2016 Latino Leadership Awards Nominee Profiles

The honorees for the 2016 Latino Leadership Awards have been selected! Now we need your vote.

The process of selecting the honorees for the Latino Leadership Awards is never easy. The selection committee convenes and reviews all nominations, and it is always a very hard decision as so many nominees illustrate what true leaders in the Latino and Hispanic community look like. The 2016 Latino Leadership Awards Selection Committee recently met and have finalized the list of this year's Latino Leader honorees. 

Chattanooga's Choice Award Voting

All of the persons listed below will be recognized at this year's banquet for their achievements in their profession or career and community involvement.  However, two individuals will be selected as recipients of the Latino Leader of the Year and Chattanooga's Choice awards.  

The general Chattanooga community is given the opportunity to vote for their top two choices to receive the Chattanooga's Choice Award. The recipient of this award has illustrated their contribution and commitment to the community. 

The public voting process is now closed. The winner will be announced at this year's Latino Leadership Awards!  

View the profiles of the 2016 honorees.


2016 Latino Leader Honoree Profiles

Juan Antonio Alonso Santillana

Juan Antonio Alonso SantillanaJuan Antonio Alonso Santillana was born in San Sebastian,Spain, a border city adjacent to France. Later, he obtained a Master’s degree in Spanish Humanities at the University of Extremadura. He is currently enrolled in another Master’s program in Hispanic applied linguistics while serving as a full-time professor at Chattanooga State Community College and part-time adjunct professor at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

He came to Tennessee for the first time in 2006 to participate in a teaching exchange program between Spain and the USA, which took him to Antioch High School in Nashville, a school where 30% of the students were Hispanic or Latino. It was there that he started to get involved in community service, developing with a colleague a Spanish heritage program for the school that would help Spanish speaking students to fulfill their high school foreign language requirement while working on special content designed for them, including identity, U.S. culture and laws, college preparation, and Spanish literacy. The program was a great success with an attendance rate of more than 250 students in the four years in which he served as director. During that time, he collaborated with key community members in the Nashville area, including Conexión Américas, YMCA Latino Achievers, and the Tennessee Immigrants and Refugee’s Rights Coalition.

In 2011 he moved to Chattanooga, TN, where he took a full time position to teach Spanish at Chattanooga State Community College. Since then, he has been one of the lead advisors of that college’s Spanish club, helping to connect Latino students and Spanish-language students with the local Latino community, mostly volunteering with organizations such as the Chattanooga State International Outreach Office and La Paz Chattanooga. He has also worked on including a module in every Spanish course devoted to promote intercultural communication skills specifically designed to help bridge the cultural divides in the area, as well as promoting study abroad in Spain and Cuba to continue strengthening the connection between the Chattanooga State graduates and the Spanish speaking world. Mr. Alonso Santillana has always been an active defender of tuition equality and Latino civic engagement, and believes in the key contribution that Latinos and Latinas have made and continue to make today to strengthen the rich tapestry of American identity.

Xavier Cotto

Xavier CottoShortly after earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez in 2010, Xavier Cotto obtained the opportunity to move to Chattanooga and work for the Tennessee Valley Authority. It was an opportunity that would require for him to leave his home country, but one that would provide great possibilities for his professional development and personal discovery.

In his few years in Chattanooga, he’s become an ambassador of Latino culture and has worked to leverage the resources available to him for the betterment and growth of services and opportunities for other Latinos in Chattanooga and the rest of the Tennessee Valley.  In 2014, he was selected as champion of the TVA Hispanic/Latino employee resource group called TVA Amigos. Soon thereafter, he created XCeed Events, an event production company hosting several great cultural events for the Latino community in Chattanooga. He’s an active member and drummer at City Church of Chattanooga and serves in local non-profit SoundCorps’ Programs Committee. He is a cultural ambassador through Chattanooga State and active in local cultural events, such as Latin Festival, Culture Fest, and others.

