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TuesdayJune 5, 2012

Latino Daily News: Bringing You the Latest Hispanic Current Events and News Stories 24/7

To reflect the dynamic interests of our audience, Latino Daily News is an online daily news source and virtual cultural center for and about Latinos. We offer the latest news headlines, as well as innovative and insightful Hispanic current events stories, photos, videos, and commentaries from a Latino perspective, 24/7.

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2.5 tons of Cocaine, $300,000 Confiscated in Colombia

2.5 tons of Cocaine, $300,000 Confiscated in Colombia

Photo: Seized cocaine

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Police seized 2.5 tons of cocaine and a large amount of cash in three operations in different parts of Colombia, arresting 16 suspects, President Juan Manuel Santos said.

National Police officers seized 2.5 tons of cocaine during a joint operation with the U.S. Navy on Monday in an unspecified location in the Pacific region.

“As you well know, this is a good bit of what feeds the gangs, the criminals,” Santos told reporters during a security meeting in Maicao, a city in the northern province of La Guajira.

The National Police deserves to be congratulated “because it conducted an operation in Santa Marta, where it dismantled a structure of the Urabeños (gang), 16 of its members were captured by the police,” Santos said.

The Urabeños gang is involved in drug trafficking, kidnappings and contract killings, officials said.

The navy, meanwhile, seized a large amount of cash being transported in a speedboat near the Caribbean island of San Andres, Santos said.

“It is my understanding that, as of now, from what they’ve been able to tell us, they have confiscated $300,000,” the president said.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Two-Time World Series Champ Pedro Borbon Dies at 65

Two-Time World Series Champ Pedro Borbon Dies at 65

Photo: Red's Pedro Borbon Dies

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Former MLB pitcher Pedro Borbon lost his battle with cancer and died on Monday, according to the Cincinnati Reds.

The Dominican played most of his career for the Reds and was part of two World Series championship teams in 1975 and 1976. Borbon also suited up briefly for the California Angels, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals.

Borbon, 65, put up big numbers for a relief pitcher. He posted a 69-39 record in his career. In just over 1,000 innings pitched he recorded a 3.52 ERA. He was a workhouse who appeared in the most games of any National League pitcher from 1970 to 1978. He excelled in the postseason and possessed an ERA of 2.42 in 20 outings.

He was most proud of his World Series titles, his son noted to the New York Times.

Borbon became a popular figure after he retired. He was in a pop culture reference in the movie “Airplane” and he returned to baseball briefly as a replacement player during the MLB lockout. He struck out the only batter he faced, which was a fitting end to a solid baseball career.

Written by HS News Sports Writer:  Nate Jacobson

Read more by HS News Staff →

Paz Vega to Work Again With Almodovar in “Los Amantes Pasajeros”, Pedro Almodovar

Paz Vega to Work Again With Almodovar in “Los Amantes Pasajeros”, Pedro Almodovar

Photo: Paz Vega

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Spanish actress Paz Vega will be in the cast of “Los Amantes Pasajeros” (The Brief Lovers), the new film by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, with whom she worked on “Hable con Ella” (Talk to Her), Variety reported on its Web site.

Vega is in “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” which opens on Friday in the United States.

The actress is joining a cast that includes Mexican actor Jose Maria Yazpik and Spaniard Javier Camara.

“Los Amantes Pasajeros” will also star Cecilia Roth, Lola Dueñas, Carlos Areces and Raul Arevalo.

The film will be an ensemble comedy similar to those made by Almodovar in the 1980s, but no other details are yet available about the project.

“Los Amantes Pasajeros” will mark another project for Camara and Almodovar, who worked together on 2004’s “La Mala Educacion” (Bad Education) and 2002’s “Hable con Ella” (Talk to Her), a production for which the filmmaker won a best original screenplay Oscar.

Yazpik was previously in Guillermo Arriaga’s “The Burning Plain,” with Charlize Theron, as well as the thriller “Solo Quiero Caminar” (I Only Want to Walk), by Agustin Diaz Yanes, and the box-office hit “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” among other movies.

