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Instituto del Progreso Latino Annual Gala Honors Leaders Making a Difference

Spirit Award Honorees

Instituto del Progreso Latino, a not-for-profit dedicated to advancing the educational, training and employment opportunities for Latino immigrants and their families, recently celebrated their “Una Familia Gala” honoring two Chicago leaders who embody the organization’s values and focus on helping the community.

Beatriz Ponce de Leon, the City of Chicago’s first deputy mayor of immigrant, migrant and refugee rights, along with Ricardo “Ric” Estrada, president and chief executive officer of Metropolitan Family Services, were honored with the Instituto’s Spirit Award presented by Karina Ayala-Bermejo, Instituto’s president and chief executive officer.

In the presence of their families, friends and supporters, the married couple took the stage one at a time to accept their awards and credited their families for making it possible for them to grow as leaders.

“The work we have been able to do across our lives could not have happened without the support of our families,” said Ponce de Leon, crediting her sisters for helping to take care of their parents who have struggled with health issues. “My sisters have made it possible for me to take on this role as deputy mayor. If my sisters were not there to care for them, in ways that we hadn’t had to do before, I would not be able to do the work that I’m doing. I want to say thank you to Linda, who is here, and Maricruz who is at home with our parents.”

“When I thought a lot about why I would take this role on, it brought me back to my parents. My parents came here from Morelia, Michoacan in Mexico,” said Ponce de Leon. “They were brave. They left everything behind, because my mom was pregnant, and they wanted more opportunities for the baby that was on the way. That baby was me.”

Ponce de Leon said the courage her parents had in coming to the United States influenced her decision when considering the role Mayor Brandon Johnson offered her. “I felt it was a way for me to honor my parents and their immigration journey, which is the reason I and my children are here today.”

UIC at the Gala

Estrada, a two-term member of the University of Illinois board of trustees, took the stage to accept his award and thanked the many groups and individuals present who support Instituto’s mission, including its staff, board and host committee.

He also credited his family, especially his wife, for his own success. “Honey, I am so glad that our girls, family and friends are all here to witness this. You are the best that our community has to offer,” said Estrada.

Estrada acknowledged the sacrifices his own parents made in coming to the United States, leaving an idyllic small town in Mexico to face many obstacles, including living through harsh winters, working hard jobs and dealing with discrimination, all in the pursuit of a better future for their children.

“This really is a celebration of families,” said Estrada. Speaking in Spanish to his parents and family, he added, “If I and Beatriz have accomplished anything, it is really because of you.”

For more information about the Instituto del Progreso Latino, please visit: