Two Latinas Will Receive Citizens Medals

Two Latinas will receive the 2012 Citizens Medal, an award which honors public service and exceptional contributions to community. On Friday, President Barack Obama will honor these women, the late Victoria Soto and Maria Gomez. Puerto-Rican teacher Victoria Soto was killed in the Newtown, CT shootings while protecting her young students, and Colombian Maria Gomez is the founder of Mary's Center in Washington D.C.

“It is my distinguished honor to award these individuals the 2012 Citizens Medal for their commitment to public service,” the president said in a statement released by the White House. “Their selflessness and courage inspire us all to look for opportunities to better serve our communities and our country.”

Victoria Soto hid her students in a closet, telling the shooter they were in the gym. When he didn't believe her, she jumped in front of the gun to shield her room from the bullets. All other teachers who gave their lives in this tragedy will also be receiving medals posthumously. 

Maria Gomez is the founder of Mary's Center, an organization that dedicates itself to "the delivery of health care, education and social services," according to their web site. "We embrace culturally diverse communities to provide them with the highest quality of care, regardless of ability to pay."

The Citizens Medal is the second-highest civilian honor, behind the Presidential Medal of Freedom. More than 6,000 public nominations were submitted since the award was opened for nominations in April of last year. According to the White House “President Obama is recognizing Americans whose work has had a significant impact on their communities but may not have garnered national attention.”