UPRAA held its Annual Holidays and Excellence Awards Reception on December 13th with a night of drinks, food, and fellowship in Washington, DC. The event brought together association members and friends to honor distinguished alumni for their outstanding leadership and unique contributions to our community. Special thanks to Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, Representative of the 3rd District of Ohio, for hosting us at the venue: US Congress Rayburn House Office Building 2075.
Among those in attendance were former UPRAA President – Tomas Esterrich, Board of Directors, and special guests, Department of State Senior Executive, Carmen Cantor, and Monica Herrera from the Embassy of Colombia.
The awards ceremony included special remarks from Master of Ceremonies and UPRAA Board Member, Juan Leonardo Negrón-Diaz. Mr. Negrón-Diaz, who also serves as Director of Programs and External Affairs at the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, opened the program with a powerful message about recognizing where we come from:
"We leave our island with an immense desire to grow— personally and professionally, and we sometimes forget where we came from and the institution that made us who we are. But that's why UPRAA exists: alumni and friends who respect and recognize the amazing preparation that the UPR gave us, unite to support UPR students through scholarships, and recognize those that have excelled in the diaspora and contribute back to their alma mater."
UPRAA was honored to recognize Antonio Díaz-Agosto (UPR, Río Piedras), Natalia Gandia (UPR, Río Piedras), and Yajaira Sierra-Sastre (UPR, Mayaguez) as the 2018 Excellence Awards recipients. Their exemplary achievements and triumphs as graduates of the University of Puerto Rico showcase the highest ideals of our organization. Presenting the awards were UPRAA Board Members, Richard Negrón, Juan Leonardo Negrón-Diaz, and Alida Rodríguez.
In his welcome message, UPRAA President, Jose O. Torres, spoke about the importance of alumni giving, calling it "a testament of how we, as graduates of [University of Puerto Rico], view our University."
"Our goal as alumni should be to create a habit of giving back. And our ultimate goal should be to sustain such generosity for the rest of our lives.... [It is a matter of] demonstrating love and appreciation for the education and development our University provided us; It's about providing others with similar opportunities, similar experiences. It's about staying connected with friends and the community. Even reaping the social and emotional—and even tax—benefits associated with being a donor. How can I not show gratitude to my University, if she was the one responsible for turning me into a professional citizen and laying out the basis for my successful life?"
Read the speech in its entirety here.
UPRAA Board of Directors would like to express the most sincere thanks to all of our sponsors for the contributions and continued support received through the year 2018. Congratulations to our 2018 awardees, and best wishes for much-continued success!