Andrea Cribben-Acosta

Andrea Cribben-AcostaFrom May 2010 until January 2016, Andrea L. Cribben-Acosta  was the founder and  managing partner in the law firm Olivencia & Cribben Law Office, LLC,  specializing in immigration and family law.  Attorney Cribben received her bachelor degree in Psychology and Communications from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law. Mrs. Cribben has been in the private practice of law since 2007, when she opened her office in Dorado, Puerto Rico, where she has represented mostly Hispanic clients from all walks of life.  After moving to Chattanooga, Tennessee, she opened Olivencia & Cribben Law Office, LLC, with her husband and fellow attorney, Hector Olivencia.

Mrs. Cribben is an active member of the Tennessee Bar Association, the Chattanooga Bar Association and American Bar Associations. She is licensed for the practice of law in Puerto Rico, Tennessee, and Federal Court.  She has spoken on issues of immigration law and other legal matters that affect the Hispanic community in printed media. Some of her written opinions may be viewed in the Noticias Libres, a publication of The Chattanooga Free Press newspaper,. Also, she serves the Hispanic community in Chattanooga by offering free consultations at La Paz Chattanooga and giving informational presentations at local Hispanic churches and schools. 

Prior to establishing her private practice Mrs. Cribben worked as a Federal Probation Officer for the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico, where she specialized in criminal sentencing proceedings in cases involving immigration, drug conspiracies and sex offenders.

In December 2015, she was appointed Legal Director and Special Magistrate at the Hamilton County Juvenile Court, where she now serves children and families by striving to insure that all receive just, impartial and prompt services within the Court regardless of race or status.  She has placed special emphasis on informing the underserved Hispanic communities of the legal and immigration implications and consequences of juvenile delinquency, truancy and custody matters. 

Andrea is married to Hector Olivencia, and together they have two daughters.

Vivianne Fernandez

Vivianne FernandezVivianne was born in Cuba and left her country with her family in 1961, literally, with the clothes on their backs. They traveled through Jamaica, arrived in Miami, and when looking for a job, her father was offered 2 positions and he chose the one in a small town in Connecticut. He worked during the day and studied at night to regain his accounting degree, all the while supporting his family. Vivianne's parents always stressed the importance of education and said that was going to be thier inheritance. The children were able to speak English outside the home, but as soon as they stepped inside they had to speak Spanish because her parents did not want them to lose their heritage. For that, I will be eternally grateful.

Vivianne (Vivi for short) has lived in Connecticut, Miami, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, North Carolina and currently she resides in Chattanooga TN. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BA in Business Administration from the Inter American University in Puerto Rico. During all of her travels, she has been able to experience different cultures, food, climates, and in general, ways of life. In the end, she believes that we are all human beings that need each other. 

Vivi has been working with First Tennessee Bank at the 23rd St Financial Center as a Financial Services Representative for the past 11 ½ years and has received several sales awards. She is very fortunate to be at a financial center where there is a very large Hispanic population and has gained her customer’s trust and confidence. She has been able to educate them on the importance of saving, not only for their own future, but also for their children’s education. She loves helping people and always give them personal examples and stories they can relate to. "It is a wonderful feeling when my Hispanic customers express their appreciation that I am there to help them, but I think it is also very rewarding when my American customers tell me they should have paid more attention to their Spanish classes when they were in school and it is great that I can talk to them in their native tongue." 

For the past 3 years, Vivi has thoroughly enjoyed raising funds for the Junior Achievement Super Hero Bowl and has raised $8125.00 for this very worthy cause.

When she is not at work, she loves to cook, work with her husband Stan in the yard, and just sit on the back deck and watch all the birds that come to their feeders. She and her husband also have a very large collection of Cacti and Succulents which they are very proud of.

Miriam Lemon

Miriam Lemon

Miriam Lemon was born and raised in Guatemala City before immigrating to California where her mother had moved. When seeing the difficulties that her mother faced as an immigrant in California, Miriam decided to stay in the U.S. to support her mother and two younger sisters.

