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Award winners made ‘good news’ in past year

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Athleticism and sportsmanship. Commitment to education and connection to community. Compassion for the dying and empathy for children. A desire to boost New Mexico and a vision to make that happen.

Those are talents and achievements that embody the spirit of New Mexico – and are found in the Albuquerque Journal’s 2019 Spirit of New Mexico award winners.

The recipients will be honored at a special luncheon and awards ceremony from noon to 1:30 p.m. Jan. 27 at Sandia Casino and Resort.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will be on hand to congratulate the winners and present the awards.

Established in 2009, the Journal’s Spirit awards are presented to recipients selected from the pages of the Albuquerque Journal.

“These awards are an opportunity to celebrate some of our community’s ‘good news’ stories and honor deserving individuals who make our state a better place,” said Journal publisher William P. Lang. “These luncheons are always inspiring, leaving attendees with a desire to look for ways they, too, can leave their mark.”

This year’s recipients are:

Peter Trevisani and Devon Sandoval, New Mexico United

Peter Trevisani

Peter Trevisani

A United Soccer League expansion team, New Mexico United began playing in Albuquerque’s Isotopes Park in 2019 and immediately drew huge crowds, attracted support from across the state, and defeated two Major League Soccer teams and ended up making it to the USL playoffs.

The USL is the second-highest professional soccer level in the U.S., below Major League Soccer.

Peter Trevisani is New Mexico USL’s team president, owner and architect of the successful program. He is a former Santa Fe finance director at Thornburg Investment Management.

Devon Sandoval

Devon Sandoval

Albuquerque native and former Eldorado High and University of New Mexico Lobo star Devon Sandoval was the first player signed to New Mexico United. It was only fitting that he scored the team’s first goal of the season and the last goal of the season, tallying a season total of 13 goals. Off the pitch, he is an ambassador for the team, appearing at public events to read stories to children and sign autographs.

New Mexico United is based in Albuquerque, but its owners say it represents the entire state.

“What’s really important is everyone (in New Mexico) feels that this is for them; it doesn’t matter where they live, where they come from, how long they’ve been here,” Trevisani said. “A lot of people leave New Mexico because they can’t realize their hopes and dreams here. We want them to have a reason to stay connected to our state and be part of our local economy.”

Paul Roth, chancellor of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center

Paul Roth

Paul Roth

As chancellor of the University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center, Paul Roth oversees a sprawling system that includes UNM Hospital, four colleges, a medical group, a research mission, nearly 10,000 employees and a $2.2 billion budget. He also serves as dean of the UNM School of Medicine and chief executive officer of the UNM Health System.

After more than four decades, Roth is retiring.

He originally came to New Mexico to enter the family practice residency program at the UNM Medical School. Later, he moved into emergency medicine and is considered a national trailblazer in that field. He was among the first to coin the term “urgent care.”

“The reason I went into medicine was because I wanted to help people, and in their most acute situation having this sense of rescuing them,” he told the Journal during an interview. “So I gravitated to emergency medicine. When things went well, it was exhilarating and so gratifying. Unfortunately, it didn’t always go well … and I would find myself having to speak with the family of a gunshot or accident victim, and those were heart-wrenching times.”

Roth said one of the things he is proudest of is the civilian disaster relief team he launched in the 1980s that responded to disasters ranging from Hurricane Hugo to the terror attacks of 9/11.

UNM Hospital has the state’s only Level 1 trauma center, and there is a new 48-bed, $400 million hospital expansion on the drawing board.

Katharine Winograd, president of Central New Mexico Community College

Katharine Winograd

Katharine Winograd

After nearly 13 years at CNM’s helm, Kathie Winograd is the longest-serving president in the college’s 54-year history. She will step down early next year after more than 22 years at the college.

One of the first initiatives Winograd worked on was making it easier for CNM students to transfer their credits to the University of New Mexico. “At the time we were watching our students take courses here that they then had to repeat when they went to the university,” she said. “We knew that the students were being put through a very difficult situation.”

She and then-UNM president David Schmidly signed agreements creating “2+2” programs to make it easier for students to transfer credits between the two schools.

Under her tenure, CNM expanded – in numbers of students, employees, budget and other metrics.

During the 2014-15 school year, CNM awarded more degrees and certificates to both Hispanic and Native American students than any other community college in the country. It came in second for the number of degrees and certificates awarded overall.

During the 2016-17 school year, CNM more than doubled the number of certificates and degrees it issued in just one year, a spike driven primarily by new awards meant to keep students on the graduation track. That year, the college granted 13,777 degrees and certificates – up from 6,699 in 2015-16, according to numbers provided by the school.

In 2013, Winograd was named the 2013 Western Region CEO of the Year by the Association of Community College Trustees.

Chevel Shepherd, country singer

Chevel Shepherd

Chevel Shepherd

She may stand a compact 4 feet 10 inches tall, but there’s nothing diminutive about singer Chevel Shepherd’s voice, which has been compared to country music legends Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, yet with a contemporary twist.

