Carlos Alicea Jr Assistant Vice President, M&T Bank Co-Founder, With Open Arms
How did you get to where you are today? My career in banking spans over 17 years, with experience in every position within the branch model. Originally from New York City, I’ve been a resident of Orange County with my wife, two children and two dogs for over six years. I’m currently the Assistant Vice President / Branch Manager at M&T Bank and have worked to build both business and community relationships. I have a multicultural background that helps me to best serve the needs of a diverse community. I’m currently a member of the Goshen & Orange County Chamber of Commerce and a recent graduate of Leadership Orange. I volunteer for Habitat of Humanity Newburgh by helping to build homes and continuously providing resources to nonprofit organizations with the community. I’m also providing ongoing financial education for Orange Ulster BOCES. I recently started a nonprofit organization with my family providing resources to families in need through community fundraising, mental health education, outreach and advocacy. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My Wife, She has been the influential person in my life. She continues to challenge me to be a better person. I've been with her for over 18 years and through that time I've watched her be the first in her family to graduate with a master degree in social work while raising our two kids and working full time. She truly is something special and great inspiration for our daughter and son. How did you decide on your college major OR the career you have chosen? and how do you see your choice as an opportunity to help your community? Banking came to me, cause I needed a job. But it soon became an opportunity to educate myself in the financial market and to restore the quality and prestige of my industry. The customer and community approach, allows me to build relationship with my customers and community officials. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Puerto Rican Best memory of growing up. Time with my Grandmother, she truly was something special. Best memory of a day at school or work. The day I received approval from upper management to utilize M&T Bank Branch network as drop off locations to support the families affected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Working for an organization that believes in you and willing to support. Best day ever. The day my kids were born. Best book you ever read. Who moved my cheese? by Spencer Johnson M.D. Favorite quote? Be the change you want to see in the world - Mohandas Gandhi Favorite sports team. New York Yankees & New York Giants Favorite song Preciosa - Marc Anthony Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Don't limit yourself, continue to work hard for the things you want to achieve. Surround yourself with people that will challenge your abilities and make you better.
Rosangela Alicea Licensed Clinical Social Worker, OCDMH/ Inspire CP Co-Founder, With Open Arms Inc.
How did you get to where you are today? Buenos Dias, My Name is Rosangela. Better known to my clients & families as “Ms.Rosie”. I am a mother of two beautiful children, wife to my best friend, and Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Currently, I serve in several roles. I am a Community Mental Health Therapist with Orange County Dept. Mental Health providing Mental Health Services to Children & families within the Newburgh School District. I also recently began working with Inspire CP as Supervisor of Social Work for their Preschool program. This is a very exciting time for me and my family. We recently founded our non-for profit With Open Arms Inc. -Providing Mental Health Education, Resources, Advocacy and Consultation services to our local Orange County Community as well as our extended communities in the Bronx and Puerto Rico. Our mission is to serve our families with compassion & dignity while working to eliminate stigmas surrounding mental health. In working with my families, its very important for me to reinforce that my credentials or profession do not place me above them, but rather beside them with an open hand, to hold as needed and help support them on their journey. I work to practice and serve from a place of transparency that helps me to relate to my families because I have also faced poverty, diversity, bullying, failed high school and cope with loss and mental health everyday. We all have mental health, like our physical health, some of us are just coping with different and sometimes more severe ailments than others. With the proper care, treatment and support recovery is possible. My hope is to help provide an environment for them to do this surrounded by hope, compassion & dignity. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My mother, Veronica Manzano-Pagan. She has shown me what it means to be a strong, resilient, compassionate Latina. I have watched as she raised four of us, returned to school to completed her GED & College Degree and re-enter the workforce. She has always worked to care and provide for us. She has always opened our home to others, offers a home cooked meal and willing to help others in need. How did you decide on your college major OR the career you have chosen? and how do you see your choice as an opportunity to help your community? I was inspired to choose Social Work after hearing one of my Psychology Professors express his appreciation for the Social Workers who worked at the same hospital. He asked if any students were undecided. He encouraged us to look into the profession. Soon after, I scheduled an information session with the Dept. and while hearing about the program I felt like it finally put a 'title' to what I wanted to do in my life and how I wanted to help people. