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LatinxEd's 20 Under 20 awards honor and celebrate exceptional students, Latinx community


On Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, LatinxEd's annual 20 Under 20 banquet will celebrate 20 Latinx scholars who exemplify scholarship, community and leadership. Photo courtesy of Verenisse Ponce-Soria.

Latinx Heritage Month may be drawing to a close, but that’s no reason to stop celebrating. On Saturday, Oct. 12, LatinxEd will be hosting its second annual 20 Under 20 banquet, an event honoring 20 Latinx students from across the state who have established themselves as future change-makers. The event will last from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

LatinxEd is the only educational initiative in North Carolina that offers multi-year support to Latinx students and immigrant families that are seeking higher education opportunities. Last year, the organization launched the 20 Under 20 initiative, which focuses on elevating some of North Carolina's most exceptional Latinx students.

Verenisse Ponce-Soria, the program assistant and social media manager for LatinxEd, said that deciding who to select for the honor is a difficult task.

“We get so many amazing applications, it’s so hard to choose,” Ponce-Soria said. “All of these students are involved in a million different things and they’re so passionate. They do all these amazing things for their community and they tell us all about their identity journey, how being Latinx has impacted their life and how it has impacted their future and what they want to do with their future.”

Ponce-Soria also described the three pillars of Latinx 20 Under 20 —  scholarship, leadership and community — and how each Listmaker embodies them in a different way. 

“They have a variety of interests but I think something that unites all the Listmakers is their dedication to the Latinx community,” Ponce-Soria said. “And I think that’s in large part due to their identity as Latinx people — that’s just something that impacts them growing up.”

Kairy Bautista, a UNC student double majoring in economics and philosophy, is going to be honored at the event on Saturday. After she graduates in May, Bautista, who is a licensed life insurance agent, aims to start a financial consulting company in Charlotte before attending law school. She said that her Latina identity has been integral in developing her future plans. 

“Being Latina means that I have the added responsibility of  taking care of a community that has been exploited and generally mistreated,” Bautista said. “I am privileged in the way that, yes, I am Latina, but I’m also a U.S. citizen. I have different layers and I know I can use my privilege to (the Latinx community’s) advantage.”

Being named a Listmaker for LatinxEd’s 20 Under 20 is an honor that is not lost on Bautista. 

“The people who got it — just through reading their bios, I’m so amazed at what they’ve accomplished,” Bautista said. “Being a part of that just makes me so appreciative that I get to connect with these people and talk about what they’re doing.”

Melanie Godinez-Cedillo, a UNC sophomore studying political science and economics, is also going to be honored on Saturday. Like Bautista, she takes pride in her Latina identity and also hopes to go to law school.

“I really want to represent and be a voice for the Latinx community in places that we aren’t typically represented,” Godinez-Cedillo said. “I want to be that voice and take some action in being a person who yields some of that power in favor of our community.” 

The aspect of community will not be overlooked at the Latinx 20 Under 20 banquet. Godinez-Cedillo said she is looking forward to spending time with other Listmakers as well as sharing her achievements with loved ones. She described the event as very supportive and family-oriented.

Ponce-Soria believes that the banquet will be an ideal way to wrap up Latinx Heritage Month, saying that celebrating the Listmakers and their accomplishments is a natural end to a month dedicated to honoring Latinx change-makers.

“All of these Listmakers, even though their names aren’t in history books yet, they’re people who are going above and beyond to help our community,” Ponce-Soria said. “We’re celebrating all these amazing people who have all these amazing contributions, and we’re celebrating their past, the present, and everything that is yet to come.”


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