Parents, friends, community leaders and local educators came to support the students, who were each awarded $1,000 at the September 12 event held under the tent on the grounds of the Center's headquarters on Mt. Prospect Avenue.
The annual scholarship started in 1980 to recognize students of Puerto Rican descent, but is open to all Latino students.
At the event, Essex County College President Dr. Gale Gibson and Board Chair Calvin Souder announced that the college, in partnership with The North Ward Center, would fund a two-year scholarship to a Latino student from Newark valued at more than $10,000. The scholarship will begin next year and will be awarded at The North Ward Center's dinner.
The 2013 award recipients were: Monica Rivera, Kelvin Mendez, Kelly Flores, Jaritza Ramos and Alan Garcia.
"The North Ward Center is very proud of the accomplishments of these young men and women who received scholarships," said Stephen N. Adubato, the founder of the North Ward Center. "These scholarships will help make their dreams a reality."
Rivera, 19, who graduated high school from St. Vincent Academy, is a sophomore at Caldwell College, where she is studying education. She said having younger siblings made her realize that she wanted to become a teacher.
"I have been inspired to enter the field of education, with the hopes of bringing my positive energy to the classroom," Rivera said. "I believe that being in college is another stepping stone that will lead me on the right path to success."
Mendez, who graduated from Christ the King High School, is a freshman at New Jersey Institute of Technology, where he is studying digital design.
Mendez said personal tragedy at an early age lead to his college major. His father died when he was just eight years old and his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
As a shy child growing up, I had few friends and never enjoyed socializing, especially when others would rather party and get into trouble," Mendez said. "To deal with all the things around me, I used video games as a distraction."
Mendez said video gaming allowed him to communicate with others all over the world, which helped him emerge from his shell.
"With digital design as my major, I plan to help others who are going through what I and many others have been through," Mendez said.
Kelly Flores expects to graduate from New Jersey City University in the spring with a degree in Spanish literature. Flores, who was born in Lima, Peru, came to the United States when she was 10.
When she was 15, Flores said her life changed drastically after her mother died. A year later she had her first child.
"This was the toughest time in my life because I was a single mother that had to work and go to school," Flores said.
She obtained her Medical Assistant Certification, had two more children, and was living paycheck to paycheck when she realized she wanted to go back to school and become a teacher.
"I can't say it was an easy journey and knew that I had to overcome obstacles but that didn't stop me from reaching my goals," Flores said. "I want to be a good example for all the Hispanic mothers in Newark. I want to be a teacher because I know that our children are the foundation of our society. I want to guide our children in the right direction."
Jaritza Ramos said she grew up in a household where neither parent finished high school and only obtained GEDs later in life. She took a different path, attending the prestigious boarding school, Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut, and just began her freshman year at Barnard College in New York City.
Although she has not picked a major yet, Ramos said she has a specific goal once she earns her college degree.
"My aspiration is to use my personal experience to motivate young students who were in the same position I was in a few years ago," Ramos said. My goal is to use my story to inspire other minority students and light a spark of hope in their lives that proves to them that they can make it too."
At 14, Alana Garcia was the youngest student to receive a scholarship. She just started her freshman year at The Ethel Walker School, another private boarding school in Connecticut.
Garcia said she is interested in studying science and would like to become a forensic scientist after she graduates from college.
"This goal cannot become a reality without me studying very hard and working to my fullest potential," Garcia said. "Education is vital and will be the guide that will lead to my success."
Adrianne Davis, the executive director of The North Ward Center, congratulated the students and wished them success in the future.
"The students who received these scholarships have exhibited academic excellence and triumphed over adversity," Davis said. "This is one of the most important events that we do because it gives us an opportunity to showcase the wonderful young men and women from our community."