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Puerto Rican Best memory of growing up. Playing outside with my siblings in our Bronx neighborhood while hearing my mother singing along to spanish music playing from the house, aromas of home cooking. Best memory of a day at school or work. Collaborating with others to help a family in need. Small accomplishments at work like a break thru in session, helping to locate a foster home for a child, a clients sense of pride after meeting one of their goals. It feels like We changed the world, even if only for a moment. Best day ever. A day of rest, outdoors, experiencing something new with my family. Experiencing a beautiful scenery & great food. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service Major- Clinical Social Work Best book you ever read. I am a big fan of Jodi Picoult's work and have read & loved most of her books. Favorite quote? "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel" - Maya Angelou Favorite sports team. NY Giants Favorite song I love music and my favorite songs change with seasons. One of my favorites is Adele's rendition of "Make You Feel My Love" Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Being Latinx is a prize! Do not limit yourself to learning about our culture & heritage from textbooks alone. Instead, embrace and encultrate yourself by seeking our history thru experience of music, art, food and listening to the stories from our family, friends, neighbors, and ancestors. Do not hide your culture, seek opportunities to educate others. Practice your Spanish regularly!
Sebastian Chica Mortgage Loan Officer Quantum Mortgage
How did you get to where you are today? Sebastian’s mission as a mortgage professional is to help consumers transform real estate scenarios into reality by offering superb service, transparency and partnership. He is passionate about creatively finding ways to help individuals reach their financial goals by assisting with purchase and refinance transactions. Sebastian is a member of the National Association for Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. He was recently nominated by the Westchester Hispanic Coalition for the 2018 New York's Top 40 Under 40 Rising Stars. Sebastian partners with the Small Business Development Center, a U.S government agency helping entrepreneurs and businesses access capital for transactions. He gives back to the community and specifically first time home buyers by providing seminars to broad audiences regarding products and solutions available through a variety of lenders. He has been providing consultative financial services to consumers for over five years with industry leaders like Automated Data Processing (ADP) and Paychex INC. At Paychex INC., Sebastian served as the single point of contact for the Archdiocese of New York. Prior to his financial services background, Sebastian worked for a large third party retailer in the telecom industry holding manger positions from 2009 to 2013 including piloting his own B to B team. Sebastian came to the United States from Colombia at a very young age. He was raised by his mother and father in Port Chester, New York. A lifetime soccer athlete, Sebastian was recruited by Manhattanville College where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Finance. Sebastian enjoys coaching soccer in Mamaroneck for 2nd and 3rd grade boys and girls. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? I have had several influential people in my life and they have been God as he has shinned light on the paths I have taken in life to get to where I am today. I have had two major business mentors in my career. One is the Executive Vice President to my first career path in the telecom business. This individual took me under his wing and gave me the exposure and opportunity to do business with him, run my own teams and pilot my very own B to B team in NJ. Secondly, my current President at Quantum Mortgage. Him and I met when I was very young and briefly explained what he did as a mortgage professional. Five years down the road he has brought me on to his family business and provided me a well of knowledge. How did you decide on your college major OR the career you have chosen? and how do you see your choice as an opportunity to help your community? I graduated with a Finance degree from Manhattanville College. Unfortunately, my legal status in the country at the time did not allow me to take advantage of internships and fell in love with business. I chose the field I am in today as it is a very intricate and involved business. I am able to use my knowledge of government guidelines and bank requisites to help individuals achieve their financial goals in real estate. I truly love this part of my job as I am directly and positively assisting the community on a daily basis. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? I was born in Manizales, Colombia. Best memory of growing up. My best memory growing up was a vacation my family to florida a very long time ago. I remember it the most as it was one of the last times my family was all united as my father went back to Colombia. Best memory of a day at school or work. The best memory of a day at work was my first closing. I fell in love with the concept of bringing hard working individuals to the closing table and helping them achieve their dreams of owning a home. Best day ever. My best day ever was the day I graduate college and being the first out of my direct family to do so as I am a first generation American. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Manhattanville College class of 2011 and graduated with a Major in Finance and Minored in Advanced Spanish Best book you ever read. Rich Dad Poor Dad Favorite quote? Success isn't owned. It's leased and rent is due every day Favorite sports team. New York Knicks Favorite song December, 1963 ( Oh What A Night) Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. As Latinos, we need to help one another in any way possible in order to elevate our level of success and knowledge. Do not let anything hold you back from being who you want to be as everything is possible with honesty, hard work and dedicated.
