National Hispana Leadership Institute - Celebrating 20 Years of Latina Leadership Search
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NHLI 2010 Executive Leadership Training Conference & Mujer Awards

Mujer Award Recipients

1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996 | 1995 | 1994 | 1993

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Mary Lou Tullos Garcia, is a Hispanic educator who has dedicated her life to the improvement of schools and schooling for the severely and profoundly disabled Hispanic students.Born and raised in Harlingen, Texas, she graduated from the University of Texas with a B.S. degree in elementary education and MasterÕs degree in Education. She has special certification in Learning Disabilities, Mental retardation and Kinesiology also from the University of Texas at Southmost. Currently, Ms. Tullos Garcia is the Department Head, Special Education Program and teacher at Coakley Junior High School in Harlingen, Texas. She has trained, mentored and managed many paraprofessional personnel working with children with disabilities over the past 15 years. She is the supervisor of the city-wide Parks and Recreation Program for the Camp-A-Day Handicapped students program, ensuring the program hires the best staff and fiscal funds are allocated year after year through private and public agencies.

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Dra. Antonia Coello Novello, the winner of the 1998 Mujer Award, embodies all the qualities of a transformational leader. Her unyielding excellence and professional merit led to her appointment as the 14th Surgeon General of the United States. The first woman and the first Hispanic to hold the position, Dra. Novella is a respected medical expert and a tireless advocate of issues affecting the Hispanic community. In 1996, Dr. Novello turned her attention to global health issues when she became the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Special Representative for Health and Nutrition.



Miriam Colón-Valle became the first Puerto Rican accepted at the famed Actor's Studio, where she has been a member for the past twenty-five years. As one of the pioneers of the Hispanic Theatre movement in New York City, Ms. Colón co-founded the Nuevo Circulo Dramático, the first Spanish-language arena theatre in New York. She is the Artistic Director/Founder of The Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, steering its course since its inception, and has successfully insured its survival as its artistic head, strategist and fundraiser. In addition to her activities as an actress, producer and director, Ms. Colón is a cultural advisor on the state and federal levels. She was appointed by the then Governor Nelson Rockefeller to the New York State Council on the Arts, where she served for more than ten years. At the national level, she served as a panelist on the Expansion Arts Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts, and also in the Institutional Advancement Pilot Program Panel. She was also a member of the National Hispanic Task Force.

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NHLI bestowed its fourth annual Mujer Award on Irma Flores Gonzalez, a civil rights activist, champion of Hispanic issues and board Chair of the National Council of La Raza. Flores Gonzalez, who has worked in the private, public and nonprofit sectors, received the prestigious award at NHLI's annual Mujer Award gala in October, 1997 at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C. Although the focus of the event was on Flores Gonzalez's remarkable professional accomplishments „ she has served as President of Colegio Cesar Chavéz, worked for the Portland police chief to implement community policing strategies and in 1987 was appointed head of the Oregon State Community Services Agency -- her personal battle with cancer took center stage.

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The daughter of a Mexican farmer, Juana Beatriz Gutiérrez, says that her leadership skills evolved from her determination to keep her nine children away from the gangs and drugs she saw in her Boyle Heights Neighborhood. In 1986, Mrs. Gutierrez, co-founded The Mothers of East L.A. (Las Madres) as a result of plans to build a prison in her neighborhood. Mrs. Gutierrez and several friends organized an information campaign and held weekly candlelight vigils. Their actions brought widespread media attention and California dropped its plans in 1992. Other notable accomplishments of Las Madres are the prevention of a toxic waste incinerator in the city of Vernon; halting the construction of a municipal waste incinerator; a sucessful waterconservation program that offers free low-flush toilets and recycles old ones; a lead poisoning education project and a graffiti removal program.

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Dolores Huerta


Dolores Huerta, co-founder and first Vice President of the United Farm Workers of America, has devoted more than 30 years to establishing the union and to the farm workers' cause. Among the many ideas that she has made into a reality are a retirement village for farm workers and a child care center to keep children out of the fields. She was also responsible for the dues structure that gave farm workers significant financial investment in their own organization. She helped establish a union school to provide language skills and training in leadership. A mother of 11 children, her comments "let them be in demonstrations, marches, picket lines. I want them to be around ethnic groups, not to feel the stigma of racism while they are growing up. I expect them to follow their dreams, to change the world, to make the world a better place."

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Dr. Antonia Pantoja has lived a life of passionate commitment. Now 73, she continues to live life at its' fullest. Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1922, her first influence for activism sprang from her grandfather who raised her, a cigar maker and union activist. Restless for new opportunities and freedom from social expectations of her, she immigrated to the United States in 1944. Pantoja persevered in her pursuit of her education by working in a factory job in New York City and attending evening classes. In 1952, she helped form the Puerto Rican Association for Community Affairs (PRACA). Pantoja's personal philosophy and of community service is to build institutions that offer structures of support while providing leadership opportunities. In 1958, she organized the "ASPIRA" club in New York City. ASPIRA, Spanish for "strive" brings Latino students together to encourage growth and leadership skills. Her passion for education and commitment to community came together by establishing Universidad Boricua in 1973, a Puerto Rican research center and bilingual university. Returning to Puerto Rico in 1985, she launched "Producir" a project that enables rural communities create cottage industries, generate employment, and provide services. Like its' founder, it is a model of the future which brought to the forefront a lifetime of commitment and vision.

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