Esperanza Current News

First Scholarship Endowed in Honor of Al Lopez

Presenting the check to the Cleveland Foundation are from left to right/front to back: Esperanza, Inc. Executive Director Victor Ruiz; Al’s wife Alicia Lopez; Paul Putman, Cleveland Foundation Donor Relations & Technology Officer; Alana Lopez and Miles Wourms, Al’s daughter and grandson; family friend Pam Aguilar; Terri Eason, Cleveland Foundation Director of Gift Planning; family friend Ken Aguilar; Nilda Gonzalez, Al’s sister-in-law and Operations Manager at Esperanza; and Fred Gonzalez, Al’s brother-in-law.


Thirty-five years ago, Al Lopez and other visionaries started a community project to improve educational opportunities for Hispanics by motivating and recognizing academic achievement through scholarships. Since awarding the one scholarship that first year, Esperanza has grown steadily to award close to 100 college scholarships every year. What started off as a dream is now “hope” for many students seeking to change their lives through education.

Al’s advocacy for Hispanic students and community began at Cuyahoga Community College where he worked as a Counselor and Professor for 32 years. He was co-founder and President Emeritus of Esperanza, Inc., serving as Board President from 1984 to 1992. A life-long educator, he established programs, scholarships and launched crusades that propelled hundreds of young Hispanic women and men toward college and professional careers.

After Al’s passing in 2014, his family, friends and many other generous donors set out to raise funds to honor his passion for life-long learning, advocacy, service, visionary leadership, and Esperanza. In just four years, they raised $42,000 for a scholarship fund in his memory.

Today, we are proud to announce, the Abelino "Al" Lopez Scholarship Endowment Fund has been established, at the Cleveland Foundation. The scholarship is designated to a Hispanic student earning an associate degree from Cuyahoga Community College and transferring to a four-year college or university. Three students have received $2,500 two-year awards from the fund, and the next recipient will be announced in 2019 at Esperanza’s annual Fiesta of Hope.

The Abelino "Al" Lopez Scholarship Endowment Fund continues to carry on Al’s legacy by providing resources to support Hispanic students. Today we celebrate his life and legacy!

To donate to the fund

For information on the families annual Golf Outing or Fiesta of Hope, please contact Morgan Ricketts.

Scholarship Recipient, Callie Lopez shares her experience studying abroad.

My Semester Abroad Experience
By Callie Lopez

My name is Callie Lopez and I am an Esperanza scholarship recipient. I am currently in my junior year at Kent State University where I major in Managerial Marketing and minor in International Business. One of the reasons I chose Kent was because of all the study abroad opportunities they offer. The Florence program really interested me because of how much history there was and of course the food! I knew I wanted to go there if I had the chance. I talked to my advisor and we were able to fit studying abroad into my schedule. I was able to apply to go to Florence, Italy my spring semester, from January to May, last year and it was the best time of my life.

This was my first time traveling alone and being away from my family and friends for so long. I arrived in Florence and wow, it was a completely different from Cleveland. The old renaissance city was filled with sculptures, museums, small shops, designer stores, and of course the Duomo Cathedral and Ponte Vecchio. My first couple weeks, I explored the city and experienced the Italian culture and authentic pasta and gelato. After becoming more familiar with my surroundings I took my first trip to Venice, Italy. While studying abroad, I was fortunate to travel to Switzerland, England, and Spain. My favorite trip was during my spring break when my mom came for my birthday and we traveled to Rome and London. I was so happy to see her since I became very homesick after living in Florence for almost 3 months. I loved showing my mom around Florence and showing her where I went to school, my favorite places to eat and get gelato, and introducing her to my new friends. I think having her come was what I needed to get through my semester and to stay motivated.

I learned that European city living is very different from what I am used to in Cleveland. In Italy, the locals take their time walking down the streets and always sitting down for meals and even when drinking coffee. I would never see Italians drinking a big cup of coffee or eating a meal on the go like Americans sometimes do. Another difference is how many tourists would come from all over the world to vacation. Tours around the city were always happening and groups of people would crowd popular areas and historical sites every day. I think this adds to the energy and excitement of the city. Living in an apartment in the center of the city was surreal. Some of my favorite places to eat were less than a 5-minute walk away. I could hear how lively the street was by listening to the performers that would play right below us. The apartment was on the fourth floor and like most in the area, there was no elevator. I walked everywhere when I was in Florence, which I was grateful for since I ate so much pizza and pasta. I noticed motor scooters were the most popular form of transportation and would be lined up on side streets everywhere. Right in the center of the city by the Duomo, there is an open plaza for people to admire the cathedral and sit outside a cafe while enjoying a bit to eat. This was probably my favorite area in Florence. Other small piazzas were spread out through the city to serve the same purpose. It was nice to have these areas to go to when it was nice outside and I didn’t want to stay in my apartment.

Going to class was something I really enjoyed. I loved my professors and it was fun meeting other Kent students that I would have never met if I hadn't had the opportunity to study abroad. Class sizes were small and my professors knew us all by our names, which is different from big lecture classes with over 100 students. The smallest class I had included me and 5 other students in elementary Italian 2. During the semester, I took business classes that allowed me to add a minor in International Business. My professors were all Italian and also taught in Italian universities. In my Italian class, my professor Nicoletta had started a program where we would go to a high school and teach teenagers about real American culture and help with English phrases and words. We got so close to the students and they taught us Italian and gave us great recommendations on where we should eat. One time a professor brought a few of her Italian students to our class and we got into groups and played a game that went with what we were being taught. My entrepreneur professor would make us sit in a circle for our classes and have open discussions about our lessons. In that class, we also got into groups and created our own business that would be started in Florence and presented it. Simone, my professor, said that some of his old students actually kept developing their idea and are now starting their business. Classes there were so much more interactive and hands-on and I gained so much knowledge from it.

Looking back now I am so glad I had the opportunity to travel and study abroad. At times it was really difficult because I had never been that far away from home but the friends that I made really helped me through it. Also seeing my mom really added to my time in Europe. I will never forget the professors and other faculty members that helped make the experience for all the students so smooth and fun. I plan on going back when I graduate or sometime after to visit my new friends and professors. Florence will always have a place in my heart and I am so thankful for this experience.

Esperanza Executive Director, Victor Ruiz, Featured in Crain’s Cleveland

With help of Esperanza, Hispanic graduation rates in Cleveland have soared


By TIMOTHY MAGAW (As seen in Crain's Cleveland)

"In 2011, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon decried the district's dismal Hispanic graduation rate as a crisis in the community.

At 30%, that figure — an all-time low — was more than 20 percentage points lower than that of the district's overall student population and well below that of white and black students. And considering the Hispanic population was one of the fastest-growing communities in the city and poised to make up a major part of the future workforce, concerns continued to mount.

But in a few short years, the district managed to double the Hispanic graduation rate to about 61% in 2013, which is more in line with the national average. The district's overall graduation rate continues to inch upward — the most recent data put it at a record 64.3% — but the improvements among the Hispanic population have been among the most dramatic.

Some of the credit, of course, can be attributed to the district, but much of the success can be chalked up to Esperanza, a local nonprofit that retooled its strategy to focus primarily on guiding young Hispanics toward graduation..."

(FULL ARTICLE, registration required)

Daniela speaks and acts with confidence, gratitude

For some, it takes many years to learn a language, but for Daniela Bravo, it only took six months.

It was just four years ago that Daniela Bravo left her family and moved to the United States in order to get an education.

“Being a Hispanic with the opportunity of being in this country legal, and have an education every single day, to me is a blessing,” says Bravo. “In my family, not everyone graduated. It encouraged me to make them proud to be that generation that graduated from high school and college and went further in their education.”

Bravo, a recent graduate of Lincoln West high school, will be attending Baldwin Wallace University in the fall to study Criminal Justice.

“Educationally, I would like to gain knowledge as much as possible, because all that knowledge that I’m going to gain in college, and all the information that my brain will take in and learn, is what I’m going to be carrying with me for the rest of my life,” she explains.

RELATED: Support Daniela and others like her by joining us for the Fiesta of Hope Schoalrship Luncheon

Bravo’s determination and eagerness to get an education led her to Esperanza, where she was able to participate in multiple programs to encourage her success as a Hispanic student. These programs include the Hispanic Youth Leadership Program (HYLP) and Esperanza’s Latina Leadership Alliance (ELLA).

“The leadership program helped me grow as a person and grow in confidence. I started developing leadership skills which will help me a lot in the future and in college,” says Bravo of the program.

Her Esperanza mentor, Yasin, was also a large influence in her life.

“She was really nice and helped me a lot and always encouraged me to pursue my dreams and goals. She told me to apply to college and has been there for me through the way.”

When thinking about her immense success in the United States in such a short amount of time, Bravo stated that she was proud that all the sacrifices she made were worth it. She is especially proud, as a Hispanic student, to be an example for others.

“Every single day I take as a new challenge and opportunity that God gave me to get as many chances as I can in order to improve my life,” she begins, “I will proudly represent my Hispanics and make a change, and will continue to make everyone proud and not waste my chances.”

—Noha Bechara

“Like being welcomed home,” Esperanza offered Alberto a connection to Hispanic heritage

Just a year away from his goal of being the first in his family to graduate from a four-year university, Alberto Rodriguez is excited about where he will find himself in the quickly approaching professional world.

“I wanted to be the first person in my family to ever graduate from a four year college. I was brought up by mom and grandma with a strong foundation in the importance in education and how important it was to better myself to help my family create a better future. So, once I finished high school, it was a no-brainer that one way or another I was going to continue on,” he explains.

Rodriguez, a senior at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, aspires to become a school orchestra director, a hefty goal that stems from his lifelong love for the performing arts. He also sees pursuing a Masters degree in Music Education with a focus on Music Cognition in his future.

“I work hard in school, not only for myself, but because there are other people invested in me. I’m taking their time, energy, and courtesy, and turning that into something tangible, which means a lot to me,” he states.

Alberto, who retains his spot on the Dean’s High Honors list at CWRU, has made a true impact on those he comes in contact with at school. Crystal Seiger, Ph.D, a lecturer at Case, says that throughout his study at CWRU, “Al has displayed strong musicianship and pedagogical skills. He is always eager to take on additional projects and assume responsibilities that will be of benefit to him as a music educator.”

RELATED: Support Alberto and others like him by joining us for the Fiesta of Hope Schoalrship Luncheon

“A dream of mine is to play professionally full-time, and I am lucky to have the opportunity to not only pursue my music teaching career but also my career in music performance,” he says.

Alberto currently serves as the Committee Leader on the Esperanza Alumni Executive Council. Along with his family and his personal drive, he credits Esperanza for having a large impact on his educational life, as well.

“Esperanza was there when the product of mine and my parents’ hard work couldn’t be, because of other expenses,” he says. “I’m so grateful that I have the Esperanza family to be so gracious to me. Getting this scholarship instills me with this hope and great feeling inside that there are people who care about you and want to see you succeed and they are there to help you do that.”

Not only has Esperanza impacted Alberto’s educational life, the organization has also helped to strengthen his ties to the Hispanic community, which were weak prior to his involvement with the organization.

“I’m just very grateful and blessed to interact with anyone around here, because I walk in and see them and it’s like being welcomed home. And, as a student that grew up without a strong Hispanic influence in my life, it’s so great to see that there is such a strong Hispanic community in Cleveland.”

—Noha Bechara

Not limited by disability, Benny overcomes challenges in hopes of being a role model

Benny Gonzalez will not let his disability affect his chances of attending college.

“Being hearing-impaired, I may have more questions or need some extra time to understand - but I am just as worthy as anyone else to attend college,” said Gonzalez, a recent graduate of Marion L. Steele high school.

Suffering from severe-to-profound hearing loss in both ears, Gonzalez didn’t want his disability to define him. When he was younger, Gonzalez underwent cochlear implant surgery to assist with hearing and speaking to those around him.

“Some people think I cannot learn or that I will never understand. I graduated with a very good GPA, played many different sports, volunteered, and worked a part-time job,” he explains.

RELATED: Support Benny and others like him by joining us for the Fiesta of Hope Scholarship Luncheon

It is with this attitude, and inspiration from his family, that Benny will attend Bowling Green State University in the fall to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science.

“My mother is proud of me for how far I've come, especially because I have a hearing-impairment; but she always encouraged me to go to college,” he explains, “My career goal requires a college degree, and I am determined to reach this goal. I am looking forward to this next journey in my life!”

What is his next step? Driven by his love of sports, Gonzalez will follow a career path towards becoming an athletic trainer or physical therapist.

“I would like to work with urban and city minority and even disabled children so that I can be a good role model to them and show them that they can be whatever they want to be. It just takes time and hard work, but it is definitely worth it!” he describes.

When relating to his Hispanic culture, Gonzalez says that he is more driven and determined because of it. Intertwining the cultures of his Puerto Rican father and Mexican-Polish mother, he was inspired to become a driven, Hispanic role model.

“Just because I am Hispanic does not mean that I am lazy and don't want to work. That is the total opposite of what I want to do!” comments Gonzalez. “I want to work, I want to be good at what I do, and I want to keep on learning.”

—Noha Bechara

FIve years ago, Marie couldn’t read. Now she’s about to graduate college.

It’s hard to believe that just five years ago soon-to-be college graduate Marie Rodriguez did not know how to read or write.

With hard work and motivation, Marie went from reading at a fourth grade level, to obtaining her GED, and becoming a college senior in just two and a half short years.

“My dream is to become a chef and have my own business. I learned that in college you have the ability to learn to be anything you want in life and you have mentors, tutors, and people that care to help you be successful which encouraged me to further my education,” says Marie.

Marie is currently studying Hospitality Management at Cuyahoga County Community College and will graduate next year. She hopes to continue going to school for Business in order to fulfill her lifelong dream of owning her own restaurant and become the best Hispanic chef in Ohio.

Marie’s relationship with Esperanza is as strong as her drive to learn. She has been involved in Esperanza’s computer classes, even winning her first of many awards in the class, as well as volunteering around the office.

