 17, 5-8 p.m. at The Madison Club, 5 E. Wilson St.

“This is number 28 … can you believe it?” Menendez Coller asks. “It has been a very important event for us for a very long time.”

This is the fifth Centro Annual Celebration for Menendez Coller who came to Madison from Los Angeles in August of 2013. “Can you believe that?” she laughs. “It’s quite the ordeal to organize – a lot of work – but we have a great staff who always do a good job.

“It’s a great end-of-the-year event and a good time for reflection and a good time to come together,” Menendez Coller adds. “It’s a good time to start to thinking about next year. I look forward to this event every year because everybody is in the same room and it feels good to see people you haven’t seen in awhile and to celebrate. It’s been a long year!”

Most people are used to this annual event being held at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. Any worry that people will accidentally show up at the wrong spot this year?

The Centro Hispano staff

“Haha. No. I hope not! This is going to be kinda cool this year with the different levels at the Madison Club and the spacing is going to be different,” Menendez Coller says. “But I think it’s going to be nice to be at the Madison Club. It’s a space where our community is not at very often. So it’s a good way to keep blurring the lines in the city.”

At the event, Centro will present two prestigious annual awards to two outstanding Madisonians doing amazing things in the community. Armando Ibarra will be receiving the 2017 Roberto G. Sánchez Award which honors an individual, group or organization that has demonstrated leadership in advancing educational and career opportunities for Latinos.

“As a Latino professor at UW, he serves as an important role model to so many of our youth,” Menendez Coller says of Ibarra. “Also, his research is uniquely informed by his lived experience, something so rare in academia. Through his advocacy, Armando has always demonstrated a true commitment to community and whenever he speaks I am always struck by how important his own family is. I respect him so much.”

Armando Ibarra

Also, Sergio González will be presented with the 2017 Ilda Conteris Thomas Award tonight. The award is named in honor of Ilda Conteris Thomas, who was the first-ever executive director at Centro Hispano 34 years ago.

“We are really excited to be honoring Sergio. They are both so great,” she adds. “We are lucky to have them in this community.”

The awards will be presented to the men by Sujhey Beisser, a longtime board of directors member and past Centro board president.

“What’s great about it is that there are a lot of women at Centro on both the staff and the board. So Sujhey, our former board chair, will be presenting those tonight,” Menendez Coller says. “It’s going to be kind of special .. that a woman that has had so much power and has done so much in the community, will be presenting the awards.

Beisser has been a big part of the growth that Centro has seen the past few years in its program areas and its visibility in the city. Menendez Coller says she really likes where the staff of Centro is at right now.

“We’re good. I think now we’re in the rhythm of things,” she says. “So, everybody is excited about tonight. Our staff is really unified right now. It feels very good.”

Thanks to a $600,000 renovation from Madison-area designers Design for a Difference, Centro Hispano now has a modern, aesthetically pleasing look to it.

“Yes! We love it. We’ll be talking about it at the Annual Celebration,” Menendez Coller says. “We’ll be giving a full update on Centro and will talk a lot about the year. It’s a good chance for people to catch up with the work and the engagement that we’ve done, but to also talk about the future. We’re excited!”

Menendez Coller will speak at the Centro Hispano 28th Annual Celebration, that will also have a social hour, a sit-down meal, the program, and then, for the rest of the night, dancing. Raffle tickets can be purchased by attendees throughout the night. There will be three prizes drawn during the evening program including tickets to two exciting upcoming Overture shows, a private dinner for four valued at $850 prepared by chef David Rodriguez at a site of your choice in the International Food Truck, and a $100 gift certificate for the Madison Club fine dining restaurant on the third floor.

But perhaps the most important aspect of the night will be the scholarship awards to young people in the community who are doing great things.

“We will be giving up the four high school scholarship awards to kids that are involved in youth programs at Centro and then the two college scholarships for the students that we support at the UW who are also Sanchez scholars,” Menendez Coller says.

Grupo Candela

Grupo Candela, a Madison music scene staple since 2005, will keep people dancing all night long playing a variety of styles such as Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, and Cumbia.

“I’m really excited about Grupo Candela. They are back. It’s been awhile since we’ve had them here at the annual event. It’s time to reconnect again with our core supporters that we’ve always had,” Menendez Coller says.