He won the Silver Ariel, Mexico’s equivalent of an Oscar, in 2006 for best actor for his role in “Las Vueltas del Citrillo” (The Citrillo’s Turns).

The film will be produced by Agustin Almodovar, the director’s brother, via their El Deseo company.

The director has already started rehearsals in Madrid and plans to commence shooting in the summer, Variety said.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Colombian Expert Luz Miriam Toro Recognized for Preservation of Pre-Columbian Art

Colombian expert Luz Miriam Toro’s work to ensure that the value of pre-Columbian art from the Tumaco-Tolita culture is recognized throughout the world has earned her recognition from the Women Together (WT) organization that presented one of its annual awards to her on Tuesday.

“I’m happy, very grateful for this marvelous recognition, because nobody is a prophet in their own land,” Toro told Efe before the ceremony held by WT, a Spanish organization but one with a world vocation and one that has been working for years with projects all over the globe, including Colombia.

The organization selected Toro to receive an award this year because of the work that this lover of archaeology and art, in addition to being an avid private collector, has done to spread the pre-Columbian art of the Tumaco-Tolita culture, which thrived more than 1,000 years ago in current Colombia and Ecuador.

“My mission is to spread pre-Columbian art as widely as possible. On many occasions, people only remain on the borders. They only think about Mexico and they forget that further down from Mexico there were other cultures,” Toro said, noting that one should not think that pre-Columbian art includes just that emanating from Mexico or Peru.

“One must think that pre-Columbian art comes from Alaska to Argentina. My idea is for the Tumaco-Tolita culture to be recognized and for, when someone hears those names, them to recognize them just like when the Aztecs are spoken of. It has to be placed on the universal map of archaeology,” the 64-year-old expert told Efe.

Emphasizing the value of the pre-Columbian art of Colombia has always been the aim of this woman, born into a family of farmers and livestock raisers, who devoted her efforts to working with the indigenous peoples of her country until her husband introduced her to archaeology, which would become the area to which she devoted her own life.

“I’ve used all my resources in protecting my culture,” Toro said, explaining that the Tumaco-Tolita culture flourished between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D. in the area around the port of Tumaco in Colombia and the island of La Tolita, in Ecuador.

At present, she is involved in finalizing her dream of bringing her collection of pre-Columbian art to the halls of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, something she hopes will occur “soon” after museum personnel showed interest in displaying the pieces.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Mexico Watching Venus Transit 2012 Just Like Mayans Did

Mexico Watching Venus Transit 2012 Just Like Mayans Did

Photo: Transit Venus 2012 and Mayans

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Mexico is not only one of the best places to watch the Venus transit of 2012 and it also one of the most historic.  The Mayans, according to historians noted in the CS Monitor, are said to have recorded the transits of 1153 and 1275 on wall paintings and in their calendar.

Unfortunately by the time of the last transit set in 1874 and 1882, many Mayans had been wiped out by war and disease.

The Mayans meticulously tracked the movement of the Sun and Venus to aid with their tracking of seasons.  Written documents that the Mayans left behind include the charting of the planet Venus and solar cycles.  In Mayan myth, Venus is the companion of the sun and thought to be more important than the Sun itself. 

Historians also believe that Venus’ movements influenced when Mayans went to war and made many human sacrifices when Venus was at its ‘dimmest magnitude’.

For the U.S. and Mexico this astronomical treat will end at sunset and the world will not see anything like this until another 105 years, in 2117.

Check out the Live Stream on NASA here.

Read more by HS News Staff →

LATINO BLOTTER: Wife Lights Husband on Fire With Nail Polish Remover

LATINO BLOTTER: Wife Lights Husband on Fire With Nail Polish Remover

Photo: LATINO BLOTTER: Wife Lights Husband on Fire With Nail Polish Remover (Facebook photo)

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A Florida woman was arrested over the weekend after she allegedly lit her husband on fire.

Idalmis de Armas, 40, and her husband were reportedly arguing in their Tampa home when things became heated. De Armas has admitted to pouring nail polish remover on her husband’s arms and shorts at around 11 p.m., Saturday. She then used a lighter to ignite the flammable liquid.