“Anytime I need help in college, I come here,” explains Marie, “they [Esperanza Inc.] encourage Hispanics that they have the same right to, and can be successful in, whatever it is that they can accomplish in life. Esperanza has opened many doors for me in terms of the Spanish community. Before, I thought that only Americans are successful but I learned that Hispanics can be successful, too.”

Her inspirational story does not stop there. This year, Marie won the Dollar General Student of the Year Award, a national award presented by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. The award was presented to her in Washington D.C. where Marie was also able to meet with elected representatives on Capitol Hill to advocate for adult literacy and education.

Marie’s overall goal? To be an inspiration for her family, friends, and neighbors. She says, “I want them to see in me what they think is hard to accomplish. Sometimes it’s hard when you look at it from the outside, but when you step in, put yourself out there, and realize there are people to help, it’s not that hard. People see things in you that you don’t see in yourself. When you see what they see in you, it inspires you to get out there and do what you want to do.”

Edward’s passion for art also motivates his success

Aspiring artist and animator Edward Valentin Lugo has always strived to learn more both about his culture and about art and animation.

“Esperanza always wanted more than I can give. They pushed me and saw that I had the ability to do the things that they gave me. Most of the time, they put me in a position of leadership and gave me the experience to want more,” he says.

Edward’s experience with Esperanza runs deep. He is involved with many Esperanza programs including the Hispanic Youth Leadership Program, Esperanza's Latino Leaders for an Outstanding Society (ELLOS), and Saturday Academy. All of these programs have impacted Valentin in a variety of ways.

“HYLP was mostly project based, which is what I’ll be doing with animation,” he explains, “In ELLOS I came in contact with my mentor who also went to CIA, which is where I’m going, and it encouraged me. Saturday Academy allowed me to visit schools because it’s different when you go on campus versus seeing it in a picture.”

Not only has Esperanza had influence on his goals to become an artist, but his parents have pushed him towards success as well. “My family always encouraged me to do what I wanted to do, follow my dream, nobody has control over what your dreams want to be.”

It is with this attitude, of striving for more than he thinks he can achieve, that Edward applied to the Cleveland Institute of Arts to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Visual and Performing Arts.

RELATED: Support Edward and others like him by joining us for the Fiesta of Hope Scholarship Luncheon

“Wanting to succeed as bad as I want to breathe is my only goal, my only need. By becoming a successful artist I would have achieved greatness,” explains Valentin. “I want to create art that will influence people to materialize ideas in their minds and bring it to the world.”

Edward’s Hispanic background has also shaped him. He thanks his culture for encouraging him to learn more about statistics relating to Hispanic drop-out rates and giving him the motivation to not become one of those statistics.

“Having Hispanic backgrounds has made me hungry to find out who I am. Looking for who I am has motivated me and has made me more proud with my origins,” he begins. “I love myself even more. I know now that success doesn’t define you, you define success.”

“With art, the way I see it, is I kind of wanted to vindicate people with negative minds. Once I get my BFA and pursue my Masters, I want to know that once I get old and die, I was able to touch people’s hearts.”

—Noha Bechara

Jamie’s attitude, honesty made her mentor a trusted friend and resource

Jamie Rivera is no stranger to Esperanza. In the past four years, Jamie has participated in the Hispanic Youth Leadership Program (HYLP), various summer volunteering programs at locations including MedWish, the foodbank, and Julia de Burgos, and the ELLAs program. In addition to her program participation, Jamie has also held three internships with Esperanza.

“They have helped me with work experience and also taught me great skills on how to manage my time in the summer for things that are more important to life,” she says.

Aside from helping Jamie develop a vast array of marketable skills, Esperanza has also brought her closer to her Hispanic heritage.

“I joined Esperanza in the beginning of my high school career. It made me feel like I belonged for once,” she states. “The Hispanic community is so well connected and I never had that growing up and I loved it. It was a new experience and now I feel like I’m actually a part of the Hispanic community.”

Jamie’s experience with Esperanza does not end there. For the past three and a half years, Jamie has been mentored through Esperanza’s mentoring program by Camila Negret, Advisory HR Talent Management Senior Associate at Price Waterhouse Coopers.

“Our relationship at beginning was a little intimidating," commented Camila on her relationship with Jamie. "It’s difficult to, as an adult, come in to mentor and make someone your friend. But, across the years a comfort developed as well as the honesty and sincerity in the relationship where it was easier to talk about harder topics. My role was not to scold what she did wrong but to encourage her when she did things right."

RELATED: Support Jamie and others like her by joining us for the Fiesta of Hope Scholarship Luncheon

As a result of their mentoring relationship, Camila and Jamie were able to form a little-sister/big-sister bond. “I got to go to her graduation and see her graduate. I even sat with her family! It was very cool to be invited into the circle of trust,” explains Camila, who also serves as a liaison between Esperanza Inc. and PwC to introduce college students to the world or business.

