Contact: Governor’s Press Office, (850) 717-9282,


Tallahassee, Fla. — Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis honored this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month student and educator contest winners in a ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion. This year, Florida celebrated Hispanic-American community leaders and champions with student art and essay contests, as students across the state learned about Florida’s culture and Hispanic heritage.

“I was amazed by the entries we received this year from students across our state who submitted moving stories of community, family and leadership from Hispanic-Americans in Florida,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “Among the many community leaders honored this year were law enforcement and first responders, public servants and school officials. The high quality of this year’s entries made it difficult to select a winner, but I am honored to recognize some truly outstanding students and educators. The Governor and I thank all who participated in this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month contests and congratulate our deserving winners.”

“There are thousands of Hispanic-American community leaders and champions across Florida, and I’m proud of the work they do every day to enrich their communities,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Congratulations to the students and winners of the Excellence in Education Award. Your hard work and contributions continue to make a lasting impact on our students and state.”

“It is an honor to join the First Lady and Governor in congratulating the winners of this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month Contests,” said Lt. Governor Jeanette Nuñez. “As a Cuban American from Miami, I have seen so many Hispanic-American leaders fight to make Florida the best state in the nation. I am glad that Florida’s students were able to learn about Florida’s Hispanic culture over the month, and I encourage them to continue to learn about our state’s rich Hispanic heritage as these students prepare to make their own contributions to our state.”

“Florida has been unquestionably influenced by great Hispanic-American contributions for centuries. This community has contributed to our state in every way imaginable and this is a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate their successes,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “It’s incredibly important for students to learn and appreciate the significant and historic contributions of Hispanic-Americans throughout Florida’s long history. This Hispanic Heritage Month, we are honored to observe these wonderful stories of accomplishments and congratulate the winners of all of our Hispanic Heritage Month contests.”

“Florida’s history and heritage is as vibrant and as colorful as the people that make up its communities,” said Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee, Florida’s Chief Arts and Culture Officer.  “Florida’s Hispanic-Americans have long been leaders and champions in their communities and in our state, and I am thrilled to see how this year’s student contestants so wonderfully captured the history and culture of these champions in their submissions. I am incredibly impressed by the creativity and spirit that Florida’s students channeled into their art and written work this year during Hispanic Heritage Month.”

“The diversity of culture and thought that Florida’s Hispanic-American community leaders bring to the Sunshine State continues to enrich our entire state,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Corey Simon. “Together, we’re taking action to get things done in our local communities to make our students more prepared, families healthier, and communities stronger than ever. I commend the Governor and First Lady for hosting this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month student and teacher contests, as well as their sincere commitment to celebrating the continued impacts of Florida’s most influential Hispanic-American champions.”

Award recipients are as follows:

Student Art Contest Winners

Eziel Juarez, Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School, Okeechobee County

Eziel is a kindergartener who drew a picture titled “My Mom is a Community Leader.” The art features Eziel’s mom and family.

Julian Alexander Ruiz, Coral Reef Elementary School, Miami-Dade County

Julian is a second-grader who drew a picture titled “Mi Abuelo, My Leader.” The artwork features Julian’s grandfather who is a rado show host.

Student Essay Contest Winners

The following student essay contest winners – one elementary, one middle and one high school student – earned a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.

Stella Jurkovic, Orange Grove Elementary School, Pinellas County

Stella is a fourth-grader who wrote her essay about Myriam Irizarry, Pinellas County’s first Hispanic judge.

Diana Cho, Tequesta Trace Middle School, Broward County

Diana is an eighth-grader who wrote her essay about Carmen Franco, a bilingual drug abuse and addiction recovery counselor.

Giacomo Mutti, Booker High School, Sarasota County

Giacomo is a twelfth-grader who wrote his essay about Father Celestino Gutiérrez, a priest who supports the Sarasota County community through his volunteerism.

Excellence in Education Award Winners

Recipients of the Excellence in Education Award receive a $1,500 prize from Volunteer Florida.

Estela Gonzalez, West Glades Elementary, Glades County

Estela Gonzalez is a third grade teacher who goes above and beyond to help her students who are struggling at school or at home.

Gabriel Ortiz, Oasis Middle School, Manatee County

Gabriel Ortiz is a middle school teacher, reading coach and theater instructor. Mr. Ortiz holds his students to a high standard, and has helped many of his students learn to read at grade level – something that will have a profound impact on the rest of their lives.

Raquel Medina, Doral Academy Preparatory School, Miami-Dade County

Raquel Medina is a high-school Spanish teacher who helps her students understand the impact Hispanic-Americans have had, especially in South Florida.

To learn more about Florida’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, visit