For Pumariega, 55, a Hialeah native and the first female president in the college’s history, the gravity of the award was extra special.
“This award is significant because it recognizes not just me, but women in the community doing transformational work,” she said. “Whether it’s about human trafficking, whether it’s about homelessness, or mental health. For us, it’s about education. We know at Miami Dade College the power education has to transform lives.”
Nearly 1,000 guests and volunteers attended the celebratory gathering at the Signature Grand event venue in Davie. Between performances by tango dancers, 13 Latina South Florida professionals in addition to Pumariega were recognized for their work in the legal sector, education and various other private- and public-sector industries. Proceed from this year’s event will benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
Each award recipient received flowers from Miss Florida 2023 Juliette Valle, before walking along a 50-foot runway amid cheers from their family, friends, coworkers and everyone in attendance.
Cuban American entertainer and businesswoman Gloria Estefan, who started her illustrious singing career in Miami, was not able to attend the lunch but sent a letter commemorating the honorees. Estefan’s message noted the contributions her mother Gloria and grandmother Consuelo made in her life and the community in which they lived.
“These women showed me that everything was possible, which is exactly what the recipients of this year’s distinction are showing all of us by their tenacity, innovation and dedication,” the singer, songwriter wrote.
Pumariega, meanwhile, called it a privilege to come back and serve a community college she attended that is also among the largest universities in America with an enrollment of over 100,000 students at eight campuses. Students of all ages have a place at Miami Dade College, and she takes pride in that.
As Miami-Dade County deals with a severe housing affordability crisis and steep inflation that’s elevated the cost of living, she sees the county’s college as a bridge to help South Florida residents develop necessary career skills to earn higher incomes.
“Talent is universal; opportunity is not,” she said. “What education gives you is the opportunities that can unlock your potential and the career pathway of your dreams.”