November 10, 2000

National Hispanic Heritage Youth Award Winner Honored, Determination and Faith Led to Accomplishments

Spartanburg, S.C.,- Sheet grit and personal compassion were key factors in the designation of Robert Jesse Anguiano of Corpus Christi, Texas as winner of the national 2000 Hispanic Heritage Youth Award for Sports, sponsored by Denny's restaurants.

Robert Anguiano shares his excitement with actor/director Antonio Badneras (left) and Jon Jameson of Denny's restaurants (right)

The Hispanic Heritage Awards, which celebrates the achievements of outstanding Hispanic Americans in the arts, literature, leadership, education and sports, provides an important service to the community and youth by profiling Hispanic American role models. This year thanks to the support of key corporate sponsors including Denny's restaurants, the Hispanic Heritage Award Foundation dramatically increased the value of its prizes to youth nationwide to nearly $400,000.

As a national award winner, Anguiano received $7,000 in scholarship funds, a state-of-the-art personal computer and a trip to Washington, D.C. to participate in the nationally-televised Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation gala ceremony. In support of the ideal that leaders should not only focus their efforts outward but also give back to their own communities, the Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation also donated $1,000 each to six local community-based service organizations designated by each national winner.

Anguiano, who graduated in the top 20% of his class with a 3.74 grade point average of Corpus Christi's Tuloso-Midway High School, is clearly a true scholar-athlete. While providing leadership in varsity soccer and captaining the varsity tennis team. Anguiano was a member of the National Honor Society, earned Honor Roll status and was ranked as an All-American Scholar. However, it was Anguiano's commitment to his community and fortitude in the face of adversity that resulted in his selection as one of six national winner out of a pool of over 60 regional winners.

Anguiano's deep conviction to the principle of achievement in life through sport was particularly evident when he experienced a potentially career-ending injury during his early teens. While competing in a major tournament, he advanced to the final rounds when he was felled by a sudden knee dislocation and additional ligament injuries. His doctors told him he might play tennis again, but would never be competitive due to the seriousness of the injury. For over two months, Anguiano was unable to walk, but in his determination to recover he endured hundreds of hours of painful physical therapy. His will to overcome this personal tragedy and refusal to give in to self-pity was complemented by the new perspective he gained during his interactions with other youth during this period.

"I learned that the only `disabled' people in the world are those who see others as weak and challenged - those who limit their minds about others' capabilities despite their conditions" says Anguiano. "Having seen life from another person's eyes, I now see these amazing human beings not as unfortunate, not as handicapped, nor even disabled. They are models for people like myself to see and learn from."

Today Anguiano is in his freshman year at Kilgore College excelling in a nationally-ranked collegiate tennis program.

Denny's realizes the importance of recognizing and developing future Hispanic leaders because of the enormous impact Hispanics have made, and continue to make, in politics, business, entertainment, sports and most importantly, the community.

"We find diversity to be a rich source of ideas, innovation and inspiration," stated Denny's Chief Executive Officer James Adamson, "and we're proud to support the efforts of Hispanic role models like Robert Anguiano. This type of leadership is important to all of us in building better futures for our local communities nationwide."

A Humbling Change of Character

By Robert Anguiano

It is quite uncommon that people have the opportunity to experience life from someone else's point of view. Sometimes, the experience leaves one in awe, and makes a person think he or she will never forget, while others leave your heart aching for those who's struggles and hardships that one may never experience. Of the many lessons that I have learned through athletics, the most memorable.

The morning started with a bus ride to Kingsville, Texas, where our tennis team would be playing an all day tournament. By late afternoon, the majority of our team had been dismissed from the competition except for myself and a friend. In the middle of one of the longest points of my match, I leaped to reach a ball and felt the most painful sensation I have ever experienced in my life. There was a loud pop, like a gun discharging, and I plummeted to the floor grabbing my knee. It was as if someone had twisted my knee and then popped it off like the cap on a coke bottle. I remember pain, tears, and concern from the adults asking if I was okay. I was taken to a hospital, placed in a wheelchair and referred to a surgeon. After some painful x-rays and tests, he announced the injury was a twisted ligament and dislocated knee with a large amount of inflamed cartilage. The painful part came when he said that there was nothing he could do; since nothing was torn, it did not require surgery. I would simply have to wait nearly two months until I could walk again. I became, for the first time in my life, absolutely helpless; just sitting up in bed was a tearful task, as was getting up to eat dinner, to shower, to change, or even watch television. It took a lot of self-determination and support from my friends and family to literally "get back on my feet." Eventually, I overcame the obstacle, but not without a new outlook on life.

Finally able to walk (nearly two and one-half months later), my family took me to Fiesta Texas for a weekend getaway. While we roamed around, and as I complained about my knee hurting from all the walking, I saw a young boy in a wheelchair. He was about 13 years old, slightly younger than me at the time, and was lacking the use of his legs-permanently. After seeing this young man smile as he watched his family enjoy the rides and run about in excitement, I could not help but admire his courage. This young man's face stuck with me the rest of the time at the amusement park. Near the end of the day, as my family and I prepared to leave, I thought to myself, "just last month, you were lying in bed frowning because you could not help but smile about my selfishness, but my thoughts and admiration remained with the young man who I saw earlier. Even though he might never enjoy such pleasures as his family, he smiled because watching his family have fun was a memory far more lasting than walking through a one-hour line for a two minute amusement ride.

I remind myself everyday not to take for granted those things that seem so routine. At one time in my life, self-pity seemed to remain a logical way of telling myself that it is acceptable for a person to give up when the ball is not on their side of the court. This lesson gave me a new outlook on many things, I felt pity for the people who were "disabled," whether blind, deaf, down-syndromed, or paralyzed. That pity has been replaced with admiration. I learned that the only "disabled" people in the world, are those who see others as weak and challenged-those who limit their minds about other's capabilities despite their conditions. Having seen life from another person's eyes, I now see these amazing human beings, not as unfortunate, not as handicapped, nor even disabled-they are models for people like myself to see and learn from.

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