The Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) hosted their 12th Annual National Youth Awards Ceremony today in honor of actress America Ferrera and seven National Youth Awardees including Odalmy Molina from Hialeah, F.L. for Science  for outstanding accomplishments in the classroom and their community.  The event was held on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC in front of an audience of 200 community and business leaders, elected officials, educational leaders, celebrities, students and families.

As one of the seven students being recognized, Odalmy Molina asserts that her father’s death and her brother’s diagnoses of Leukemia have altered her life and ultimately sparked within her a deep desire to one day find a cure for cancer.  On a constant quest for knowledge, she has conducted research at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and at MIT’s competitive Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science Program (MITES). At her young age, Odalmy has already co-published original research on analgesic peptide gene transfer; and is now working on her second co-publication for April 2011.  Dedicated to service, she is the youth co-chair for the American Cancer Society and was chosen as the youth representative from South Florida to lobby in Tallahassee to raise the tobacco tax. She is currently revitalizing Relay for Life team “Teens against Cancer” as well as organizing this year’s Purple Hope Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Walk at her school. In the classroom, she is just as impressive. Boasting a perfect 4.0 GPA, she is ranked within the top 1% in her class, has taken an astonishing 20 AP courses and is part of the Health Science Academy to receive her certification as an assistant nurse. Her academic excellence has earned her significant recognitions such as the National AP Scholar Award and the National Hispanic Recognition Scholar Award. In her own words, Odalmy, who is of Cuban descent, “envisions Hispanics as millions of great neurons, unified in a single brain, capable of unraveling all its potential across different fields.” Odalmy is currently considering offers from Brown University and MIT where she plans to major in Human Biology and History of Ancient Civilization before pursuing her Medical degree.

In addition to Molina, the other National Youth Awards recipients include:

  • Anthony Mendoza, Antelope, C.A., for Business sponsored by BBVA Compass
  • Catarina Lopez, Killeen, TX, for Community Service sponsored by Southwest Airlines
  • Melissa Fich, Milburn, N.J., for Education sponsored by Target
  • Jose Antonio Villanueva, Los Altos, C.A. for Engineering and Mathematics sponsored by ExxonMobil
  • Luis Ortiz, Sandy Spring, M.D., for Leadership sponsored by US Army
  • Alberto Rodriguez, Laredo, T.X,, for Technology sponsored by AT&T

After receiving the awards, the students will get experience in the HHF’s leadership cycle that includes a Speakers’ Bureau, Mi Mentors group to inspire and guide younger Latinos, leadership training through LOFT (Latinos On Fast Track) Institute, and into the LOFT program that provides workforce development with a path in various industries.

America Ferrera, the star of “Ugly Betty” and “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” will be honored with the Inspira Award for serving as a role model for Latino youth through the media.  Ferrera currently serves as an Artist Ambassador for the global humanitarian organization Save the Children, with a focus on championing education for children in marginalized communities, both in the United States and in developing countries.

The Inspira Award was created to recognize Latinos in public life who have used their platform to serve as role models for youth and to promote cultural pride.  America Ferrera joins actors Wilmer Valderrama, Adam Rodriguez and singer Don Omar as recent honorees of the Inspira Award.

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