Paul-Anthony Cuesta Director, Community Gardening Habitat for Humanity of Westchester
How did you get to where you are today? I am the son of two immigrants. My mother is from Cali, Colombia and my father is from Saint-Marc Haiti. My life has been a rollercoaster ride full of ups and down which has empowered me to be the man I am today, more specifically as an advocate for the environment. I grew up in the city of New Rochelle, NY through the city's public school system and eventually attended both Westchester Community College and Manhattanville College.
My environmental engagement dates back to my time as a member of Troop 11 of the Boy Scouts of America and volunteering for my neighborhood's environmental "Glenwood Lake Association". In 2015 I was given the honor of receiving the County's Earth Day award from the then Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and connected with Jim Killoran of Habitat for Humanity of Westchester. After Jim assisted me with the planting of a White Oak Tree and a White Pine tree at SUNY Westchester Community College in honor of two deceased members of the college community, he notified me of his need of students and young members of the county community to assist the Community Gardening program of Habitat for Humanity of Westchester. He feared that growing our own food is becoming a lost art among the future of our community. I remember discussing how society now evolved into a generation of humans that order fruits off of amazon.com when there is so much land that could be cultivated for agriculture.
Since 2015 I have been assisting Jim with his efforts and we are currently in the process of connecting with the Student Leaders (and the Student Governments) for the 11 colleges in westchester county to create a Youth Council to streamline community garden to students across all academic majors. Habitat for Humanity of Westchester currently oversees 14 Community Gardens throughout the county and is in need of the future of our county's working class to bring back the art of growing our own produce. We are currently restructuring Habitat's efforts in community engagement for the environment and will be streamlining an internship program to enhance the personal portfolios of our volunteers. In 2019 we plan to unleash a "Green Wave" on the county of westchester.
I have not forgotten where I have come from, nor the struggles of my parents. I currently also work part-time in the English Language Institute of SUNY Westchester Community College as an Office Assistant. In this position I assist with the annual registration of over 5,000 students into the college's ESL program. This position is extremely therapeutic for me and allows me to assist the immigrant population of my county as they pursue American Citizenship. I wouldn't be where I am today without the support of my Parents. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My grandparents on both sides. My paternal grandparents never hesitate to tell me about the struggles my father had to endure for my "American Dream". I am constantly reminded that my Dad studied under candles to qualify for a 1978 student visa which resulted in me living in a house with a Wi-Fi n etwork. My maternal grandparents pushed me to learn Spanish at a young age and shared with me the struggles my mother had assimilating into America due to language barriers. I am constantly being told that life isn't about where you go, it's about where you came from. How did you decide on your college major OR the career you have chosen? and how do you see your choice as an opportunity to help your community? Environmental engagement is something that I always been passionate about. It empowers me through the sacrifice for a cause that's bigger than myself. The current administration of our President's White House is destroying numerous environmental protection laws from President Obama and is rolling back the incentives for business to go green with renewable clean energy. Offshore drilling and fracking is being done at a time when we have the technology to be completely on clean energy.
