OU Monarchs host “Toman Vuelo Gala” to honor undocumented students

As Oglethorpe continues its partnership with TheDream.US in support of undocumented Petrels, OU students have led an effort to honor their fellow students and celebrate their accomplishment of graduating college.

Estela Chavez poses with Aide Salazar after giving her the award "Education is Liberation."

Estela Chavez with Aide Salazar, who received the Education is Liberation Award.

OU Monarchs, a student organization created in 2021, hosted the second annual “Toman Vuelo Gala” to celebrate undocumented graduating seniors’ hard work and commitment to achieving their dreams.

“Toman vuelo” translates to “take flight,” a reference to the monarch butterfly that serves as a symbol for dreamers and signifies change, movement and survival.

OU Monarchs President Estela Chavez ’24 created the gala last year to bring allies and monarchs together to recognize the graduating class of undocumented students.

“As an organization, OU Monarchs recognizes our undocumented students for their resilience and dedication in pursuing their education regardless of their status and the obstacles they may face,” says the history major. “At Oglethorpe, some undocumented and DACAmented students are Dream.US scholarship recipients. Our celebration is inclusive for all undocumented students, regardless of their scholarship status.”

While the event celebrates graduating seniors, five undocumented Petrels are also awarded for their commitment to representing and uplifting their community. This year’s honorees include:

Education is Liberation Award – Aide Salazar ’24

Based on Yehimi Cambrón’s “Education is Liberation” mural, this award is given to students who embody the resilience of immigrants and the monarch butterfly.

Sonia Sotomayor Award – Jenifer Contreras ’24

Named after the first Hispanic woman on the Supreme Court, this award recognizes a student whose spirit mirrors Justice Sotomayor’s regarding immigrant issues and who advocates for marginalized groups.

Antonia Novello Award – Dania Hernandez ’26

Antonia Novello is a public health advocate who became the first female and the first Hispanic U.S. Surgeon General in 1990. Because of restrictive state policies and limited opportunities, this award is given to students passionate about their area of study as it relates to the medical field.

Diego Maradona Award – Cristofer Penuela ’25

This award recognizes a student who has shown greatness in athletics and sportsmanship through actively playing soccer, like Argentine soccer player Diego Maradona.

Yehimi Cambrón Award – Eduardo Ramirez Perales ’26

Student success director Vivian Medrano, assistant director of community and global engagement Peter Dye, admissions counselor and Dream.Us advisor Meri Flores, and Intercultural Center director Marisol Zacarias pose with awards they received at the gala.

Oglethorpe Student Success Director Vivian Medrano, Assistant Director of Community and Global Engagement Peter Dye, Admission Counselor and Dream.US Advisor Meri Flores, and Intercultural Center Director Marisol Zacarias.

Named after DACAmented artist and activist Yehimi Cambrón, this award recognizes a student for showing dedication and authenticity in their work for the undocumented community.

The student organization also awarded staff members for their continuous support and allyship with undocumented students. (See photo to the right.)

“I want current and future undocumented students, monarchs, to know that there are people on campus rooting for them,” said Chavez.

“I am glad that, as a community, we have made our contribution to Oglethorpe University known and that we will only go up from here; we belong here. I know OU Monarchs will continue to grow and flourish.”

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