The husband was severely burned on his arm and did state his wife was responsible for his injuries, but police say he declined medical treatment.

De Armas admitted to the assault when police arrived, however, she was less cooperative when officers attempted to take her into custody. For allegedly making a fist and pulling back as if about to strike an officer, de Armas now faces charges of resisting an officer.

In the end, she was arrested and now faces charges of resisting an officer, and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. On Monday, she was being held at the Hillsborough County Jail in lieu of $1,000 bail.

The couple live in the Tampa home with their two children.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Tragedy in Illinois: Three Teens Killed in Car Accident with Semi

Tragedy in Illinois: Three Teens Killed in Car Accident with Semi

Photo: Alexis Banuelos, Tyler Montgomery (rear), Brian Herrera - Teens Killed in Illinois Car Accident

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An intersection in Illinois’ Kendall County, which those in the area have called a “death trap”, was the sight of a tragic accident that claimed three young lives.

Monday afternoon, Brian Herrera, 19, was behind the wheel when he pulled into the intersection ahead of a semi without enough time or space to accelerate. The truck, unable to stop in time, slammed into the smaller vehicle, killing Herrera and his two passengers, 19-year-old Tyler Montgomery and 18-year-old Alexis Banuelos.

Upon striking the car, the semi flipped over. The truck driver told police he tried to stop when he saw the car pull out, but was unable.

When emergency responders arrived, Herrera and Montgomery were pronounced dead at the scene. Banuelos was taken to Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora, but later died.

‘It’s probably one of the most horrific crashes that I’ve seen in the 20 years being coroner,’ Kendall County Coroner Ken Toftoy told NBC Chicago.

All three teens attended Plainfield North High School. Montgomery graduated in 2010, while Banuelos graduated in 2011.

The intersection where the accident occurred, IL Rt 126 and Schlapp Road, is the often the sight of accidents, as Rt 126 is a relatively high-speed road and those coming off Schlapp are coming from a stop sign.

The accident occurred at around 3 p.m.

The driver was taken to Rush-Copley Medical as well, but with non-life-threatening injures. Police have stated he will not be cited.

Read more by HS News Staff →

US Women Forced to Renounce Her Citizenship to Re-Enter from Mexico Now Suing to Regain Citizenship

US Women Forced to Renounce Her Citizenship to Re-Enter from Mexico Now Suing to Regain Citizenship

Photo: US Women Forced to Denounce Her Citizenship to Re-Enter from Mexico (Brownsville Port of Entry)

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In February, Brenda Vazquez was attempting to re-enter the U.S. from Mexico when she was stopped. What has happened since that day has been nothing short of a nightmare.

Brenda was born in Weslaco, Texas in 1982. She is an America citizen and as she approached the border from the Mexican side, she held her Texas driver’s license and birth certificate as proof of such. However, when she presented her information to border agents at the Brownsville International bridge, one of them noticed a mistake on her birth certificate.

After seven hours of questioning and intimidation, Brenda says she just wanted to go home and was told that if she renounced her American citizenship she would be free to go.

What began as a visit to Matamoros, Mexico, has since turned into a fight to regain her life. Brenda has now filed a petition stating she was intimidated into making a false claim. The petition also states she wants the documents – her license and birth certificate – returned to her.

Adding to the traumatic experience is the fact that she remains in Mexico, unable to go home.

She is now being helped by Brownsville attorney Jaime Diez. Diez said he attempted to get a copy of her birth certificate from Texas Health and Human Services, but was told they could not give him one, as Customs and Border Protection had provided them with a copy of the document Brenda said she intimidated to sign.

Brenda and her attorney are now asking a judge declare that she is indeed a U.S. citizen and allow her entry back to Texas. They are also asking the judge to declare that the officer’s actions violated her constitutional rights.

While frustrating and unfortunate, Brenda’s story is not unique. Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a complaint stating U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are regularly harshly questioned, harassed, and intimidated at Brownsville ports of entry by CBP officers.