People on a local level need to stand up to fight back for what's needed for the future of our planet. We have the technology to make fossil fuels a chapter of our past, but are unable to push past the deep pockets of the people controlling the Republican members of Congress. In February I left the Republican Party due to my inability to accept their apathy towards the damage being done to our planet on a daily basis. Mother nature is bigger than politics and needs to be prioritized for it preservation among future generations. My decision to support the environment has allowed me to empower individuals with the tools that they need to become stronger advocates from the environment. From community gardening to even getting businesses certified among green standards through sustainable practices. We all need to give back for the future of our planet. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Colombia (Maternal) & Haiti (Paternal). Best memory of growing up. Hanging out with my cousins in long island. My mother is one of 9 siblings (7 sisters and 2 brothers) who bore 16 children in America. I would spend just about every weekend in Amityville and Babylon, Long Island playing soccer, listening to salsa and exposing myself to the Colombian culture that they preserved for my older brother and cousins to learn. Best memory of a day at school or work. My favorite memories through habitat are seeing the numerous people of different backgrounds come assist us through volunteerism. So many different cultures and job role coming together for the future of our community. Best day ever. My favorite day would probably be speaking to Monica and hearing that I was selected as a Rising Star. I told my father who gave me a huge hug and told me how proud he was of me. He also informed that the recognition is bigger than me and should motivate me to keep pushing forward for our family. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? I attended Manhattanville College for a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies. I currently attend Westchester Community College for Environmental Science with plans to transfer to PACE University. Best book you ever read. I'm a huge fan of the Percy Jackson series. Read them during my high school days. Favorite quote? "Moreno soy porque nací de la rumba Y el sabor yo le heredé del guaguancó" ~Moreno Soy, La Sonora Poncena Favorite sports team. Los Cafeteros de la Seleccion para Colombia! Favorite song El Muñeco de la Ciudad - Bobby Valentin Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. To never allow ANYONE to tell you what you should be and what you can't do. Our people have overcome tough struggles and we have to take advantage of the tools we have at our disposal to empower our fellow members of the latino community. We are the future, but we have to start working now.
Noe Del Cid President/ Creative Director Peace Nation Inc.
How did you get to where you are today? I am where I am today because I grew up in loving, supportive, creative, ambitious family. My story is not as much about me as it is about them, because through their journey they were able to provide a platform for me to built upon. Immigrants to the US from Guatemala, my family came to NY in 1990 I was five years old. My family has an entrepreneurship mentality coming from a lineage of DIYers farmers in Guatemala. My dad has been a huge influence in me as I grew up with him making business deals, reading great books on self improvement and positive thinking. He gave me my first Dale Carnegie Book when i was 15. It was the 90’s we were a young family of 4, my parents were two low income kids from single mother households; who met in Guatemala city from farms and decided to come to America pursing the American dream. I saw their journey and their struggles and still persevere. The did what they set out to. They own their own business, have a beautiful house in the suburbs, raised their kids and provided us with an education. This showed me what is possible. With a good education in which you can expand your world view, learn about your place in the universe, on Earth, in humanity and see and learn about our interconnectedness with the world arounds us. I fortunate to go to great school system in Westchester graduating from Horace Greeley HS., Westchester Community College w/AAB in Business Marketing, and attending New Paltz School of Business. Influenced by great business and thought leaders. Carl Sagan, Dale Carnegie, Alan Watts, Henry Ford, Nikola Tesla, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk, Jacque Fresco and the like. To think outside the box and to think with reason. To see into the future and to see what is possible. In the journey to carve out my own path I have worn many hats. I’ve been a landscaper, realtor, restaurateur, event planner, clothing designer, and recent renovator. Always learning. now we live in a different environment. Our lifestyle for the past century has caught up with us. Our Oceans are polluted, people are getting sick, climate change is real with storms and draughts are record levels. We live in a divisive environment of red and blue, black or white, native or immigrant. So as an entrepreneur this is the platform on which we have to build a business upon. This is Peace Nation. We are a New York based organization whose mission is to provide goods and services that are created in an environmentally responsible way. We use our profits grow our initiatives. We want to spread a message of oneness, unity, and compassion. We want to help protect the environment, respect nature, and each other. Now we have a cafe, sourcing as local and organic as possible. Reducing our impact by recycling, composting, and source our electricity from wind farms upstate. Our take out containers are compostable and cups/straws are made from corn. We host art openings, open mics and community gatherings. Our next step is to relaunch a hemp and organic cotton line of apparel, which will allow us to spread our message to a bigger audience. Of course this is not the answer to our problems but I believe small changes overtime can have an impact. The best way to way to help the world is to be the best humans we can be, and be the change we want in the world. With that said I look forward to the future because in the darkness we can see the light, and I see many amazing humans around me and around the world shining their light, and that gives me hope. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My parents have been the most influential people in my life as they have shown me what passion and purpose look like. That dream are goals when written down, and that life is what we make of it. That we have two hands, one help ourselves and the other to help others. How did you decide on your college major OR the career you have chosen? and how do you see your choice as an opportunity to help your community? I decided to pursue business because when I was indecisive about what I wanted to be, business encompasses the world around us, whether it be arts, science, tech, food or health care. My choice can benefit my community because I believe in redefining the traditional business model by adding people, community, and nature into an economic factors. Considering other stakeholders and how the business affects them instead of just just pursuing profits. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Guatemalan Best memory of growing up. Best memory of growing up was getting my first car. It really give you a sense of independence freedom that is worth Gold! Best day ever. A day when my family was together, everyone was healthy, and we didn't have a care in the world. Feel asleep on the couch. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Graduated from Cuny Westchester Business marketing, attended SUNY New Paltz School of Business. Best book you ever read. Think and grow Rich. Napoleon Hill. Favorite quote? "Be a lover, not a fighter. But always fight for what you love" Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Dream big even if you are starting small. Invest early because the power of compound interest. Learn improve your self because your are your best asset. Eat good, exercise, your health is everything, it effects your whole life. Make time for family and friends. Life is meant to be lived, its as much about the journey as it is about the goal. Always see the good in people and never hold a grudge. Smile at strangers.
Inaudy Esposito Executive Director Orange County Human Rights Commission
How did you get to where you are today? Inaudy Esposito was born in Dominican Republic, and immigrated to the Bronx when she was 7 years old with her parents and siblings. She obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in School Psychology from the Universidad Iberoamericana, in Dominican Republic. While in the Dominican Republic, Inaudy worked as an elementary school teacher, and in a juvenile detention facility assisting in aiding criminally convicted youth assimilate successfully back into society. Inaudy moved to the Hudson Valley in 2003 when returning to the United States, and obtained a Master’s Degree in School Counseling from Hunter College in NYC. Inaudy is vastly experienced and trained in the intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking fields. She was an English as a Second Language Instructor at SUNY Orange for over 10 years, and has sat on various boards and committees, including the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Orange County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Northeastern NY Coalition of Crime Victim Service Providers, and the Newburgh Ministries. She was recognized as an Orange County Woman of Achievement in 2014, honored by the Orange County Democratic Women, and recognized by the Junior League of Orange County as an Orange County Rising Star in 2018. She is a sought after speaker, and has presented at numerous conferences, including the 2018 TEDxNewburgh, where she discussed diversity and privilege in her talk “Turning Differences into Strengths.” Inaudy continues to work tirelessly to fight oppression, racism, sexism, and homophobia in her community, and is currently serving as the Executive Director for the Orange County Human Rights Commission. Inaudy attributes much of her drive and accomplishments to her parents, and the significant influence of key women in her life. She is grateful to be able to do the work she loves, in much part thanks to the support of her husband Nick. Above all, she is the mother of two amazing children Gabriel and Alessandra- who are being proudly raised in a household where equity and respect for everyone is the norm, and differences are celebrated. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My parents. My mother because I can only pray that I inherit half of her strength, resilience, and wisdom in my lifetime. And my father, because it is thanks to his vision, commitment and sacrifices he made for the sake of our family is why I am where I am today. How did you decide on your college major OR the career you have chosen? and how do you see your choice as an opportunity to help your community? This career chose me. From an early age I remember questioning societal norms and wanting to go against the grain of what was expected. As an adult, working with victims and survivors of gender violence taught me that social justice work was what I was meant to do. During one of the most difficult times for immigrants and women of color in recent times, I found an opportunity and went for it. I was honored (and very much in shock!) to be appointed the privilege of fulfilling my current role. My identities, my privileges, my experience and my values have helped me carry it out in a way that can make my community proud. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Dominican Best memory of growing up. Hot and humid days of Summers in the Dominican Republic, spent with family and friends on the sidewalks, front stoops, and "la galleria" of those I miss the most. Best memory of a day at school or work. The day I gave my TEDx talk "Turning Differences into Strengths." Sharing a small part of my experience on such a prestigious platform, has helped me spread my message in a way I never dreamed of. Best day ever. 1/10/11 and 2/16/14- the days I welcomed my children into our lives, and realized my purpose in life was to love them unconditionally and give them all I have. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? I received my Bachelor's Degree in School Psychology from Universisad Iberoamericana de Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic, and my Masters in Science in School Counseling from CUNY Hunter College in the Bronx. Best book you ever read. El Alquimista- Paulo Coelho Favorite quote? “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” ― Audre Lorde Favorite sports team. I don't follow sports. Favorite song Any song by Marc Anthony Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Find your strength, hone it, and use it. Then, use the privileges you have to help lift those around you. Together (an only together) we can be an unstoppable force.
Giancarlo Llaverias Legislator Dutchess County Legislature
How did you get to where you are today? After being paralyzed from the waist down in 2011 and regaining his ability to walk at the end 2012 Giancarlo decided to become involved in his community. In 2013 Giancarlo became a minister and launched a grassroots organization called Peace to Progress. The objective of this program was to help youth find after school resources that Dutchess County could not. Giancarlo has mentored and has spoken to over 400 young people and have helped them find jobs, go to college, and reduce the risk of gang membership. In 2015, Giancarlo started interning for former Senator Terry Gipson as his Poughkeepsie Liaison. After that election cycle, Giancarlo continued helping the community helping immigrant families as a paralegal for Legal Services of the Hudson Valley. After losing 30 of his friends to drugs and violence and not getting answers from local elected officials, he mobilized and made the decision to run for the Dutchess County Legislature District 1 seat in 2017. If he won the seat he would be the first Latino ever elected to the District 1 seat in the 50 year history of the legislature; On November 3 2017, Giancarlo won the District 1 seat by 56%. Giancarlo has been outspoken on the issues of education, the opioid epidemic, and immigration pressuring state and local officials to grant drivers licenses to immigrants. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My younger brother Daniel, he inspires me to always be better. Even though I am 10 years older, him and I are very close. I constantly want to make him proud and be able to set the example for him to be even better then me. If he sees his brother do the right things, he will do even greater things. How did you decide on your college major OR the career you have chosen? and how do you see your choice as an opportunity to help your community? I decided to get into politics because I have lost 30 of my friends to drugs and violence over 8 years and there were no answers form elected officials as to why this was happening and how to solve it. At the same time my parents struggled to make ends meet and to become upward mobile. With all of this in mind I ran for public office to seek answers for the parents of my dead friends and to help others understand what they can do to be better. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Dominican/ Peruvian Best memory of growing up. Best memory growing up is dancing with my mom in the living room while cleaning and playing sports with my dad Best memory of a day at school or work. Best memory at work is when I was able to start the conversation of creating a youth center in Dutchess County Best day ever. June 28th 2011, my brother Daniel was born Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? I majored in Organizational Communication and Psychology at SUNY New Paltz Best book you ever read. Fallen Angels - Walter Dean Myers Favorite quote? "he fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people." - Cesar Chavez Favorite sports team. New York Giants Favorite song Nocturne in C sharp minor- Chopin Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. We are the world's next future and at this moment you have the greatest weapon on earth and that weapon is you. You are the only person in the world with your style, intelligence, charisma, and attitude. Develop your talents into skills and by simply being who you are, you will change the world. Do not let hard times let you forget how great you are, because your life is the inspiration someone will need to continue fighting for their dreams. Continue on your path and remember to have fun and to love those who love you and to love those that hate you, because we all need love to make this world a better place.