“I would say that Jamie is a person who has many talents in the sense that she can be good at many things. She’s sort of a jack of all trades and has a wide selection of things she could go into,” she describes. “What’s good about Jamie is that she is very open minded about where strengths lie and being able to adjust to change. Despite the bumps and distractions, she is very tenacious into pursuing her goals until the end.”

It is with this guidance, connection to heritage, and experience that Jamie was able to see so much success in high school.

“I feel great because I know people who didn’t graduate and I’m the first person on my Hispanic side to graduate. I was always interested in school and wanted to get involved. My mom never forced me to do my homework, I just always did it. I always came home with things to do,” she recalls.

When it came time to go to college, Jamie decided to pursue her education further at Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio.

“I plan on obtaining a career in Psychology. My aspirations include receiving a vast education to help me do extremely well in my career,” explains Rivera. “I would like to succeed as a student in college and reach my ambitions. Education is the key to success and I have a desire to succeed."

—Noha Bechara

Activities keep Taisha focused, heritage keeps her connected

“Never give up, look out for opportunities, and pursue your dreams,” are just a few words of wisdom provided by Fiesta of Hope Scholarship recipient Taisha Ortiz.

A recent graduate of Lincoln-West High School, Taisha plans to pursue her education at Cleveland State University. Inspired by her mother and her Esperanza mentor, Yasin, Taisha hopes to pursue a Bachelors of Nursing in Science with a dream of become a maternity nurse.

“I chose this career because I love babies and small children,” she begins, “I also love taking care of babies and learning what is best when it comes for caring for babies or kids.”

At her school, Taisha is involved in a variety of extra-curricular activities including National Honors Society, Yearbook Committee, and her school’s dance, tennis, softball, and volleyball teams. Outside of school, Taisha also finds the time to participate in Esperanza programs. In the past, she has participated in the ELLAS Leadership and Mentoring program, summer programs, and even held an intern position at the office.

“Before the [ELLAS] program, I never did anything with my time. It made me more focused on being my own leader and helped me to see my future,” commented Taisha.

RELATED: Support Taisha and others like her by joining us for the Fiesta of Hope Scholarship Luncheon

While her extensive involvement in school and extra-curricular activities made her a shoo-in to receive a scholarship, her connection to her Hispanic identity definitely sealed the deal.

“Having a Hispanic background has shaped my personal goals because it has helped to show me that no matter what ethnic background you come from, you can be smart, talented, and successful,” she says.

It’s safe to say Taisha’s hard work, involvement, and connection to heritage has not gone unnoticed. On June 27, Taisha and 101 other lucky recipients will be awarded a scholarship at Esperanza Inc.’s annual Fiesta of Hope.

“I feel proud being a successful Latina student because I’m the only child in my family to receive a scholarship and now I can move forward.”

—Noha Bechara

Juan’s goal: Make his family proud

Hard working, independent, and dedicated are just a few words that can be used to describe Juan Claudio. With encouragement from his family to put his education first, Juan made the difficult decision to go out of state for college.

“My family has always placed a large emphasis on education and that it should come first no matter the issue,” says Juan. “My father was sick my first year in college but he never told me to come back home. It was more important to always stay in school.”

As a student at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania, Juan plans to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Intelligence Studies and begin working at the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

“Because of my family’s support I was able to excel in my studies and I want to use my studies to give back to my loved ones,” he says. “I have seen so many Hispanic families—mine included—fall apart because of the use of illegal drugs and I want to do all that I can to get them off the streets because I would not want any child to be raised with such a negative source impacting his or her life so early in life.”

Once graduated, Juan plans to further his education by working towards a Master’s Degree. “School has always been a large part of my life and I want to continue my studies even when it is not required of me,” he states.

Not only has his family’s encouragement been a driving factor for his success, his Hispanic heritage has played an important role, as well.

RELATED: Support Juan and others like him by joining us for the Fiesta of Hope Scholarship Luncheon

“My Hispanic background has changed not only my goals, but it has also shaped the entire way I look at life. My heritage has taught me to put the needs of the weak and vulnerable before my own, and especially when the person that needs your help is your family,” explains Juan. “My ethnicity has shaped my career goals and has been one of the driving forces in me wanting to join the law enforcement field, especially drug administration.”

Aside from his education, what is most important to Juan is giving back to his family for all the sacrifices they made to push him towards a good education. With graduation rates for Hispanic students in Cleveland being lower than those of African Americans and Caucasian students, Juan is proud of himself for achieving success.

“It makes me proud of myself that I was able to break the cycle. Being the first generation to go to college of my family makes me very proud of myself and my family proud of me. It inspires me to continue pushing forward because I don’t want to let people down,” he says humbly. “I want to grow to be a man that my parents and siblings can look up to and say that they are proud to have me as a brother, and I want to be able to give them the help that they need.”

—Noha Bechara

Hundreds of families benefit from school-supplies drive

Something as simple as a backpack or pencil pouch may be easily taken for granted. But for many students, supplies like these help start a new school year off right.

Generous donors allowed Esperanza to help hundreds of families by coordinating a school supplies drive this summer. Here are just a few of our photos.




Art show exhibits Esperanza students as producers of culture

A handful of lucky Cleveland youth were Producers of Culture in a unique summer experience at Esperanza and the Beck Center.

Producers of Culture was facilitated by professional artist Martinez E.B Garcias, whose intent is to introduce to his audience a new way of understanding urban life by re-contextualizing certain signs and symbols found in the inner-city.

Martinez urged the young artists to express their own feelings and visions while exploring their culture. Some students included the flags of their native countries, while others looked to the future with uncertainty and hope.

The major installation is a tile “education wall” containing the artists’ vision of what education “should be.” Other works include 13 separate visual-art pieces that explore each artist’s feelings in response to interviewing a senior citizen, comparing the elder’s culture and heritage to the student's own. The works depict both the generational divide that many youth feel, and the impressive unity of values and experiences across generations and cultures.



The students' mural was on display at the Beck Center for the Performing Arts, as part of the Hispanic Art, Hispanic Heritage Exhibit through October 6, 2013. The creations were displayed at Bruno Casiano Gallery, 5304 Detroit Avenue, in August. Youth received a stipend through Cuyahoga County’s Summer Youth Employment Program, and Cuyahoga Arts and Culture provided funding for materials. See more great photos here and here.

Community activists, literary giants, and budding artists

Thirty Summer of Hope participants experienced service in new ways this summer.

The high-school students were employed through the county’s Summer Youth Employment Program, but program coordinators Yasin Cuevas and Reema Suwahil made it anything but a make-work project. They focused the students on community service and engaged a lot of learning along the way.

Under Reema’s tutelage, students worked on several literary projects. Singly or in small groups, students wrote articles about topics of importance to them: teen pregnancy, immigration, and being true to yourself. The El Vocero community newspaper created a section for Esperanza for the summer and ran six of the students' articles. They were so proud to see their by-lines!

Community service projects with Yasin included cleaning and painting classrooms at Lincoln West and Luis Muñoz Marin schools, and packing food at the Cleveland Food Bank. Even though it was difficult work, the participants expressed a sense of pride in working together to improve their neighborhood. Deborah said, “I feel I made a big impact in the community… each day made me feel good about myself knowing that it helped someone. Thank you.”

Back in the Esperanza office and Cleveland Public Library downtown, they researched, wrote, and designed children’s books, ensuring that each had an uplifting message or educational purpose. The best three books will be printed and delivered to Luis Muñoz Marin elementary school 2nd and 3rd graders.

This project provided the opportunity for students to learn skills that will enable them to improve their grades and compete in college. With few computers in the schools or in their homes, students don’t use common computer programs such as Word or PowerPoint to do homework and write papers. Writing and designing the books and creating personal email accounts prompted Summer of Hope participants to learn the programs quickly. Thanks to Esperanza, they are better prepared for higher-level learning.

Cleveland’s biggest new story of the year presented the students with an opportunity for learning, personal pride, and community activism. Following the release of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight, the high schoolers researched other Ohioans who are missing. The students found they became very connected to the victims and empathized with their families. They selected two of the missing persons, and Baldwin Wallace University printed their photos on posters. The students and volunteers, including members of Gina’s family, carried them in the Puerto Rican Day parade to raise awareness of missing persons. Several students made impassioned speeches. Their activism was included in stories carried on Channel 5, Good Morning America, and Primer Impacto.

“Working for Esperanza is also a help for the future for whenever you are in need of a job," Derian told us. "We had fun with the jobs we did; also we have a bond with our co-workers that no one can take away from us. I thank God for letting me have this experience with these people. Without it I think I’d be slacking somewhere doing things I would regret… it has been a memorable summer."

STEAM was a source of summer energy for curious students

It was a STEAMy summer for 21 curious middle-schoolers from Esperanza’s neighborhood. Excited students spent six weeks studying the scientific method and principles at the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics Academy.

Lest you think this to be dull stuff for summer, the participants were energetic and enthused about the hands-on learning that included astronomy and Mars exploration. Program Coordinator Kristina Haddad used activities, games, videos and projects that are part of the training she recently attended at NASA Glenn Research Center. Students incorporated their learning into a science fair project that compared the craters on Mars.

WOIO-TV Chief Meteorologist Jon Laufman led activities on weather and field trips around Cleveland adding to the fun learning experiences. STEAM students were especially impressed with the MC2 High School at Nela Park where they toured and used science and engineering equipment.

