On October 17, the Florida Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce held the 2022 Hispanic Heritage Awards Celebration at the Hilton Airport in West Palm Beach. During the celebration, four high school students and two teachers were honored with awards and scholarships, as recognition for their contribution and achievements within the Hispanic community and their educational leadership examples in the School District of Palm Beach County.
The District works closely with the Chamber and many other Hispanic agencies in the community, given that Hispanic students make up 37.4% of the District student population. The Chamber and other community leaders and pastors meet every three months with the Superintendent and other District officials to express the needs of the Hispanic community and help coordinate information for their members.
“It is a pleasure and honor for our Chamber to be part of this event, given the growth of the Hispanic population in Palm Beach County and the School District,” said Juan Pagan, President of the Chamber. “We are looking forward to continuing our participation and making the event more significant to our community.”
The four students below, all seniors in high school, were honored by the Chamber:
Manuela Berrio Cabeza – Olympic Heights Community High School
Manuela is a goal-oriented, diligent student who embraces a growth mindset toward all her academic tasks. She is enrolled in rigorous Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) courses, has been on the honor roll for many years, and currently has a 4.3 GPA.
She is also enrolled in several Advanced Placement courses, in addition to being a tutor for Spanish and math, an active member in Key Club, Mu-alpha Theta, and Spanish Honor Society.
Brianna Castro – Park Vista Community High School
Brianna is a bright, industrious, highly-motivated student who is tireless in her pursuit of knowledge, creativity, and learning. She ranks first in her class of 765 students, and she has consistently achieved good grades in the school’s most rigorous courses.
Through her perseverance, Brianna has developed a comprehensive academic foundation, dedicated work habits, and positive personal traits and attributes that will enable her to achieve success in whatever goals she sets for herself.
Hailey Acosta – Royal Palm Beach Community High School
Hailey has spent the last four years building character through experiences and achievements she once only dreamed of accomplishing. She was accepted into the International Baccalaureate (IB) in her freshman year of high school.
She has maintained a 3.98 unweighted GPA, 5.19 weighted GPA, and ranks sixth in her class. She recently earned her AICE diploma, and will be graduating high school with two of the highest level diplomas available to high school students, in addition to a standard high school diploma.
David Onofre – John I. Leonard High School
David is very proud of his Latino/Hispanic heritage as his parents are from Mexico. David is fully bilingual (English/Spanish), has earned a 3.86 grade point average and a 5.14 honors point average. He is in the top 1% of his graduating class, currently ranked fourth out of 753 seniors.
David is a member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, and other school clubs. He has earned many industry certifications including HTML/CSS, Windows, Adobe Photoshop, and Python. He also earned college credits through his participation in the Dual Enrolment program at Palm Beach State College.

The two teachers below were honored by the Chamber:
Susana Diaz Hernandez – Greenacres Elementary School
International Spanish Academy Third Grade Teacher and Team Leader
Since Diaz Hernandez first joined Greenacres Elementary, she has worked with colleagues, families, and the surrounding community with one goal in mind, to create an environment that enhances opportunities for students to embrace Spanish language, engage in Spanish literacy, and honor Hispanic cultures.
She wrote a grant to obtain funding for a book vending machine for students, and partnered with a local Hispanic business to sponsor books for the machine in English and Spanish. Diaz Hernandez was also instrumental in organizing a Hispanic Cultural Exhibition dedicated to honoring Hispanic cultures with student representation. She collaborated with a school in Spain to create an opportunity for her students to make connections with students in the township of Las Rozas de Madrid.
Her students make substantial growth in Spanish language learning, because of the purposeful planning and student-centered lesson design she does on a daily basis. It is obvious to anyone who walks into her classroom that students are deeply engaged in learning and they are motivated to succeed, thanks to her influence.
Frank Torres – Spanish River Community High School
Social Science Teacher
Torres joined Spanish River High School immediately upon earning his bachelor’s degree in education from Florida Atlantic University. His passion and enthusiasm for education can be felt a mile away, as students gravitate to his energy, evidenced by the number of students involved in the many clubs he sponsors.
Torres has been named Teacher of the Quarter twice, in addition to being nominated for Beginning Teacher of the Year in 2021. He sponsors Latinos in Action, an after-school club where he empowers students to lead and strengthen their community through college and career readiness and a celebration of the Latino culture.
Torres’ dedication to his students extends beyond regular school hours, through his sponsorship of several clubs, where he leads his students to plan events and build a sense of community in the school. He established “We Dine Together,” a club that combats social isolation by encouraging club members to make sure none of their fellow students eats alone at lunchtime.
The Hispanic Heritage Awards Celebration was created by the Florida Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce in 2014 with the objective of recognizing Hispanic honorees in business and education.
The Awards are made possible through the cooperation and sponsorship of several organizations: the Palm Beach County Sheriff Office, the School District of Palm Beach County, the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Specialty Center, Blanca Lopez from State Farm Insurance, Humana Health Insurance, Palm Beach Airport Hilton, La Guia News, and Fiesta De Pueblo Inc.

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