Janet M. Rolon Deputy Executive Director Community Resource Center formerly known as the Hispanic Resource Center of Larchmont and Mamaroneck
How did you get to where you are today? Janet Rolon is the Deputy Executive Director at the Community Resource Center (CRC) (also known as Hispanic Resource Center of Larchmont and Mamaroneck). Community Resource Center (CRC) is a 501 (C) 3 community-based organization dedicated to empowering new immigrants in Westchester to become self- sufficient and active members of the community. Janet oversees the Case Management Department including the provision of immigration services. She has provided immigration services since 2006 under the supervision of Professor Vanessa Merton from Immigration Justice Center and since 2015 under the supervision of Steph anie Ramos, Esq. CRC was recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals, and she received BIA accreditation in 2015. Janet began her career at the CRC--then Hispanic Resource Center of Larchmont and Mamaroneck—as a Day Laborer Organizer. Over her fifteen years of public service, she has grown to an adept service provider and now immigration legal representative. Janet’s passion for immigrant empowerment is seen through her incredible community advocacy. As a Peruvian immigrant herself, Janet is proud to represent her people through CRC’s mission and overall programs and services. Janet holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is BIA Accredited, and a Notary Public. Janet represents the CRC on the New York Immigration Coalition Steering Committee, Human Trafficking Task Force. Janet also sits on the Board of the Westchester Domestic Violence Council and the Westchester Women’s Agenda. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Peruvian Favorite sports team. Peruvian national soccer team Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. I am honored to receive this award, but the true reward is the impact that I have been able to make in immigrants' lives. I didn't decide to pursue a career in social justice, it found me. I hope that young Latinos will feel the same drive that I did to help advance our community.
Kevindaryán Luján Legislator Orange County Legislature
How did you get to where you are today? Kevindaryán Luján is a city of Newburgh resident whose family has lived in the Hudson Valley for over 30 years. He is a first generation Colombian American, who was raised by a single mother and grandmother. Mr. Luján has a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Florida International University in Miami, Florida and a Master’s degree in International Relations and European Studies from Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. He is fluent in English, French and Spanish and a beginner in Mandarin and Arabic.
Mr. Luján has been a fervent advocate for increased funding for public schools, improved public transportation, affordable housing and has dedicated his life towards combatting systemic problems such social, racial and economic justice. Mr. Luján began his career in politics as a Deputy Field Organizer for Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney representing District 18 in 2014 and has since worked on numerous local, state and federal campaigns across the Hudson Valley. Mr. Luján is a member of numerous local and regional organizations such as the Orange County Planned Parenthood Action Council, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, the NAACP, the City and Town of Newburgh Democratic committees, the Orange County Young Democrats and the Orange County Democratic committee.