A Service Learning component was incorporated into the STEAM Academy curriculum, as well. The students planned the project and created bilingual-alphabet coloring books for the Euclid Daycare Academy. In them, each letter represented a different scientific theme. Students traveled to the daycare to read the book and deliver a copy to each student.

The busy six weeks culminated in a science fair where students displayed experiments, engineering designs, and tests that they had created. Each project demonstrated that the students understood the scientific method and applied it.

Family and friends were invited to hear students’ presentations, and community members and Esperanza staff judged the entries. The winning projects were: “How much grease is in various brands of potato chips?,” “Which cleaner would clean different stains the best?,”  and “An Exploding Volcano!” There was much pride of accomplishment on display, too.

Esperanza thanks intern and science major Tanesha Reed, the STEAM volunteers, and NASA for donating training, the curriculum, and a grant that supported the cost of supplies and transportation.

Fiesta of Hope 2013 awards 83 scholarships to deserving Hispanic students

There were hugs. There were tears. There were standing ovations.

There were 83 people standing on stage receiving applause, certificates, and college scholarships. Esperanza was awarding the scholarships, but the crowd of a thousand in the Renaissance Hotel Ballroom was awarding praise and encouragement to these outstanding and intrepid Hispanic scholars.

It was an amazing and rewarding 2013 Fiesta of Hope Scholarship Luncheon.

Jacob Rivera (above), recipient of the Esperanza and Cleveland State University Scholarship, and Miguel Sanchez, awarded the President Emeritus Scholarship, eloquently shared their personal stories that brought many to tears, but we knew that the others on the stage were just as determined to go to college and become successful contributors to their communities. Student had already impressed a discerning panel of judges with their personal essays and individual interviews, and represented a wide array of future careers including forensic science, occupational therapy, graphic design, aviation management, early childhood education, nursing, architecture, Spanish, engineering, and business.

Watching these collegians left us knowing that our future is in good hands.

Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton, outgoing president of Cuyahoga Community College, spoke about the bounty of diversity in our community and our country. We have much to look forward to if we nurture the gifts of the many cultures that call Cuyahoga County home.

Mark your 2014 calendar now for Fiesta of Hope on June 27, and make your contribution to Esperanza at esperanzainc.org or by texting ESPERANZA to 28594.

Donors make the difference

It is gratifying that individuals, foundations, and corporations support Esperanza’s excellent work through financial contributions. It is their investments that enable us to provide services to everyone without charge.

We are pleased to announce that we received grants from the Eaton Corporation, Fun(d) First, Verizon, the Impacta Kids Foundation and the Treu-Mart Foundation for the first time in 2012 to serve our Hispanic youth. A full list of funders is published in our Annual Report and updated regularly online.

We are grateful for our generous and inspiring individual donors, who gave over $10,000--the highest amount ever--during last year’s Annual Campaign. Not only does their generosity mean we can help more students to graduate and go on to rewarding and productive lives, it signals their caring to those students.

We also warmly welcome 16 new scholarship donors to the Esperanza family, who enabled us to award $93,200 in scholarships to 93 students this year, another record.

Please join us in investing in our youth, our future, by considering a secure on-line donation this holiday season. GRACIAS.

PROFILE: From activity to reality

Smart. Cute. Ambitious. Friendly. Funny. Arelis Latimer is all these and more.

The 17-year-old senior at Lincoln West High School in Cleveland has been an active member of Esperanza’s Hispanic Youth Leadership Program (HYLP) for two years which, she says, helped her to explore career options and select the perfect one for her.

“Architecture and environmental design, because I’m really good at math and I like art. I’ve applied to Kent State and Bowling Green, and I might apply to the University of Cincinnati. I know I’ll have to get a Master’s degree, too.” Through HYLP, Arelis has visited Kent State and Bowling Green, which she would not have done otherwise.

The program also helped her gain leadership skills, plan for her future, and improve her grades. She now has higher aspirations for herself, she admits. Making new friends who have college and career goals as well is a great benefit—and lots of fun, too.

Arelis got a summer job this year through Esperanza, she says with her adorable grin. “I worked at Catholic Charities. We learned how to make puppets and put on puppet shows, we made coloring books, and did other activities with anti-drug messages. I was really glad to have a job. I have a lot to thank Esperanza for.”

MEDIA: Esperanza’s programs, progress get attention in media this week


From family engagement to increasing graduation rates, Esperanza's programs were highlighted in several media outlets this week including The Plain Dealer, Channel 3, and WCPN's Sound of Ideas.


WKYC Channel 3


Sound of Ideas


The Plain Dealer: Parental involvement in schools leads to successful students, stronger schools | Sunday, November 11

Esperanza honored with top Cleveland prize

In a delightful surprise, the Cleveland Foundation and Center for Community Solutions presented the prestigious $20,000 Anisfield-Wolf Memorial Award to Esperanza in October for its 2011 Summer of Hope.

