Joe Zuniga is a true Renaissance man. Not only is he an esteemed Latin recording artist, but he also wears many other hats in his tireless pursuit of making a difference. An honorary mayor, author, activist and motivational speaker, but to the Padrinos, a group of Hillsborough County leaders, he is simply Joe, a man who embodies dedication and devotion.
Despite Zuniga’s incredible success and jam-packed schedule, he always finds the time to give back. One of his most significant contributions is his instrumental involvement with the Padrinos in producing the Nuestra Reina-Hillsborough Latina Scholarship Pageant. Last year, this event drew a crowd of more than 350 attendees, with the winner receiving a $2,500 scholarship.
“The Nuestra Reina-Hillsborough Scholarship Pageant started as an idea between four friends who are successful local Latino leaders with migrant backgrounds from disadvantaged communities that wanted to create something that would give back and make a difference in those same communities,” Zuniga said. “We wanted this yearly event to emulate how quinceñeras, bodas and bautismos get organized and funded by Padrinos (local business and individual sponsors), but instead of just a day of celebration we geared it towards education. We believe that education is key in helping our communities overcome adversity and want to do everything we can to make that possible. This is the pageant’s second year in existence, but with the growth that we have seen we expect it to last for years to come.”
In the spirit of traditional quinceañera fashion, local business owners play a vital role in sponsoring the participants. However, it is not just a financial exchange. The young women must earn their support by volunteering in the community and developing valuable leadership skills, such as public speaking, communication, fiscal responsibility and organization. In return, the businesses assist in providing dresses, items for the pageant and transportation to rehearsals and classes.
“It is a beautiful partnership that fosters collaboration and support,” Zuniga said. “What sets Nuestra Reina apart is its commitment to empowering young Latina women and encouraging them to be catalysts for positive change. The pageant showcases a comprehensive program that goes beyond the traditional pageantry elements of evening gowns and talent competitions. It also emphasizes teaching these women new ways to communicate and build confidence.”
The Nuestra Reina-Hillsborough Scholarship Pageant takes place at 4 p.m. on Sunday, February 18, at The Regent. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit its website at https://nuestrareinahillsborough.com/. The Regent is located at 6437 Watson Rd. in Riverview.