Read more at The Brownsville Herald →

Fla. Refuses to Obey DOJ, Will Continue “Voter Suppression”, Claiming Non-Citizens are on Voter List

Fla. Refuses to Obey DOJ, Will Continue “Voter Suppression”, Claiming Non-Citizens are on Voter List

Photo: Fla. Refuses to Obey DOJ, Will Continue "Voter Suppression", Claiming Non-Citizens are on Voter List

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The state of Florida plans to defy an order from the U.S. Department of Justice and continue to purge people from the voter list under the assumption that they are not American citizens, legal voters.

The DOJ ordered Florida to stop the purging of names, saying it’s illegal under federal law, while critics call it “voter suppression”.

Florida officials have been given until Wednesday to agree to stop the voter list purge, though the state has said it have no intention of doing so.

‘We have a year-round obligation to make sure the voter rolls are accurate,’ a spokesman for the Florida secretary of state told the Guardian. ‘We are going to continue forward and do everything that we can legally do to make sure that ineligible voters cannot vote.’

An analysis of the names removed from the eligible voter list in Miami-Dade County found that only 10 of the 385 people were not citizens.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Spanish Language Media Announcing Shakira Pregnant with Pique’s Baby

Spanish Language Media Announcing Shakira Pregnant with Pique’s Baby

Photo: Spanish Language Media Announcing Shakira Pregnant with Pique's Baby

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Spanish language blogs and media sites are buzzing that Colombian singer, Shakira, is pregnant with boyfriend Gerard Pique’s baby.

Ecuador Times, TVnotas and others are claiming Shakira is two months pregnant and are waiting until next month to make an official statement. 

The couple have been dating for two years and have been the subject of countless break-up rumors.  Shakira, 35, is busy celebrating her most recent video “Addicted to You” reaching 10 million views.  The Colombian, who has been performing for over 15-years, recently won four Billboard Latin Music Awards making it a total of 29 Latin Billboards she has garnered.

Meanwhile her 25-year-old boyfriend is busy as a defender for FC Barcelona.  The couple was recently spotted at the Vicente Calderon Stadium in Spain where Shakira was cheering Pique on.

No confirmations or denials on this most recent Shakira-Pique rumor.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Gus Martinez Breaks Ferris Wheel-Riding Record to Raise Money For Special Olympics

Gus Martinez Breaks Ferris Wheel-Riding Record to Raise Money For Special Olympics

Photo: Gus Martinez Breaks Ferris Wheel-Riding Record to Raise Money For Special Olympics

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A detective with the Los Angeles Police Department has set a Guinness World Record for the longest Ferris wheel ride.

After 25 hours on the 130-foot-tall Pacific Wheel at Santa Monica’s Pacific Park, detective Gus Martinez broke the previous record of 24 hours, 30 minutes, which had been set in Ireland in 2011.

Each hour, Martinez was permitted to take a 5 minute bathroom break. He was not allowed to sleep or leave the Ferris wheel for any other reason.

Martinez took the ride to raise money and awareness for the Special Olympics of Southern California. His son James has Down’s syndrome but has not let it get in his way. James has won more than 30 gold medals in Special Olympics swimming events.

The proud father first stepped onto the Ferris wheel at 7:30 a.m. Thursday morning and officially stopped the clock when he got off at 8:30 a.m. Friday morning.

Read more by HS News Staff →

LATINO BLOTTER: Take a Seat - Man Tries to Steal Sandwich, Gets Sat On

LATINO BLOTTER: Take a Seat - Man Tries to Steal Sandwich, Gets Sat On

Photo: Take a Seat - Man Tries to Steal Sandwich, Gets Sat On

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Stealing is serious business and one man learned just how seriously a Florida supermarket takes it.

According to an affidavit from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, 21-year-old Emmanuel Jaramillo tried to steal a Cuban sandwich from the Holmes Beach Publix Supermarket and left.

When he was accused of the theft however, Jaramillo denied it and the store’s manager dragged him back into the store. A physical altercation then broke out between the two, at which point other employees got involved.

After getting Jaramillo to the ground, the employees called the police and sat on him until officers arrived.