Forty high school students volunteered up to 30 hours each week for eight weeks at eight diverse community organizations. After each day of service, the participants reflected on their experiences through a blog. Not only did the program result in 1,283 volunteer hours for the community that summer, it led to a new youth-driven service learning component that has had a direct impact in the Clark-Metro neighborhood of Cleveland and other parts of the city.

In presenting the award, Kathleen Hallissey of the Cleveland Foundation remarked, “Esperanza created an opportunity for students and their families to develop a culture of giving, to ‘pay it forward’ to others in their community. As those students recognize the positive results of their volunteer service, they in turn inspire their peers to participate and foster the spirit of volunteerism across our community. We encourage them to continue on that path and make community service an integral part of their lives.”

Beck Center Celebrates Hispanic Heritage

Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood is featuring a vibrant exhibition of work by local Latino artists to celebrte Hispanic Heritage Month. The opening reception on September 14, 2012 launched the month long exhibition feauring prominens artists.

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Art Exhibits Celebrate Hispanic Cultural Heritage Month

To celebrate Hispanic Cultural Heritage Month, Beck Center for the Arts is pleased to present the Hispanic Art, Hispanic Heritage exhibit on display September 14 through October 14, 2012 in the Jean Bulicek Galleria. Discover the beauty of Hispanic culture through the eyes of 13 Hispanic artists from Northeast Ohio in artwork demonstrating their brilliant use of color, materials and expression.

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Global and Local: St. Martin de Porres | St. Ignatius

The storybook is a collection of more than 40 single-page stories — each written, illustrated and translated by a team of three students and conveying messages of hopefulness or overcoming adversity.
Over several days last winter and spring, St. Martin de Porres High School juniors teamed up with sixth-graders at Luis Muñoz Marin, a predominantly Hispanic public school in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood, to create bilingual storybooks that will be sent to a Honduran orphanage for HIV-positive children.

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Legal Aid Society of Cleveland’s Jam for Justice; Esperanza Fiesta of Hope: Society

A sellout crowd of 350 guests packed the Barley House in Cleveland on a smokin’ hot June 19 for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland’s Jam for Justice fundraiser.

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Esperanza 22 year of Fiesta bigger and better

Esperanza Inc. celebrated the 22nd Fiesta of Hope and awarded 93 scholarships of $1,000 each to deserving students, with more than 750 supporters, parents and friends present at the Cleveland Renaissance Hotel on June 22, 2012.

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MetroHealth’s 2012 Esperanza Scholarship Recipient is Aspiring Psychologist

Yazmine Rosario is a recent high school graduate with aspirations of studying psychology. She’s on the path to fulfilling her dream, thanks in part to a scholarship sponsored by The MetroHealth System and administered by Esperanza, Inc.

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Health disparities and medical research focus of OHSSWA conference

Ohio Hispanic Social Service Workers Association (OHSSWA) held their 10th annual conference with main focus on Health Disparities, “Opening Paths towards the Horizon in Good Health” on April 14, 2012. More than 80 adults and children attended, participating in health workshops, met with local agencies dedicated to improving health, access and information.

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Group that helps city’s students finish college is moving ahead

An effort to ensure that more Cleveland students graduate from college is well under way six months after local civic leaders and educators decided to team up. And it’s clear that they have plenty of work ahead of them.

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Who’s ‘On the Move’ in the Cleveland area?

Esperanza Inc.: Felicia Soto, JP Morgan Chase, was elected president; Maria Haller, Sherwin-Williams Co., first vice president; Maribel Verdon, Cliffs Natural Resources, second vice president; Anibal Estremera, Cliffs Natural Resources, treasurer; and Ginny Whipkey, Insurance Consultants LLC, secretary. Those named to the board are Justin Perry, Cleveland State University; Danny Vazquez, Cuyahoga Community College; Manuel Dominguez, NASA; Andrew Connors, Fairport Asset Management; Robert Swellie, Ron Lang and Associates; Mary Kay Schneider, PNC Bank; David Proano, Baker & Hostetler; and Carlos Elias, Eaton Corp. The organization works to improve the academic achievement of Hispanics in Greater Cleveland.

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Hispanic Roundtable, OCHLA meet with politicos

Cleveland: The Hispanic Roundtable and the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs (OCHLA) met with local delegates from Congress, Ohio House, and Senate, as well as Cleveland City Council on Monday, Jan. 30, 2012 to discuss policy matters affecting the Latino community.

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Fifth Third Invests $200,000 in Five Community Groups in Akron & Cleveland

The investments are going to three Cleveland-based groups: Esperanza, Inc., Neighborhood Progress, Inc., Friends of Breakthrough, Inc.,

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Addressing Barriers to Education in the Latino Community

In Northeast Ohio and across the nation, graduation rates remain low for underserved populations that are facing language and other barriers in pursuit of post-secondary education.

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