We are delighted to announce that Ali Ahued Herrera has been awarded Bright Network and EY’s President of the Year! Ali is the president of the Hispanic Appreciation Society (HAS) who have been doing amazing things in such a short amount of time. She was nominated by Alejandra Perez, the Vice-President of HAS, and was selected as one of six finalists to attend an exclusive event at 19th Knot where she had the opportunity to present why she should be the winner.
Over 80 presidents were nominated in total so this is a huge achievement and we are very proud!
An interview with Ali
Ali gave us an insight into her experience on the day and what the award means to her.
All the finalists were given the opportunity to share why they thought they deserve the award; I shared my story at HAS. Then all the sponsors gathered and selected the Society of the Year and the President of the Year. I was given a beautiful award, chocolates, and a bottle of champagne to celebrate. They told me I was selected for my resilience, integrity, adaptability, team working skills, and passion for diversity.
What does the award mean to you?
The truth is, this award goes beyond being a recognition of my work; it is a symbol of support for all Hispanic people. Despite the lack of obvious connections between Hispanic or Latinx people to the UK, it has increasingly become home to many of us, including myself. However many still feel like outsiders. This might be because of the lack of recognition we experience as an ethnic group, underrepresentation in leadership and government positions or even the fact that many of those who come here do not speak English. Against this backdrop, this award is a sign of hope for my team, my students, and all hispanic people. It shows how we have everything it takes to succeed despite the many obstacles we often face.
Why did you decide to run for president of HAS?
When I joined HAS it was one of the least popular societies because it was very inactive. The then committee did not want to run it anymore in light of the pandemic so as a result, HAS faced the very real possibility of being dismantled. When I learned about this, I approached the Student Union president and asked them if I could take charge and try to keep it running. Considering how few Hispanic people there are at my university, the dismantling of HAS would mean even less representation for us. Therefore, it was important to me to keep the society running and give it a complete makeover.
My vision was to turn HAS from a society about to be dismantled to the place where anyone from anywhere in the world could learn about the diverse and unique Hispanic cultures whilst also sharing about their own. My vision is becoming more real every day and I couldn’t be more thankful.
What is your proudest achievement as president of HAS?
In the 6 months since I became president, my amazing team and I planned and hosted a university-wide Latin Heritage month of Appreciation. We had a variety of events including: lectures on Latin-American politics, salsa classes, panel discussions on heritage, and a Mexican movie night during Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Death. These activities are an amazing part of the Hispanic society but when I took charge I decided that HAS would also have a community outreach and charitable aspect to it.
One day, maybe because of destiny or luck, I met Don Ernesto (originally from Colombia) who is one of the cleaning staff of NCH. After talking to him for a while he mentioned that around 90% of the cleaning staff in our new campus is Hispanic and around 95% of them couldn’t speak English or only the very basics. From then on I felt a sense of responsibility to help my people, and I have done everything in my power to support them since.
We worked with the university and the cleaning company so that we could provide the cleaning staff of not only my university but the whole estate with English classes during their working hours taught by us, HAS members.
These classes have been life-changing for some of the cleaners who faced the possibility of losing their job for not speaking English, but also for us. We learned leadership, teamwork, empathy, bravery, and along the way also the difference between who and whom. My students left everything known to them in the search of a better life, far from violence and poverty. Their bravery is admirable and every day I aspire to be more like them.
We are expecting our first graduation this year and now no one is at risk of unemployment. We currently have 14 students, but we are looking to welcome 21 more next month.
What would you like to see HAS do in the future?
In our future, I see more English classes, but also Spanish classes especially because there are no modern language courses at NCH. I would like to see more cultural, academic, social events and growing membership, but more importantly, I see increasing recognition of Hispanic people and British Latinx. My team and I share this vision and I’m sure that we can turn these ideas into a reality.