Honoring Utah immigrants as new pioneers

Wednesday the Salt Lake Chamber, Utah’s largest and longest-standing business association, recognized the incredible contributions immigrants make every day in Utah at the American Dream Awards.

The program was held at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center. Honorees included Aden Batar, Director of Immigration and Refugee Resettlement at Catholic Community Services; Senator Luz Escamilla, Utah State Senator and Vice President of Community Development at Zions Bank; Valter Nassi, Owner and Proprietor of Valter’s Osteria; and LDS Humanitarian Services.

“These awards help remind all of us about the positive impact immigrants have on our local communities,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.  “Through their hard work, innovation, integrity and dedication, the immigrants that we are honoring today have all made Utah a better place.”

To view the honoree videos: click here

More on this Year’s Honorees:

Aden Batar – Director of Immigration and Refugee Resettlement at Catholic Community Services

Aden Batar received his law degree from Somali National University. After marrying and starting a family, civil war broke out and Batar hid his family for two years. When his older son died as a result of the war, Batar and his family fled Somalia and came to Utah, the first refugees from Somalia to resettle in Utah. 

After spending two years studying at Utah State University, the Batar family moved to Salt Lake City and he took a job with Catholic Community Services to help with resettlement. He became director of the refugee program in 2001 and is still working to resettle refugees in Salt Lake City. For 25 years, he has fought valiantly to bring refugees to the state and to protect their rights and identity. Batar founded Somali Community Services; he also works to help the Islamic Society of Salt Lake, and volunteers with his family to benefit the refugee community in other ways.

In 2017, Batar was awarded the Gandhi Peace Award. The award is presented annually by the Utah Gandhi Alliance for Peace to recognize someone in the community who has worked tirelessly for peace and exemplifies the well-known quote by Gandhi, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

Senator Luz Escamilla – Utah State Senator and Vice President Community Development, Zions Bank

On November 4, 2008, Escamilla was elected to the Utah State Senate representing District 1 (west side of Salt Lake City and parts of West Valley City), becoming the first Latina elected to the Utah State Senate and the first immigrant elected in the Utah State Legislature. In 2012, and again in 2016, she was reelected to the Utah State Senate. Sen. Escamilla serves on the Senate leadership team as the Senate Assistant Minority Whip.

In 2005, Escamilla was appointed by Gov. Jon Huntsman as the first director for the State Office of Ethnic Affairs. In this position, she oversaw the directors of Asian, Black, Hispanic/Latino and Pacific Islander Affairs. She currently works as vice president for Zions Bank in the Community Development Group representing Zions Bank in community and business relationships across the states of Utah and Idaho. At Zions Bank, she was worked as director for the Business Resource Center, as well as the Hispanic/Latino Market manager.

Sen. Escamilla is committed to finding equity and justice for all people and has served in many capacities in different boards of nonprofit organizations and other agencies. She currently serves on the boards of Girl Scouts of Utah, Guadalupe Schools, Kingsbury Hall, Primary Children’s Medical Center and the College of Social and Behavioral Science Advisory Board for the University of Utah.

Valter Nassi – Owner and Proprietor of Valter’s Osteria

Valter Nassi is a seasoned restaurateur with experience in Italy, Switzerland, England and Kenya, as well as New York, Santa Fe and Salt Lake City. He was born in Italy, has trained all over the world, and has been in the restaurant business for well over 47 years. Nassi is the proud owner and proprietor of Valter’s Osteria in downtown Salt Lake City. Previously, he designed, developed and implemented the operation of many award-winning restaurants in Salt Lake including Cucina Toscana and Il Sansovino.

Over the years, Nassi also has received numerous recognitions for his accomplishments in Utah. He was awarded Salt Lake Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 and the Tourism Achievement Award from the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau that same year. Nassi speaks Italian, English, French and Spanish.

LDS Humanitarian Services 

Humanitarian Services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which operates LDS Charities, provides aid to people around the world without regard to cultural or religious affiliation.  In 2016, the Church responded to 147 countries on 2,630 projects with over 1,500 partners to serve millions of people worldwide.

Two ideas are at the core of the Humanitarian Services response is that 100% of every dollar donated is used to help those in need without regard to race, religion, or ethnic origin, and Humanitarian Services helps people attain self-sufficiency so they can be self-reliant long after Humanitarian Services departs.