IJA winners announced as Advocates, Entrepreneurs, Professionals, and Spirited Immigrants
DALLAS, TX – June 27, 2018 – In a time when immigration is the hottest topic discussed, the annual Immigrant Journey Awards (IJA) came just in time. This month, designated as Immigrant Heritage Month, approximately 200 individuals united to highlight influential immigrant achievements at the 2018 Immigrant Journey Awards, hosted by presenting sponsor and nationally-recognized Dallas law firm Scheef & Stone.
“This will be our 7th year honoring exceptional immigrants at the Immigrant Journey Awards,” said Ann Badmus, IJA Chair and Scheef & Stone Partner. “I believe it is vital that we continue to shine a spotlight on immigrant achievements and support the diversity the immigrant community brings to north Texas and the nation.”
The ceremony was graced with a special performance from one of the finalists and Top-24 American Idol finalist, Ron Bultongez, and emceed by the Emmy award-winning reporter, Rebecca Aguilar. Keynote Speaker and last year’s Immigrant Advocate Award Winner, Gauthami Vemula spoke of her personal Immigrant Journey, as she was born in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India, and later raised in both New York and Hobbs, New Mexico.
“I think especially in this day and age, we need to hang on to hope, with all the different crises going on in the world,” Gauthami said. “Being here felt amazing because that’s what this country is built on. It’s about immigrants, and that’s what makes this nation.”
The honored immigrants stood out for their significant achievements and contributions in business, education, medicine, athletics, community service, and politics.
This year’s Entrepreneur Award winners were Andrea Pedraza from Mexico, Guadalupe Mora from Mexico, and Mani Manickavelu from India. This award honored these individuals, as business owners who have founded highly successful businesses in DFW, and who serve as models and inspirations of success.
“It is very important for immigrants to join together and support each other,” Mani said. “That was the best thing that I saw. Some of the stories that we heard were very inspiring.”
The Immigrant Professional Excellence Award winners were Major Adebayo Adeleke from Nigeria, Akash Patel from India, and Cynthia Nwaubani from Nigeria. This award honored these immigrants for demonstrating significant professional achievements in their fields and for their advancements positively impacting their professions and communities.
“Immigrants are so essential to the American economy,” Cynthia said. “We are a vibrant community of people who are resilient, passionate, and are willing to work hard. Events like this help showcase how immigrants impact the community.”
Recognized for making a positive impact on the lives of immigrants and for being advocates on behalf of immigrants, the Immigrant Advocate Award winners were Mary Dominguez-Santini from Panama and Leonid Regheta from Ukraine.
“Standing here with all these immigrants is a great feeling,” Mary said. “Being able to meet new people from different cultures, embrace them, grow together and know that we’re not in it alone.”
Lastly, the Immigrant Spirit Award recognized these winners as immigrant civic leaders who have contributed substantially to the community or region. Honorees were Graciela Katzer from Argentina, Susie Jennings from Philippines, and Raj & Aradhana Asava from India.
“There’s an old saying,” Raj said. “‘Charity begins at home.’ And when we call the U.S. our home, let’s make sure we look at where our needs are. You can volunteer, do food drives, donate money. The awards gave me the opportunity to speak on this. We’re happy to be here.”
Three high school seniors, who are immigrants and children of immigrants, were awarded the 2018 American Dream scholarships. Eh Kaw Thaw from Thailand; Kaci Nguyen, whose parents emigrated from Vietnam; and Hillary Shah, whose parents emigrated from India, were the honored young ladies who will go on to do great things.