While in California, Miriam found work cleaning homes while attending Orange Coast College in the evenings. She supported her mother and sisters, and was ready to return to Guatemala when she met her husband. She married and soon became the mother of four daughters. She raised her young children while growing her cleaning business.

In May 1994, her husband brought Miriam to Chattanooga and fell in love with it. Miriam attended Chattanooga State to strengthen her confidence in English and attended classes in accounting and business. She was forced to become the family’s primary provider as an accountant after her husband became seriously ill. After a few years of working for a global corporation, she decided to start a bookkeeping business for Latino entrepreneurs and small businesses, called Servícios Profesionales Maya. She grew her client base across Chattanooga and Dalton until she was asked by Dr. Pablo Perez to work for St Joseph Clinic, P.C. as their staff accountant. She soon became the office manager of St. Joseph Clinic and helped Dr. Perez expand the business to Chattanooga. She has been proud to work alongside Dr. Perez in his service to the Latino community for the past twelve years. Together they have organized community health fairs and annual medical missions to Santiago de Chuco, Peru.

Miriam Lemon founded Love in Action Mission in 2012. The nonprofit organization coordinates medical missions to Guatemala. LIA collects medical supplies and equipment, organizes doctors and nurses, and develops partnerships in Guatemala to carry out the missions annually. It also arranges the travel for children with difficult conditions that cannot be treated in their home country by organizing their visa, establishing a relationship with a charitable hospital, finding a host family, and fundraising for the travel and medical expenses. Lastly, LIA has coordinated a sister-schools program for students and teachers in Chattanooga and in Sololá, Guatemala.

Miriam is married to Rickie and has four daughters.

Alex Loza

Alex LozaAlex Loza is a representational artist born in Lima, Perú. He moved to Perth Amboy, NJ in December 1989. Loza received his BFA from Chicago's best American Academy of Art. For the past 17 years he has had the privilege to be commissioned to paint numerous portraits for private collectors throughout the United States, Canada and Latin America. He has participated along other muralists in several public art projects around the Chicago and Chattanooga area. For many years he volunteered his artistic and anatomical skills to develop several composite sketches (composite imagery) for the Chicago Police Department (CPD).

In late 2010 he relocated to Tennessee with his family. The following year he decided to use his home-studio to found the Loza Studio & Atelier of Figurative Arts. There he teaches workshops and classes in the classical drawing and painting technique as well as sculpting and artistic human anatomy. His long-term goal is to be able to find investors and a larger space to establish an art school to offer bilingual art classes in the community and serve as an art resource to the artistic community. He has been involved in many community projects as an art facilitator for Mark Making, an organization that uses public art projects to empower individuals and together help transform our communities. In 2013 he volunteered in the restoration of the Historic Engel Stadium outfield walls. He visits local elementary and high schools offering ArtTalks and forensic composite sketching workshops for their art students and art teachers. A few years ago he started an art ministry called Draw2Jesus where he incorporates art and public speaking to bring Biblical inspiration to area youth. He also works as an adjunct faculty member at Lee University in Cleveland, where he teaches basic and advance classes in drawing, painting and figure drawing. Recently, he completed the "Veterans Memorial Mural", the City of Collegedale’s first public mural honoring Veterans and Purple Heart Medal Recipients. Alex is married to Jocelyn and together they have two children. 

Andres Miranda

Andrew MirandaAndres Miranda is a noted journalist, author, and pastor. He was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and arrived in the US in 2000, and served as the Spanish Publications Editor for the Church of God from 2001 to 2011, which is based in Cleveland, TN. He holds a Masters in Divinity from the Church of God theological Seminary, and is an ordained Bishop in the Church of God.  In 2008, he founded the Light for the Nations Church (LFN) in Chattanooga, TN, and has grown to be a notably diverse church, with members from 12 different countries. From its establishment, LFN has worked intensively within the community, and has done its best to provide services for those in need. From the establishment of the Homeless ministry which provides clothes and food to shelters, to offering family counseling, English classes, pre-marital classes, and violence/abuse prevention, LFN has been incredibly proactive. Besides working with LFN, Andres has been an active member of Chattanooga’s pastor network, has written several articles for the Noticias Libres newspaper, and has participated in over 400 conferences and workshops on the topic of marriage & family with his wife all across the United States. He is married to Ana and has four daughters and three grandchildren.

