La Paz Chattanooga Recognizes Latino Leaders

Monday, September 25, 2017

La Paz Chattanooga, a local non-profit organization that works with the Latino community, held its sixth annual Latino Leadership Awards ceremony last Monday, at the Chattanooga Convention Center.

The Latino Leadership Awards brings together members of the community to recognize and honor Latinos and Hispanics from the greater Chattanooga area, and present them with an array of awards for career achievement and community involvement. This year's ceremony once again produced some emotional acceptances from the honorees and recipients of the various specialty awards that were announced.

The 10 individuals who were honored as Latino Leaders at this year's ceremony included Chuy Esquivel (owner of Mexiville), Martha Flores (a commercial banker at BB&T), Neysa Gorgas-Ríos (officer for the Chattanooga Police Department), Carlos Garcia (owner of Victor Holdings LLC), Daniel Ledo (Director of Advertising at Lynch Sales Company), Pablo Mazariegos (Director of the Hamilton County Department of Education's International Family Resource Center), Sheila Ortiz (legal assistant at Grant, Konvalinka and Harrison, P.C.), Dr. Enrique Ordoñez (physician of obstetrics and gynecology at Erlanger Health Systems), Daniela Peterson (Community Engagement Specialist at Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise), and Kristina Sanchez-Mills (owner of Artistic Kreations).

In addition to the honorees, La Paz also recognized several of these individuals and others in our community who have made a significant impact in the community with additional honors.

One of the highest honors bestowed at the ceremony, the 2017 Latino Leader of the Year Award, was given to Kristian Sanchez-Mills for her service to the community through her art therapy classes and charity work for children and adult victims of domestic violence. Ms. Sanchez-Mills emotionally and humbly expressed her gratitude for recognizing individuals in our community who often are marginalized and forgotten.

Daniela Paz Peterson was the recipient of the 2017 Chattanooga's Choice Award, for the community's recognition of her efforts in community service, especially through the impact of the "Coming to America" storytelling initiative that she helped to cofound. "Coming to America" draws awareness to the human side of immigration stories of residents in our community.

The Community Champion Award is given to an individual who has personally gone above and beyond to serve the Latino community. This year, it was awarded to Gladys Piñeda-Loher for her advocacy efforts on Latino education and her leadership directing Chattanooga State's Latin Festival and Bridges to Success initiative. The award came as a surprise to Mrs. Piñeda-Loher, who tearfully shared her thankfulness in recognizing her at a time where it has been so tough for many Latino students across the nation.

In addition to the recognition of awards, Dr. Heidi Ramírez, senior advisor to America Achieves, delivered the ceremony's keynote address, pointing out the diversity of the nation's Latino community and the impact American Latinos have had in our nation. La Paz also showed a video message titled "We Are Chattanoogans" that served as a launch to their community support campaign, which will last until Oct. 15.

"This year's Latino Leaders have illustrated the diverse ways our area's Latino residents have contributed significantly to our the strengthening of our community," said La Paz Executive Director Stacy Johnson. "It was such an honor to bring attention to their work and commitment in their service to our city."

For a complete list of award winners, visit 

For more information regarding the 2017 Latino Leadership Awards, contact Christian Patiño at or call the La Paz office at 423 624-8414.

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