Three high school seniors in Gilbert have earned awards from by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation for excelling in their classes and their community.
The three teens – Eugenia Trakal, a student at Gilbert Classical Academy; Jordan Herrera, a student at Xavier College Preparatory School in Phoenix; and Chloe López, a student at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale – are recipients of the foundation’s Regional Hispanic Heritage Youth Awards.
The 22-year-old program honors Latino high school seniors who excel in various categories, from finance and public service to healthcare and science to others.
The awardees will receive grants for their education or to fund an idea or community project to encourage “actionable leadership.”
Recipients will then be mentored by past award winners as they prepare to attend college and start their careers through the foundation’s Latinos On Fast Track workforce development program.
““There is no shortage of Latino talent across the United States and we are grateful to our dedicated sponsors who understand the importance of investing in the youngest and most dynamic segment of our population,” said foundation President/CEO Antonio Tijerino.
“We’re in good hands as a community and as a country with these outstanding young leaders going forward.”
Here is a look at the three Gilbert honorees.
Eugenia, who plans to major in finance and international business with a minor in Spanish, is a first-generation American with Argentine roots.
The foundation gave her a gold medal in the business and finance category, hailing “her desire and willingness to explore as many opportunities as she can to expand her vision of the community and world in which she lives.”
Last June, she attended Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business Young Women’s Institute, where she took on the role of chief finance officer for her team as they competed by preparing a real-world business case project. Her team beat out 29 other 30 teams with a perfect score on financial statements.
“Captivated by the thrill of strategizing to solve a problem under time constraints, Eugenia participated in several other summer business projects last summer, including Grand Canyon University’s Business Institute and Arizona State University’s Fleischer Scholars Program,” the foundation said.
Eugenia said these experiences “made me realize how finance goes beyond analysis and is truly about teamwork, decision-making, and defending and challenging viewpoints.”
Eugenia wants to study international business “to better understand Latin America’s economic complexities.”
Her ultimate mission is to work for the United Nations Global Compact, to work against corruption and establish transparency in the global economy. She is the founder and president of her school’s Spanish Club.
Jordan also is a gold award winner in the technology category.
As a requirement for graduation at her high school, Jordan had to take a computer programming essentials class.
“It is there that I found my love for technology,” said Jordan.
After that class in her sophomore year, she has expanded her programming knowledge and is currently enrolled in AP Computer Science A.
In 2019, Jordan became a founding member of her school’s Computer Science Honor Society, the first honor society of its kind in Arizona.
She said she has enjoyed the opportunity to volunteer at various events and programs set up by the organization.
One such event is the Girls Have IT Camp, a summer program designed to engage, empower, and inspire middle school girls to pursue careers in STEM.
Most recently, Jordan has been volunteering for Elder Outreach, a CSHS initiative that matches Jordan’s high school’s senior alumni with volunteer pen pals and provides them with technical assistance in an effort to help them maintain communication and not feel isolated during these times.
Jordan also serves on the Governor’s Youth Commission, providing advice on identifying and addressing challenges facing Arizona’s youth through innovative community impact projects.
“Of particular interest to Jordan is addressing the technological gap in her state, which has become more pronounced due to the pandemic and the shift to virtual learning,” the foundation said.
“As much as Jordan dedicates to her community, she is also committed to academic excellence,” it continued, stating that Jordan “follows a rigorous course schedule of AP and honors classes, is a member of her school’s National Honor Society and the Math Honor Society, and maintains a 3.86 GPA.”
She plans to attend the University of Arizona, Harvey Mudd College, or Emory University and is interested in studying neuroscience, behavioral science, and computer science.
Chloe, who continued at Desert Mountain after her family moved from Scottsdale to Gilbert, received a silver medal in the social justice category.
She said she found her calling as a junior in her criminology class, which was about constitutional reforms, the Supreme Court, and the issues and shortcomings of the criminal justice system.
“Seeing the challenges, such as lack of helpful services after incarceration and police brutality, has shown me what needs to be done to change not only the government but also the level of equality in our society,” said Chloe.
“Chloe is a role model and leader among her peers,” the foundation said, noting her membership in Wolfden, a leadership team that meets regularly with her school’s administration to improve the culture, character and integrity of her school.
“She challenges herself to continue to grow as a leader through opportunities like the Fresh Start Women’s Foundation: Girls Thriving- Leadership Program and the Cesar E. Chavez Leadership Institute Summer Camp,” the foundation added.
For the past two years, Chloe has participated in the Maricopa County Teen Court program, which empowers youth in their communities to help change negative and delinquent behaviors in their peers.
“Chloe understands and embraces the restorative justice model and how to balance the interests of the victim, the community and the offender,” the foundation said. “Since the day she joined, she has been a leader in this program, often stepping up to take on a challenging role during court hearings. “
She volunteers at the children’s center of her local library, works with young children through the Boys and Girls Club, and provides support at St. Vincent de Paul, where she hands out meals to those less fortunate.
She plans to pursue justice studies at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University or Grand Canyon University.