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The 36th Annual HACE Awards Inspire the Next Generation of Leaders

Contact: Karen Hutner
Office of Institutional Communications
khutner [at]

Release Date: 

WORCESTER, MA — November 16, 2021 — For the past 36 years, Quinsigamond Community College has partnered with leaders in the Latinx community to honor the area’s Latinx youth. This year, during a virtual ceremony, the annual Hispanics Achieving and Celebrating Excellence (HACE) event awarded 33 Worcester and Southbridge high school Latinx students with scholarships that ranged from $350 - $450 to assist them on their path to a successful future.

The HACE awards honor those students who have excelled in arts, academics, athletics, community service, leadership and civic/political engagement.

“I look forward to the HACE Awards every year. It is a tribute to the best and brightest young people in the Central Massachusetts Hispanic community, and the scholarship money provided by the Awards is a jumpstart for each recipient to achieve their dreams. I have no doubt that these students will be leaders in business, sports, academic achievement, and public service in the years to come,” said Senator Harriette L. Chandler, HACE Committee member since 1985.

Keynote speaker for the event was Ivette Olmeda, who addressed this year’s HACE theme, “Stronger Together.” She discussed the disproportionate impact the pandemic has on the Latinx population and the power of working together to persevere through these challenging times.

“Sometimes when bad things happen in our life, they put us on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us,” she said.

Chairing the annual event since 2006 was QCC’s Director of Community Engagement, Déborah L. González, Ph.D.

“For 36 years, HACE has lifted and encouraged our local Latinx youth to be the best version of themselves, to aspire to fulfilling futures, and to achieve the highest of their potential,” Dr. Gonzalez said, telling the student award winners, “This year was a test of your resiliency...continue on your path with resiliency and hope. You made history going through the challenging times in this century.”

Southbridge High School HACE award winner Aaliyah Aponte summed up her thoughts on this year’s theme.

“Stronger together means to me taking the time to honor one another and communicate with each other...that through all obstacles or any circumstances we may face, together, we can make the impossible possible,” she said.

Three students were also honored with special awards:

  • Olga López-Hill Community Leadership Award winner: QCC student Merari Alvarado. This $600 scholarship is available to QCC students who plan to continue their education at Quinsigamond or to transfer to another educational institution.
  • Marlyn Reyes Memorial Community Leadership Award winner: Southbridge High School student Yarelis Diaz.
  • Dolly Vázquez Cultural Award winner: Nathaniel Hernandez, Arts/Music Police Partnership.

QCC President Luis G. Pedraja, Ph.D. closed the event with words of inspiration and hope to the students.

“Learn from your hardships. It’s going to make you stronger. It’s going to define your character and it's going to shape you into the person you will become. I know you will be wonderful...a great person and a great leader in our community,” he said, adding, “Thank you to the amazing HACE sponsors and volunteers. Your support and commitment to our Latinx youth is an investment in our economy and our collective future.”

2021 HACE Scholarship Recipients:

  • Nairim Cespedes Rivan, University Park Campus School
  • Katherine Farfan Picon, South High Community High School
  • Ashley Gonzalez, Burncoat Senior High School
  • Ivori Hidalgo, Bancroft School
  • Nicole Quinones, North High School
  • Ailany Rivas, Claremont Academy
  • Karla Rodriguez, Southbridge High School
  • Bernard Santos, Bancroft School
  • Marcy Suarez, Saint Paul Diocesan High School
  • Madeline Zafon-Whalen, Doherty Memorial High School
  • Aailyah Aponte, Southbridge High School
  • Raven Falcon, North High School
  • Jasmarie Henriquez, Worcester Technical High School
  • Nathaniel Hernandez, Arts/Music Police Partnership
  • Seleniz Matias, Doherty Memorial High School
  • Erika Morales Lopez, Worcester Technical High School
  • Elizabeth Nivar Chavarria, Claremont Academy
  • Stephanie Ribeiro, Burncoat Senior High School
  • Nicole Duran Rodriguez, North High School
  • Ana Giraldo, Worcester Technical High School
  • Victor Manuel Canenguez, University Park Campus School
  • Maria Panta, Burncoat Senior High School
  • Zaylee Ramos, Saint Paul Diocesan High School
  • Cristina L. Rodriguez Velez, Claremont Academy
  • Michael Vazquez Guaman, Doherty Memorial High School
  • Erickson Adon Suero, University Park Campus School
  • Yarelis Diaz, Southbridge High School
  • Jailimar Montanez, Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School
  • Rafael Muniz, North High School
  • Ella Rivera, South High Community School
  • Corey Rondeau, Saint Paul Diocesan High School
  • Nicole Sarmiento, Doherty Memorial High School
  • Paula Sofia Sierra Vargas, Burncoat Senior High School

For more information about QCC, contact Karen Hutner, Interim Director of Institutional Communications at 508.854.2842 or khutner [at]

Quinsigamond Community College is the most affordable higher education in Worcester County. As a regional leader in education and workforce development, QCC serves the diverse educational needs of Central Massachusetts by providing affordable, accessible, and high quality programming leading to transfer, career, and lifelong learning.