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Tina Ramirez, Cultural Trailblazer

In the early 1970s, Venezuela-born Tina Ramirez took her young dance troupe, Ballet Hispanico, to a school in Albany to give kids a taste of Latin American culture. When the dancers announced their Hispanic heritage, they were booed. "I remember thinking, Boo all you like. In the end you'll be applauding," says Ramirez. Her prediction came true. Today, Ballet Hispanico is an exuberant vehicle for Hispanic music, culture, and history—both a school and an acclaimed company that blends ballet with Latin dance forms. The rhythms also drive Ramirez's other mission: an educational outreach program called Primeros Pasos (First Steps) that sends dancers into schools nationwide. These days, they receive a much warmer reception. "A fourth-grader in Wisconsin said to me, 'I wish I was Puerto Rican.' That's the power of education—the power to touch."


*The name of this award was originally the Impact Award. In 2008, the awards were renamed as the Inspire Awards.

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