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NBC Latino 20

The #NBCLatino20 honors achievers who are making our communities and our nation better. These honorees are fiercely proud of their heritage, which has guided their work and inspired their accomplishments. Follow their fascinating stories throughout Hispanic Heritage Month.
John Leguizamo

John Leguizamo

BROADWAY'S PROFESSOR: For his latest Broadway show, iconic performer John Leguizamo could have mined his rich personal experiences as before. But in “Latin History for Morons,” he takes on a topic that he's championed and that is close to his heart.  “I started to think why people feel comfortable disrespecting us in a way that’s just not normal or natural,” says Leguizamo. “And I started to think that it's because our contributions aren't in history textbooks.” The show debuts on October 19. Sept. 15

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Desireé Hernández

Desireé Hernández

THE CRUSADER: Desireé Hernández is not afraid to take on the U.S. government when she believes a child has the legal right to remain in this country. As Director of Legal Services for the Safe Passage Project, Hernández manages a team providing free legal representation to over 650 immigrant children facing deportation.  “There are tears and terrible stories — but there is a chance for them to have a better life." Sept. 18 

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Miguel Marquez

Miguel Marquez

THE PARK RANGER: Growing up in Oakland, California, Miguel Marquez remembers how free he felt when he was outdoors. Now, as a park ranger with the National Parks Service, the Mexican-American educator and environmentalist is a champion for our nation’s system of canyons, waterways, wildlife, monuments and historical sites. “It almost feels like a paid vacation," he says about his work. His mission? Marquez wants more people, especially Latinos, to embrace and enjoy their nation's natural playgrounds. Sept. 19

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Francisco Gaytan Francisco Gaytan Francisco Gaytan Francisco Gaytan

Francisco Gaytan

THE HIGHER ED GURU.  Where some see first-generation, working class college students, Francisco Gaytan sees future college deans, Latino principals and education experts. As director of the ENLACE Institute, Gaytan runs a nationally recognized program that offers scholarships for Latinos to obtain their Master's degrees in educational leadership to advance as educators. “Working with first-generation college students is the way to be the change you want to see." Sept. 20

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Joan Smalls Joan Smalls Joan Smalls Joan Smalls

Joan Smalls

THE SUPERMODEL: The first Latina face of Estee Lauder, Joan Smalls is rocking the runway and breaking barriers in the fashion industry. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, she's one of the world's highest paid supermodels. This Afro-Latina is proudly representing the exquisite diversity of our Caribbean Latino heritage. Sept. 21

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Stephanie Medina Stephanie Medina Stephanie Medina Stephanie Medina

Stephanie Medina

THE BEAT REPORTER: Who says local news is dying?  Stephanie Medina, 17, and her fellow youth reporters at Boyle Heights Beat are making sure that the issues in their east side Los Angeles neighborhood are elevated and heard. “We can write about things that the community really cares about, because we are experiencing those things as well.” Sept. 22

 

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Antonia Villarruel Antonia Villarruel Antonia Villarruel Antonia Villarruel

Antonia Villarruel

THE DEAN OF NURSING: She studied nursing, but talk about taking it to the next level. Antonia M. Villarruel is the Dean of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, and her groundbreaking research and programs have reduced teen pregnancy, improved maternal health and promoted healthy outcomes for Latino families in the U.S., the Caribbean and Latin America. "I have the ability to work in different types of settings, the ability to influence policy — what else do I want?"  Sept. 25

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Denise Sandoval Denise Sandoval Denise Sandoval Denise Sandoval

Denise Sandoval

THE LOWRIDER SCHOLAR: While some see lowriders as "gangs on wheels," author and professor Denise Sandoval sees a rich tradition rooted in community and in California's iconic car culture. She's the foremost authority on this unique Chicano cultural expression whose influence has spread worldwide. "Lowriding is part of our U.S. history —it's part of our struggles and our tensions of growing up in L.A." Sept. 26

      

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Andrew Manuel Crespo Andrew Manuel Crespo Andrew Manuel Crespo Andrew Manuel Crespo

Andrew Manuel Crespo

THE LEGAL EAGLE: The first-ever Latino president of the Harvard Law Review, Andrew Manuel Crespo has clerked at the Supreme Court and represented children as a public defender. He has seen firsthand the chasm between our legal ideals and the reality on the ground. "We've told ourselves that whether you are imprisoned for years should not depend on whether you are rich or poor," says the Harvard Law professor, "but any lawyer who has set foot in a courtroom would probably agree that resources and money do make a tremendous difference." Sept. 27

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Aarón Sánchez Aarón Sánchez Aarón Sánchez Aarón Sánchez

Aarón Sánchez

CELEBRITY CHEF WITH A HEART: Cooking is part of his family's legacy, and now acclaimed TV chef, restaurateur and author Aaron Sánchez is creating opportunities for the next generation of Latino chefs.  “I wanted to do something to give back to an industry that's been so gracious to me and so fruitful and allowed me to live a life that I live now.” Sept. 28