The scuffle over a $6.92 Cuban sandwich resulted in the destruction of a $300 display case and $38.68 in greeting cards.

Jaramillo was arrested and charged with criminal mischief less than $1,000, retail theft, and resisting.

Read more by HS News Staff →

17-Year-Old Carlos Correa Number One in MLB Draft, Making Puerto Rican Sports History

17-Year-Old Carlos Correa Number One in MLB Draft, Making Puerto Rican Sports History

Photo: Puerto Rican Carlos Correa Number One Draft MLB

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In last night’s Major League Baseball’s Amateur Draft the Houston Astros selected shortstop Carlos Correa of the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy and High School with the first overall pick. 

Many experts expected the Astros to pick Stanford right-hander Mark Appel; however the Astros were very impressed with the personal workout it had with Correa last month.  After being selected number one mlb.com spoke with the shortstop. “It means a lot to me. It’s history, man,” Correa said. “I’m the first Puerto Rican to be selected with the first pick. I just feel happy. I’m only 17 years old, but I’ve just worked hard and my father was always there with me, helping me out and throwing with me every day. ... All the sacrifices pay off.” Many people in the organization raved about Correa’s ability on the field.  According to mlb.com, fellow Puerto Rican Major Leaguers were thrilled.

Correa told MLB Network he had heard from countrymen Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina, who are in Houston preparing for the Cardinals’ series against the Astros.

“It’s very exciting for the land of Puerto Rico,” said former Major League catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who was representing the Texas Rangers at the Draft in Secaucus, N.J. “I’ve been receiving a lot of texts from friends in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is very excited right now to see Carlos being a first-round pick. I’m very happy for him. He has lots of time and has a tremendous future in front of him. I wish him the best.”

The Astros showed that they are not afraid to wait for a player to develop.  They are confident in the organization’s ability to develop raw talent and not rush them to the big league team.  Many baseball insider feel that Correa will outgrow shortstop very quickly, but will be able to make a quick and smooth transition to third.

Written by HS News Sports Writer: Tim Horodyski

Read more by HS News Staff →

Military Cadet Dies in Freak Accident When Ejected from Plane on Ground

Military Cadet Dies in Freak Accident When Ejected from Plane on Ground

Photo: Pilot Ejected from Turbano Plane, Brazil

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A Brazilian air force cadet died when he was ejected from a training plane for unknown reasons when the aircraft was still on the ground, authorities said Monday.

The accident occurred at 7:05 a.m. (1005 GMT) near the head of the runway at the Air Force Academy in the city of Pirassununga, in Sao Paulo state, at the beginning of a training mission, according to a communique from the air force command.

Cadet Andre Rodrigues Silva, 22 years of age and with 100 hours of flight time, was preparing to carry out a training mission in the Tucano T-27 turboprop aircraft, a light fighter made by Brazil’s Embraer aircraft manufacturer.

“The Aeronautical command has already begun investigating to establish the possible factors that contributed to the accident,” the communique said.

“It was an ejection on the ground. We still don’t know if it was the cadet who activated the ejector or not,” said Lt. Waldinei Carlos da Cruz Barbosa, an air force officer, in remarks to journalists.

According to Cruz Barbosa, the cadet, who had been at the academy since 2009 and was in his last year of training, was alive when he arrived at an air force hospital but later died due to the severity of his injuries.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Puerto Rico Sees Bloodiest Weekend in 2012 With 17 Murdered in 2 Days

Puerto Rico Sees Bloodiest Weekend in 2012 With 17 Murdered in 2 Days

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Seventeen people were murdered over the past two days in Puerto Rico on the island’s bloodiest weekend so far this year, bringing the number of violent deaths in 2012 to 389.

Among the victims were two U.S. tourists from the state of Florida, a couple between 30 and 35 years old, whose bodies were found on Sunday with fatal gunshot wounds in a hotel room in the capital’s Isla Verde district.

The body of a 45-year-old man was also found on Sunday morning in a hotel in Cupey, in the San Juan metropolitan area.

