Trio of RGV Alumni Win Distinguished Alumni Awards
It’s fitting that, for the first Celebración held in the Rio Grande Valley, that its first award winners all hail from the region.
Last night, at the Balli’s Event Center in Mission, Alex del Barrio, Adriana Ramirez, and J.D. Salinas III were bestowed Distinguished Alumni Awards by NHI. Though the three honorees have had success in wildly varying fields — namely, sports broadcasting, creative writing, and government — they all started their NHI journeys in the Valley. And though their work has taken them to locations norte of the RGV, they still consider it to be home.
Del Barrio, currently broadcasting with Sports Radio 610, reflected on his journey in his acceptance speech. He has vivid memories of freezing on stage when asked to talk about himself at an NHI recruiting meeting, but finding the confidence to speak publicly and translating that into a career that’s included work with the Harlem Globetrotters, World Wrestling Entertainment, and now, the Houston Texans. Echoing comments that NHI’s Gloria de Leon made earlier in the evening about the Rio Grande Valley, he noted, “The brains of NHI may be in Maxwell, but the heart of NHI is in the RGV.”
Ramirez opened her remarks by marveling, “It’s beautiful that so many people can come together united by a vision — a vision of Latino leadership, of Latino success, of Latino triumph.” She then recounted the speech that won her the Lieutenant Governor post at the 1999 New Mexico LDZ, inspired by a poem she’d found in a collection of poems by Holocaust survivors, which ended with the line, “and I pondered at the resilience of the old monster.” The “old monster,” as she saw it, was, “The hate and insecurity that plague us all. The reflex to laugh at our own discomfort instead of speaking up. The way we apologize for the ignorance of others.”
And she wanted to counter that with “people that looked like me on television, people with names like my own in office, people who shared my vision in positions that can effect positive change.” She remarked that that’s happened, in part, due to the “resilience of hope that NHI gives freely,” but that the old monster has also returned in the form of this week’s election results.
J.D. Salinas also nodded to the election in his remarks, noting that introducing people to NHI is all the more essential. Salinas has a considerable track record in government, first in the Comptroller’s Office as a Regional Representative, then the youngest County Clerk for Hidalgo County, and then a County Judge for three years, and then to the General Services Administration, via a Presidential appointment, as a Regional Administrator serving a five-state area, before transitioning into the private sector.
But as he recalled in his speech, his father was a star quarterback for his high school football team, parlaying that into college and a 35-year coaching career. But his father impressed upon him to be “the best he could be,” regardless of whether it’s sports, debate, or some other related endeavor. He went on to emphasize, as the others before him did, how crucial NHI was to his development.