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Frank Rubio Frank Rubio Frank Rubio Frank Rubio

Frank Rubio

THE ASTRONAUT: Being a West Point graduate, a combat veteran and a flight surgeon was not enough for Frank Rubio, who was chosen as one of 12 astronaut candidates from NASA’s largest pool of applicants in history. “I think the opportunities are limitless for us just like they are for anybody else,” says this Renaissance man of Salvadoran descent.  Sept. 29

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Annie Segarra Annie Segarra Annie Segarra Annie Segarra

Annie Segarra

AN ADVOCATE FOR INCLUSION: Through her activism and social media presence, Annie Segarra is proudly representing communities that are often marginalized or overlooked — Latinx, disabled and queer.  Segarra is using her unique and influential voice to ensure all people are visible in our society. “I put my work out there to make the world safer, to make the world more understanding.” Oct. 2

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Luis von Ahn Luis von Ahn Luis von Ahn Luis von Ahn

Luis von Ahn

TECHIE FOR GLOBAL GOOD: Through his amazing innovations, "Duolingo" founder Luis von Ahn has made our daily lives safer and smarter, from preventing identity theft to promoting free language learning. Voted one of the 50 "best brains in science," this globally known Latino has never forgotten his roots. "Guatemala, von Ahn said, “defined me." Oct. 3

 

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Mauricio Rodriguez-Lanetty Mauricio Rodriguez-Lanetty Mauricio Rodriguez-Lanetty Mauricio Rodriguez-Lanetty

Mauricio Rodriguez-Lanetty

SAVING OUR OCEAN LIFE: Although coral reefs are beautiful, they do much more — they feed and shelter one quarter of our marine life. But we're losing them due to changing climate patterns. Marine scientist Mauricio Rodriguez-Lanetty has created, off the coast of Florida, the world’s deepest coral nursery. His team is studying ways to grow coral, in order to replace the precious reefs in our shallow waters. Oct. 4

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Lola Salazar Lola Salazar Lola Salazar Lola Salazar

Lola Salazar

THE PHILANTHROPIST: Many of us dream of being able to give back to the schools and neighborhoods where we grew up.  Lola Salazar is doing it. Through the Salazar Family Foundation, she and her husband are using their success to create opportunities for a new generation. “When I go to the schools and I see the kids, I actually see myself in a lot of their faces,” says Salazar. “I would have loved to have known at that time there were people out there who cared — about us wanting to fulfill our dreams." Oct. 5

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Lourdes Lopez Lourdes Lopez Lourdes Lopez Lourdes Lopez

Lourdes Lopez

BALLERINA IN CHARGE:  You might say Lourdes Lopez has gone from prima ballerina to boss lady. As artistic director of the Miami City Ballet, she's one of the few women to hold the top position in a national ballet company, known not only for its excellence but its diversity. Born in Cuba, Lopez trained with the legendary George Balanchine. These days, her goal is to make the ballet arts exciting and accessible. Oct. 6 

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Carlos Mark Vera Carlos Mark Vera Carlos Mark Vera Carlos Mark Vera

Carlos Mark Vera

THE EQUALIZER: Carlos Mark Vera is pushing to get young interns in Washington D.C paid for their work through his bipartisan campaign, "Pay Our Interns."  Too often, he believes, working class youth are shut out of positions and access because they can't afford to work for free. "Your socioeconomic status shouldn't keep you from civil service," says Vera. "That's anti-American." Oct. 9

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Reyna Montoya Reyna Montoya Reyna Montoya Reyna Montoya

Reyna Montoya

THE ARTIST ACTIVIST: Art has the power to heal — and empower. Reyna Montoya has created a space that uses art to help young people and families cope with the impact of immigration policy, including family separation and detention.  “We tell them this is your story," says the Arizona activist. "You have the power to use it however you want."  Oct. 10

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Cesar Francia Cesar Francia Cesar Francia Cesar Francia

Cesar Francia

EXPORTER OF EQUALITY: While working as an aide to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Cesar Francia was encouraged to go to law school by the "Wise Latina" herself. “That changed my life — she is such an inspiration." Today, this corporate litigator volunteers tirelessly in the legal fight for marriage equality across Latin America. Oct. 11

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Gloria Calderon-Kellett Gloria Calderon-Kellett Gloria Calderon-Kellett Gloria Calderon-Kellett

Gloria Calderon-Kellett

THE HOLLYWOOD HOTSHOT: Fans fondly remember the iconic 70s sitcom "One Day at a Time." Now, thanks to Gloria Calderón Kellett, a new generation is enjoying an updated bicultural reboot of the show on Netflix. The executive producer and co-creator mined her own Cuban American heritage to give the hit show its distinctive Latino flavor. Oct. 12

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