Other murders over the weekend occurred in the capital and at various spots around the U.S. commonwealth.

Puerto Rico police chief Hector Pesquera said in remarks to WKQ radio that authorities do not know the reason for the elevated number of murders on the weekend.

Regarding home invasion assaults, he recommended that people not resist the attackers but if they do have household firearms for personal defense and resort to them never to shoot only to wound.

“When there is a confrontation, it’s recommended that if you have to shoot - hopefully not - shoot at the body, at the center. Don’t be trying to wound and don’t do anything (else), because they’ll kill you,” said Puerto Rico’s No. 1 police official.

So far in 2012, five people have been killed in home invasions on the island.

Last year, there were 1,136 murders committed in Puerto Rico, an increase of 15 percent over 2010 and the highest figure registered since records began being kept in 1940.

Some 49.2 percent of the crimes committed on the island in 2011 were linked to drug trafficking, according to police statistics.

The uncontrollable increase in murders in recent years forced the government in 2009 to sent the National Guard - a reserve military body comprised of volunteers - out onto the streets, a move that appeared to make no difference in the crime wave and which the government ended a year later citing the high cost.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Spanish Teacher Helping Undocumented Students in North Carolina Achieve College Dreams

Spanish Teacher Helping Undocumented Students in North Carolina Achieve College Dreams

Photo: Cristina Sanchez Helping Undocumented Students

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A Spanish-born North Carolina teacher is helping dozens of undocumented high-school students fulfill their dream of pursuing university studies.

After just four years of teaching English as a Second Language at the Zebulon B. Vance High School in Charlotte, Madrid native Cristina Sanchez has already changed the lives of at least 80 Hispanic youth.

“These were young people who had no support or information about how to go to university without papers. Many had already resigned to working and giving up their dreams despite being excellent students,” Sanchez told Efe.

The Spaniard came to North Carolina in 2008 to teach ESL after gaining experience at private schools in her homeland, where she provided English instruction to employees and executives of multinational companies, as well as working in Ireland and Britain in the summers.

“I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was little,” she told Efe. “We’re four sisters and for my parents our studies were the most important thing. My father is a mechanic and my mother stayed at home to raise us. I come from a very hard-working family.”

She said she spent her first two years at Vance adapting to the new school and getting to know her students, most of them unauthorized immigrants who were facing problems at home and depressed and unmotivated due to their uncertain future in a new country.

The 32-year-old educator said she realized these adolescents had no support and she decided to “do something to change the system.”

With support from the Latin American Coalition, Charlotte’s leading Hispanic organization, she founded “College Access para Todos,” a program that provides information about access to higher education.

In April 2011, the Spaniard selected a group of students with excellent grades from Vance and other high schools and took them to an initial meeting at Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black college founded 145 years ago in Charlotte.

“They gave scholarships to all of them. These young people have improved that university’s academic level. The administrators are satisfied with the results and the kids are responding,” she said.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 65,000 illegal immigrants graduate each year from U.S. high schools but only between 5-10 percent attend university.

Because of their immigration status, these youth are not eligible for federal and state financial aid and most public higher-education institutions consider them international students for tuition purposes and require them to pay rates double those for in-state students.

One of Sanchez’s students at Vance, 19-year-old Salvadoran Sarai Marquez, aspired to attend university and become an accountant, but she thought that dream was out of reach due to sky-high education costs until Sanchez took her to Johnson C. Smith.

“I’d already given up on continuing my education, but Ms. Sanchez insisted. She showed me it was possible, that with my grade-point average they’d give me a scholarship and I wouldn’t have to pay anything. She changed my life. She’s an inspiration to us,” Marquez told Efe.

Victor Medina, a 19-year-old Salvadoran who will receive his high-school diploma in the coming days, has a similar story to tell.

“I didn’t think I could go to college but my teacher told me how to do it, where to look for financial aid, and I’ll begin soon while I’m working,” Medina told Efe.

“Now I help (Sanchez) give talks to other students about the process of enrolling in university, preparing for the entrance exam (SAT). It’s a question of getting good grades and having the desire to do it,” Medina, whose dream is to become a pediatrician, said.

