Home Local News LUCES Annual Gala back in person tonight to honor Madison-area Latinx scholars

LUCES Annual Gala back in person tonight to honor Madison-area Latinx scholars

2022 LUCES scholarship winners: (L-r) Jovanny Hernandez Caballero, Yaveli Gutierrez, Javier Retana, and Brenda Calzada Fernandez

Seven local Latinx students will be honored tonight at the 2022 LUCES Annual Gala and presented with LUCES scholarships for their academic achievement and community service at the Goodman Community Center on Madison’s near east side.

“One thing that I know is all too often we don’t get the help when we need the help to be able to achieve our dreams and have confidence in ourselves, so being able to support these students not just with the scholarship but also the connections and the resources that we’re committed to them … that is critical in what we do,” Tera Cobb, president of the board of directors for LUCES, tells Madison365. “And with COVID the last two years and not being able to do this in person, I think it has taken a little bit of the impact away from the scholars. So being able to be back in person and introduce them to all of our sponsors and all the people that support the organization and allow us to be able to fund these scholarships, I think that is really, really powerful and we’re very excited to be able to do this again.”

LUCES Boad President Tera Cobb

Latinos United for College Education Scholarships (LUCES) is a nonprofit organization that works to ensure bright futures for young Latinos in Wisconsin by providing several merit and need-based scholarships. The LUCES Scholarship recognizes outstanding Latino high school students in their senior year and college students or adult returning students that have completed their GED/HSED who have shown previous involvement in volunteer/leadership or community activities.

LUCES Board Vice President Marisol Gonzalez

The LUCES Annual Gala is a chance to honor some amazing young students.  At tonight’s event, seven area scholars will be honored including  Javier Retana, Yaveli Gutierrez, Aryela Hernandez, Jovanny Hernandez Caballero, Brian Aguirre, Edwin Jara Reynoso, and Brenda Calzada Fernandez.  After being virtual for two years, the organizers are excited to host an in-person Gala event to support the scholars and recognize donors. 

 “We haven’t been able to have it in person for a while so we are very excited for this gala,” Marisol González, an associate attorney with Hawks Quindel, S.C. who serves as vice president of LUCES, tells Madison365. “We’ve been able to increase the scholarship award from $1,000 to $2,000. So that’s also exciting. This is an important night to celebrate the students and also raise more funds to be able to continue this every year.”

The Master of Ceremonies for this year’s annual LUCES Gala will once again be Rebeca Lopez, an attorney for Godfrey and Kahn and the 2022 recipient of the Howard B Eisenberg Service Award. 

Rebeca López

“We are also excited for our special guest speaker, who will be Erica López, an attorney here in Madison,” González says.    

“We’re excited to get the ball rolling again and to start getting LUCES out there a little more in person … just letting more and more people know about the organization so that we can continue to provide those scholarships every year,” she adds.

González says that at the event LUCES will also be talking about its LUCES Mentoring Scholars Program where LUCES Rising Stars are mentored by a successful and well-established Madison-area professional in their career of choice. 

“We did programming for the scholarship recipients which includes things like finding the resources that you have at your school, résumé building, networking, all of that kind of stuff that’s helpful for them once they’re looking for jobs, looking for internships, and more,” González says.

The mentors of the LUCES Mentoring Scholars Program serve the scholars with networking, community connections, decision making, career exploration, recommendations, and support overall during their professional career journey.

“The mentorship program is so important. We know especially with a lot of students that are first generation, there’s just a lot of questions about what to do sometimes, or where to get help,” González says. “There are just a lot of unknowns in that sense and it can be really overwhelming for someone to have to figure it out all on their own. So that was one of the main purposes for our mentorship program.”

Speaking from her own experience going through undergrad and law school alone, González says that it was very tough when you don’t have anyone in your family coming before you that you can talk to and learn from.

“With our mentorship program, we were able to answer so many questions that scholarship recipients have had and found that information for them, whether it was scholarship resources or career resources, so they can start to at least know that that’s there and that’s available to them,” she says. “Because otherwise, they could go their entire four years and not realize that that’s there. So we’re really happy to be able to do that. 

“Of course, we always tell them we’re here for them for whatever they need,” González continues. “We can help them find what they need whether it is to help navigate through scholarship opportunities, whether it’s classes, whether it’s career-wise. We try to make those connections and to help them with networking so they can meet people that are in the career areas that they want to go into.”

The 2022 LUCES Annual Gala will take place at 5:30 p.m. tonight at the Goodman Community Center, 214 Waubesa Street. Tickets are still available. Click here for more information.

“We are looking forward to honoring the students and having a chance to let people know a little more about LUCES and some of the things that we do,” González says. “There’s going to be a silent auction and music at the event. It will be fun. We are pretty excited.”