8th Anniversary, Awards And Scholarship Gala


By Karl Villanueva

Veteran Belizean broadcaster Dr. Rene Villanueva accepted the Distinguished Person of the Year Award on Saturday at a Gala hosted by the United Belizeans of Northern Illinois (UBNI).

Celebrating their 8th Annual Awards and Scholarship Gala at the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Gurnee, Illinois, the non-profit 40- member organization toasted three awardees and thirteen scholarship recipients.

On behalf of Love FM Foundation, Dr. Rene Villanueva accepted a check for $US 2,000.00 from UBNI and also delivered the Keynote Address. His remarks were directed specifically to the young scholars encouraging them to utilize all their God-given talent and to be a positive force in their community.

President Wayne Bowen welcomed more than three-hundred attendees which included local Government officials and representatives of various Belizean community organizations.

Master of Ceremony for the charitable event was Karl E. Villanueva, President of the Preservation of Belizean History and Culture Foundation of Chicago.

Chairperson Lety Castellanos gave the closing remarks and conducted various raffles offering iconic Belizean products.

2018 United States Scholarship Recipients

Elizabeth Valdez

Elizabeth Valdez is currently a senior at Bradley University. I will be graduating in May 2019 with a Bachelors of Science in Finance and a minor in Management and Leadership. My beliefs are family, faith, and trust. I am grateful for the support that I receive from my family, friends, and community but most importantly from my mom. I believe that anything is possible with hard work and determination.

Rolando Santos

Rolando Santos will be attending the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I will be majoring in Computer Science there. I believe that the road to success is not linear. There are many twists and turns along the way. What’s important isn’t how we get through these twists and turns, it’s what we learn from them and use these lessons to better ourselves.

Sugeli Mai

Sugeli Mai is attending College of Lake County; she is majoring in Paralegal studies. Sugeli's career goal is to have her masters in Law and becoming a Criminal Lawyer. Sugeli believes that everyone deserves to feel safe in their community. She also believes that having an education is so important because, nobody can take your education away.

Kadir Castellanos

Kadir Castellanos will be attending Dominican University where he will be majoring in international relations and criminology. He believes that through hard work and dedication anything is possible. His career goal is to become an international lawyer.

Kelsie Lamb

Kelsie Lamb will be entering her final year at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Next spring, she will graduate with degrees in Elementary Education and History. During the past three years, she has volunteered in multiple Milwaukee schools and been an active member of Marquette’s Latin American Student Organization. Kelsie is grateful for UBNI’s continued support and recognition.

Areli Calderon

Areli Calderon will be attending University of Illinois at Springfield, and will be majoring in psychology (clinical/counseling) with a minor in communications. She believes that as the resident assistant for first-generation students she will be able to raise cultural awareness and diversity. Her goal is to develop through her healing process to help others through counseling in the future.

Anahi Canul

I’m from San Antonio Rio Hondo Village, Belize. I attended Muffles College High School in Orange Walk Town and I am currently a student at Judson University in Elgin. I am a Psychology major in the pursuit of becoming a psychotherapist or Clinical psychologist. I have three younger sisters and I love my family. I also enjoy reading, playing soccer, laughing and serving God.

Mirtha Vidal

Mirtha Vidal, a hospice caregiver originally from Benque Viejo del Carmen awarded the Distinguished Service Award.

Distinguished Persons and Achievement Awards

Mirtha Vidal, a hospice caregiver originally from Benque Viejo del Carmen, awarded the Distinguished Service Award, Michael Nerheim, Lake County State's Attorney awarded Distinguished Partner of the Year. Dr. Gene C. Crume Jr, President of Judson University also awarded the Distinguished Service Award.  College scholarships were awarded to Kadir Castellanos. Areli Calderon, Anahi Canul, Kelsie Lamb, Sugeli Mai, Rolando Santos and Elizabeth Valdez. Credit: Karl Villanueva

2018 UBNI Four-year Scholarship Recipients in Belize

High school scholarships were awarded to Ismael Longsworth, Lishawn Lian Coc, Jair Mora, Estrellita Tuyub, Arcela Tush and Analee Requena. Each student represented a District in Belize. Credit: Karl Villanueva

Honorable Members And Guests

President Wayne Bowen welcomed more than three-hundred attendees which included local Government officials and representatives of various Belizean community organizations. Also attending were reigning pageant royalty including: Queen of the Bay Illinois, 2018 (Miss Sarida Anderson) Miss. Y Illinois, 2018 (Miss Lavern Shelly Andrews) and Miss Y Illinois, 2017 (Mrs. Idolly Conorqui-Abrams) accompanied by Birdy Haggerty Ph.D. and Ms. Laura Cacho.

Gala Dance and Photo-ops!

DJ King Lion and DJ Cassanova provided music for a grand dance that followed. Credit: Karl Villanueva


"Education is a gift that no one can take away." American Proverb



We are a charity focused on supporting education scholarships for Belizean-Americans in Belize and the United States. We promote the awareness of Belizean culture and traditions, ensure self-improvement and provide social activities for our members and guests. We sponsor and support events that benefit the Belizean community to strengthen mutual understanding throughout the local community.

President: Wayne Bowen, Sr.

Vice President: Lety Castellanos


Co-Secretary: Luz Romero

Treasurer: Ruby Zetina

Asst. Treasurer: Guadalupe Valdez