Sanchez’s program not only reaches out to students nearing graduation but also those just starting high school.

One of these students, Evelyn Muñoz, a 16-year-old Mexico native, has already started preparing for university by taking advanced-level high-school courses and paying close attention to her GPA.

For her efforts on behalf of undocumented youth, Sanchez has been nominated for the Charlotte mayor’s 2012 Mentor of the Year award, the Vance High School’s 2011 Teacher of the Year prize and other honors.

“The next step will be to seek out scholarship money for undocumented students from companies that wish to donate funds to that cause. There’s now a culture of ‘yes it’s possible’ to go to university. Now it’s about expanding access to other youth,” she said.

After just four years of teaching English as a Second Language at the Zebulon B. Vance High School in Charlotte, Madrid native Cristina Sanchez has already changed the lives of at least 80 Hispanic youth.

“These were young people who had no support or information about how to go to university without papers. Many had already resigned to working and giving up their dreams despite being excellent students,” Sanchez told Efe.

The Spaniard came to North Carolina in 2008 to teach ESL after gaining experience at private schools in her homeland, where she provided English instruction to employees and executives of multinational companies, as well as working in Ireland and Britain in the summers.

“I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was little,” she told Efe. “We’re four sisters and for my parents our studies were the most important thing. My father is a mechanic and my mother stayed at home to raise us. I come from a very hard-working family.”

She said she spent her first two years at Vance adapting to the new school and getting to know her students, most of them unauthorized immigrants who were facing problems at home and depressed and unmotivated due to their uncertain future in a new country.

The 32-year-old educator said she realized these adolescents had no support and she decided to “do something to change the system.”

With support from the Latin American Coalition, Charlotte’s leading Hispanic organization, she founded “College Access para Todos,” a program that provides information about access to higher education.

In April 2011, the Spaniard selected a group of students with excellent grades from Vance and other high schools and took them to an initial meeting at Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black college founded 145 years ago in Charlotte.

“They gave scholarships to all of them. These young people have improved that university’s academic level. The administrators are satisfied with the results and the kids are responding,” she said.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 65,000 illegal immigrants graduate each year from U.S. high schools but only between 5-10 percent attend university.

Because of their immigration status, these youth are not eligible for federal and state financial aid and most public higher-education institutions consider them international students for tuition purposes and require them to pay rates double those for in-state students.

One of Sanchez’s students at Vance, 19-year-old Salvadoran Sarai Marquez, aspired to attend university and become an accountant, but she thought that dream was out of reach due to sky-high education costs until Sanchez took her to Johnson C. Smith.

“I’d already given up on continuing my education, but Ms. Sanchez insisted. She showed me it was possible, that with my grade-point average they’d give me a scholarship and I wouldn’t have to pay anything. She changed my life. She’s an inspiration to us,” Marquez told Efe.

Victor Medina, a 19-year-old Salvadoran who will receive his high-school diploma in the coming days, has a similar story to tell.

“I didn’t think I could go to college but my teacher told me how to do it, where to look for financial aid, and I’ll begin soon while I’m working,” Medina told Efe.

“Now I help (Sanchez) give talks to other students about the process of enrolling in university, preparing for the entrance exam (SAT). It’s a question of getting good grades and having the desire to do it,” Medina, whose dream is to become a pediatrician, said.

Sanchez’s program not only reaches out to students nearing graduation but also those just starting high school.

One of these students, Evelyn Muñoz, a 16-year-old Mexico native, has already started preparing for university by taking advanced-level high-school courses and paying close attention to her GPA.

For her efforts on behalf of undocumented youth, Sanchez has been nominated for the Charlotte mayor’s 2012 Mentor of the Year award, the Vance High School’s 2011 Teacher of the Year prize and other honors.

“The next step will be to seek out scholarship money for undocumented students from companies that wish to donate funds to that cause. There’s now a culture of ‘yes it’s possible’ to go to university. Now it’s about expanding access to other youth,” she said.

Read more by HS News Staff →



TuesdayJune 5, 2012