Erwin Ovalle

Erwin OvalleA Guatemalan native, Erwin Ovalle moved to Chattanooga over 15 years ago. He will tell you that he is amazed at how far the city has come since he arrived.  “I see big things in our future and I am compelled to stay here and watch it grow and evolve. My expectations for our city are vast as we come together to collaborate in business and community.”

Mr. Ovalle is the founder and CEO of Management Customers Service (MCS), Nerdwebs and Ovalle’s Catering. As a chef, he puts his heart into the art of food and hospitality through his catering business. Additionally, he collaborates with several private schools by catering and teaching healthy food choices to children.

In his business, Ovalle’s long-term goals are to grow MCS, a total facility service company, while in the process continue to create a culture of awareness for the need to protect the environment and the dangers of global warming.  MCS is committed to increasing an environment that enhances human health and fosters a transition toward sustainability that will be achievable long term.

His decision to start MCS, along with continuing his love of cooking and service through catering and events, has allowed him to grow his company while giving back to the community in ways he had only dreamed of previously. His success with MCS also gave him the ability to launch Nerdwebs, a web-design and marketing company. Through Nerdwebs, his goal is to assist Latino small business owners by educating them on the need to market online and through social media in order to promote and grow their businesses in today’s competitive market.

His many board appointments include serving on the City of Chattanooga Minority Business Task Force, Dream Central Chattanooga, and The Kidney Foundation.

Mr. Ovalle desires to serve people. His faith drives and sustains him, bringing him hope and joy in the process.  He attributes his faith for his ability to live out his passion to serve as a leader in business and the community. 

Carmen Quezada Hutson

Carmen Hutson QuezadaCarmen Quezada Hutson is the youngest of seven children born to Mexican immigrant parents in Phoenix, Arizona. Mrs. Hutson was the first in her family to receive a Bachelor degree and then went on to receive her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Georgia.  She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), and is currently the Director of the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults Crisis Services program, which assists individuals who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, and homelessness.  Through the Partnership’s Crisis Services, each year, over 750 families and individuals access the domestic violence and homeless shelter and transitional housing, rape crisis services, including forensic medical exams, court advocacy, bilingual case management, housing, and employment services. 

Mrs. Hutson serves as an executive member of the Greater Chattanooga Coalition Against Human Trafficking and as a member of the Sexual Assault Response Team, working collaboratively with community agencies and members to provide comprehensive and improved response to survivors of domestic and sexual assault. She is a Board Member of the Chattanooga Police Department’s Chaplain Program and a Steering Committee member of the Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Victims through Chattanooga Police Department’s Victim Services.  She serves on the UTC School of Social Work’s Advisory Board preparing social work students to enter into the profession.  In 2012, Mrs. Hutson participated in an exchange program with Social Service students at Emanuel University in Oradea, Romania.  Her work with the students was published in, “Issues of Interest for Social Work Practice” published by Emanuel University.

Prior to moving to Tennessee, Mrs. Hutson was the Program Director of the Catholic Charities of Atlanta Community Outreach Centers, which provided services to the Latino population in six Northeastern Georgia counties. Under her leadership, the Outreach Centers served an estimated 8,000 clients per year, providing services ranging from counseling to immigration.  Her efforts gained her recognition from her alma mater, the University of Georgia, who featured her as a distinguished alumnus in the School of Social Work's alumni magazine.  She also has the distinction of being named one of Georgia's “Forty Under Forty—The Best and the Brightest” by Georgia Magazine in 2005. 

From 1996-2000, Mrs. Hutson worked with the Sexual Assault Center of Northeast Georgia, where she founded the Child Advocacy Center to provide services for children who had been sexually assaulted which included:  providing forensic interviews, court advocacy and testimony, individual and family counseling, forensic exams and crisis intervention through a multidisciplinary team.