Last December, the then 16-year-old Farmington High School student won NBC’s vocal competition “The Voice.” Her coach, singer Kelly Clarkson, referred to her as “my country Tinkerbell.”

Performing since she was a little girl, Shepherd has always dreamed of making it as a country singer.

Shepherd rehearsed daily with Clarkson, but she also had to make time to complete her daily schoolwork.

Since winning the competition, Shepherd, now 17, has traveled the country, opening for other country artists and headlining a few of her own shows.

“I have the opportunity to use my voice to let people know that they should chase their dreams,” she said. “I’m very blessed to be where I’m at and thankful to everyone who supports me because it means the world to me.”

Aalisha Bhatt, Albuquerque Academy

Aalisha Bhatt

Aalisha Bhatt

As a freshman at Albuquerque Academy, Aalisha Bhatt recognized that coming from a background of comfort and affluence, she was better off than many kids. She decided to do something about sharing her good fortune with children who struggle and came up with the idea of starting a nonprofit project, “Share My Fortune.”

The organization holds various events to raise money for children in need, particularly through New Day Youth and Family Services, Albuquerque Christian Children’s Home, and Cuidando Los Niños. A long-term goal is to raise $100,000 by June 2020 to be used to give orphans a second chance. So far, the charity has raised $45,000.

Providing for orphans is an issue that resonates with Aalisha. She was adopted from an orphanage in India when she was two months old by parents who immigrated to the United States from India, and who owned little.

Today, her father, Nimish Bhatt, is the chief financial officer of Thornburg Investment Management in Santa Fe, and her mother, Dr. Sonal Bhatt, is a physician with Concentra Urgent Care.

“My whole life, I’ve always been taught to give back and how important it is staying connected to your roots, how important it is to remember where you came from,” said Aalisha.

Amy Neal, hospice and palliative care social worker, Veterans Administration hospital; Joel Craig, operations manager, Animal Welfare Department; Robert Candelaria, volunteer, Animal Welfare Department

When John Vincent, a retired Marine and Vietnam War veteran was in hospice care at the Raymond G. Murphy Veterans Administration Medical Center, he had just one request – to have one last visit with his beloved 5-year-old Yorkie, Patch, who had been put up for adoption at the West Side animal shelter after Vincent became ill.

Vincent relayed his request to Amy Neal, a palliative care social worker who had been working with hospice patients for more than 15 years.

Neal said she considered it “an honor” to try to fulfill Vincent’s request.

“It’s about ‘what can we do to enhance his life?’ Because it’s about living here when they come here … and this is living for him,” she said.

 Joel Craig

Joel Craig

Neal contacted the Animal Welfare Department, and operations manager Joel Craig made arrangements to have Patch taken to the VA Hospital on Oct. 17 for what would be Vincent’s final reunion with his faithful dog.

There were few dry eyes in the room as Patch laid atop Vincent’s chest for their final goodbye. Physicians, social workers and those from the city’s Animal Welfare Department crowded around and assured Vincent that Patch “will get a wonderful home.”

Robert Candelaria holds Patch on his knee.

Robert Candelaria holds Patch on his knee.

After the story appeared in the Albuquerque Journal, the Animal Welfare Department fielded calls from newspapers, TV stations and magazines around the country and overseas, an Animal Welfare Department spokeswoman said.

Albuquerque’s Robert Candelaria, a volunteer at Animal Welfare and a retired Marine and Vietnam War veteran, stepped up to adopt Patch. He visited Vincent in the hospital and told him that he would provide a loving home for Patch.

Vincent passed away about a week after his final visit with Patch. Candelaria is now caring for the little terrier.

Jerrick Maldonado, Clovis High School junior

Jerrick Maldonado

Jerrick Maldonado

In what has been called “an act of sportsmanship beyond measure,” Clovis High School junior Jerrick Maldonado insisted on forfeiting his first-place medal to Piedra Vista senior Triston Charles after a Class 5A state championship in which Maldonado was declared the winner of a very tight race.

Although video replay is not used at state cross country events to help determine results, video taken of the race subsequently came to Maldonado’s attention. It showed Charles edging past Maldonado at the finish line.

In a conversation with his coach, Mark Bussen, Maldonado told him, “Coach, I’m not comfortable. I think Triston beat me. … I think I should have a second-place medal.”

Maldonado went to the New Mexico Activities Association and asked that it yield his first-place medal to Charles, which it did.

Still, Maldonado wound up being a winner. The NMAA awarded him a Compete With Class sportsmanship scholarship of $1,000, which Maldonado will be able to use toward college. Each school year, the NMAA awards eight such scholarships; this was the second handed out in 2019-20.

“It really is an act of sportsmanship beyond measure,” NMAA executive director Sally Marquez said. “It’s the most ‘Compete With Class’ thing that has happened.”

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