Mr. Luján was elected to the Orange County Legislature, representing Newburgh’s district 4 last November. He is the first Latino ever elected and amongst the youngest legislators ever elected in Orange County history. Mr. Luján was recently a candidate for the 104th Assembly district, previously held by the late Assemblyman Frank Skartados, where he placed in 2nd in a 5 way primary. He currently dedicates himself to working with young progressive leaders and mentoring young people to get involved in politics. He has been a guest speaker at Vasser, Bard and Marist College. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My mother and grand mother, equally. My mother immigrated to the United States from Colombia when she was my age. She left everything she ever knew and brought only what she could carry. She is the first person in our family to own a home. My mother was 10 years when she came to the US and she had me at the age of 16. While everyone said her life was over, she went on to get her Bachelor degree from Mount Saint Mary College, her Graduate degree from Columbia University and her Juris Doctorate from Florida Coastal University. I was raised by strong, independent and fearless women. How did you decide on your college major OR the career you have chosen? and how do you see your choice as an opportunity to help your community? I traveled extensively since the age of 12 and I always felt so attached to learning new languages and about different cultures, traditions, religions and customs. Each country I traveled to I learned something different. Today, I have a Bachelor and Master in International Relations, fluent in three languages and a beginner in at least two. I always wanted to be a Diplomat and in many ways that is precisely what I became. I represent one of the most diverse communities in NY State and it that dedication to diversity as a strength that allows me to bridge communities. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Colombian Best memory of growing up. When I was 18 years old, and still uncertain about what I wanted to study, I moved to Beijing, China on my own. While I had previously lived in France on my own, I knew that this was going to be drastically different. From the moment I landed, I remember taking in all the sounds, smells and sights and realizing that my life was never going to be the same. I remember having huge bags with no wheels and dragging them into the hotel. I was completely alone and for the first two weeks, I hardly found anyone that spoke English. I remember being euphoric, calling home and being filled with joy, fear and excitement all at once. When the moment passed, I knew I was going to make it. That first day in China, I learned a lot about myself and every day after reinforced that initial lesson. Throw me in the middle of anywhere and I will survive. Best memory of a day at school or work. A few weeks after the Parkland shooting in Florida, a resolution made its way to the Orange County legislature that would have allowed the sheriff’s office to receive funds from NRA for training and ammunition in the amount of $3,650. In the days leading up to that vote, I had made a decision that I knew would be unpopular amongst many of my fellow democrats and that I knew it would bring me under fire by republicans. The day of our legislative session, I continued to plead with my democratic caucus to vote against receiving these funds. In the end, only one other legislature stood with me as we voted against receiving these funds. The resolution passed 19-2 and while I was disappointed in my colleagues, I knew in that moment that no matter what would come, I had done the right thing. I had paid tribute to the thousands of young men and women that had spoken up after the Parkland shooting and those that perished. In the days and weeks that followed several people wrote letters to the editor supporting the only two legislators that stood up against the current. Some times the small battles are just as important as the big ones. Best day ever. The day I was elected Orange County Legislator. That day was the culmination of a year of hard work. It was important for many reasons. Only a year before, I recalled the sadness I felt during the Presidential elections as our country fell to radical nationalists. The people that surrounded me, myself included, we needed to feel hope and protesting and rallying simply wasn't enough for us. A year later, we found ourselves celebrating a victory for our entire community, for young people, for Latinos, for progressives. It was a reminder of what we could do, when we fought back. Many in that room never thought they would see the day a Latino would be elected to public office, let alone one under the age of 35. It was an honor to be able to show my community that it can be done and to be able to inspire new leaders to find their own voice. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Florida International University in Miami, Florida and a Master’s degree in International Relations and European Studies from Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. Best book you ever read. Naricisse and Goldmund - Herman Hesse The Alchemist - Paublo Coelho Favorite quote? "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." President Barack Obama Favorite sports team. Colombian National Futbol Team Favorite song La Vie en Rose - Edith Piaf Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. You will always hear people talk about how much they want to see young people more involved, more women, more people of color. However, the moment you begin to speak up and your ideas conflict with their world view and their prejudices, you soon find yourself isolated. They will hold you at different standards as everyone else, they will tell you to wait your turn, they will try to explain how complicated issues are and how you still don't understand, how you are too ambitious. When I ran for office, the door was closed. So my team and I made our own door and walked through it without asking for permission. Surround yourself with people that dream as big as you do, do what you love and always look forward. It will never seem like work, you will always feel like you are growing and the better days will always be ahead of you. Above all, dare to dream and be ambitious.
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