Chelsea A. Batista Medical Student, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
how did you get to where you are today? I am a twenty-two year-old Dominican-American, born and raised in Brooklyn. I come from a very large family of immigrants who came to the US in order to provide a better life for their children. My parents led by example and were some of the first and the few in their families to get college degrees. I followed their example and acted on their reassurances that I could accomplishment anything I put my mind to. So, when I thought about becoming a doctor, they were confident in my abilities. Even when I was unsure of my capabilities, they were not. I persevered and I achieved more than I had ever hoped. I was not only interviewed by over dozen schools but immediately accepted by eleven of them. My goal was simply to get into one medical school, any school that would have me, because I knew that I would work hard and thrive wherever I ended up. Now, I am a medical student at one of the most renowned universities in the country, surrounded by incredibly innovative health professionals, and given opportunities to learn and practice in some of the best healthcare institutions in the world. I am humbled by how far I've come and by how much I have left to go. I am also proud that all the work I have done to make it this far has brought me farther than I could have ever imagined. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? Every person who has ever supported me and pushed me, even those who doubted me, has had a significant influence on my life. However, my parents are by far the two most important and most influential people in my life. They both have supported me in different ways. They often have more faith in me than I have in myself. They never told me there was anything I couldn't do. Every step of the way, they were there supporting me and urging me on. Their faith and their pride in me and my goals have been some of the most wonderful gifts I have been given throughout my life and down my chosen career path. 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 have wanted to become a physician since I finished middle school. As I was discovering what I found fulfilling and what I would want to gain from my future career, my goals evolved and eventually I realized how much I could do and what I could accomplish as a doctor. From the moment my decision was made, I knew that my main goal would be to give back to the community that raised me and others in need. I am a strong advocate for increasing the health literacy in underserved communities and prioritizing preventive medicine over palliative solutions. I feel that in my profession I would be in a uniquely advantageous position to directly affect my community. I want to treat the patients on a small scale in the clinics and hospitals, as well as the larger scale through pushing health policy reform and improving overall quality of care. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? My family heritage is from the Dominican Republic. My parents both immigrated from different regions of the DR. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, and raised by a family of majority Dominican immigrants. Best memory of growing up. I have a very large family. I have over a hundred relatives and grew up with a solid circle of about a dozen cousins in my age group. My fondest memories of growing up are the times I spent playing with my cousins in the house my great-grandmother lived in before she passed. I called the house "Headquarters" because almost everyone on my mom's side of the family had lived in that house at one time or another. And get-togethers and parties were often held there. I would play with Jonathan and Jenny and Annette while the adults talked and dance. My cousins and I would spread gossip and share secrets and play tag and hide-and-seek. Even after great-grandma Rosa passed away, the house was still the center of our family. Some of my best childhood memories happened in that house. All those memories stem from the fact that I was blessed enough to come from a big, boisterous, wonderful family that placed high value on community and togetherness and love. Best memory of a day at school or work. In high school, one of my very first jobs was actually as a volunteer tutor for elementary and middle school students in the city. I remember one day that I was assigned a 4th-grade boy to tutor, with the disclaimer that he was rowdy and non-compliant and that other tutors hadn't had luck with getting him to focus on his work. I remember meeting him and immediately knowing why people thought that... and why they were wrong. He was easily distracted and a bit rebellious, but I sat him down and spoke to him like a grown-up. I could see I surprised him by asking him what he wanted and working to compromise with his goals and mine. Even when his goals were just wanting to play games on the computer, I would make sure to incorporate that into my time with him as a reward for effort and hard-work. I told him I would respect him even if he didn't respect me, but that I hoped he would try because I wanted to help him. By the end of my shift that day, we had worked through all of his homework, all of the extra exercises I had planned, and he played on the computer for twenty minutes. He ended up being one of my favorite students, and one of those that made the most progress in his studies. This is one of my favorite memories because it was one of the first moments I realized how much it mattered to see past the surface of people, especially children. I learned what a difference it made to show respect before asking for it. And most importantly, I realized that, for a child, having someone believe in you, believe you can accomplish more and aim higher, is a major deciding factor in how much faith you put in yourself as you mature into an adult. Best day ever. One day this past summer, I went with my mom, my siblings, my grandparents and a few of my aunts to a lake in New Jersey. Coming from a concrete lifestyle, it was refreshing to experience the tranquility of nature. It was quiet and pure. My siblings and I went out in kayaks on the lake (the first time any of us had ever done anything like that). We paddled through the water and over lily pads and enjoyed the sounds and the view. At one point, we were the only ones on our part of the lake and it felt like we were on a mysterious adventure. Eventually, we went back to shore and listened to bachata and salsa and merengue with the Tias (my great-aunts) Beata, Luisa, Miledis, while we ate food that they cooked and brought from home. My grandparents walked on the shore with us after we ate and talked about the rivers they lived near back home in DR. We all reminisced and joked around for hours on the shore of that lake. It was a wonderful and beautiful day. I came back much more relaxed than I had left. 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 Bachelors Degree at CUNY Brooklyn College, as a part of the Macaulay Honors College Program. I am currently attending the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, pursuing my Medical Degree. Best book you ever read. "In the Time of the Butterflies" By Julia Alvarez Favorite quote? "My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." -Maya Angelou Favorite sports team. New York Giants Favorite song. "Subway Art" -Tish Hyman Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. My message to any young Latinos reading this: We are just a handful of the many brilliant and successful Latinos living and working in this community. It may seem like high-achieving Latinos are few and far between, but that is not true. We may be the minority now, but the more we motivate ourselves, and the more we encourage motivate others, the sooner the day will come when Latino representation in all positions of higher achievement will be an accepted reality instead of an anomaly. Be brave, be dedicated, be loud and strong and confident. You can do whatever you set your mind to, with enough hard work. No matter how hard you have it, you WILL overcome. Be proud of how far you've come and be prepared for all the hard work that lies ahead. If you have a strong passion for something, never settle for less.
Pamela Campos-Palma Executive Director Common Defense
how did you get to where you are today? Pamela Campos-Palma is a political strategist and leader with an impressive record in governance, international policy, civics, and social change. The proud daughter of a Honduran immigrant, Pam served in the US Air Force for over a decade as an operations intelligence analyst and served in Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Pam has been recognized internationally for her transformative leadership and advocacy, she served as a gubernatorial appointee in the state of Oregon, and actively addresses issues of global peace & security, equity, and civic engagement, from the grassroots to the grasstops. In 2016 alone, Pam served as an international consultant for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Eastern and South Africa, as strategy team lead in Guatemala for a global social venture, and with a poverty-relief NGO in Honduras. She was named a "Top 40 Under 40 Latinos in Foreign Policy" by Huffington Post that same year. Currently, Pam forms part of Beyond The Choir, a strategy and training group that partners with movement leaders and organizations, and serves as Executive Director of Common Defense, a national grassroots organization that mobilizes diverse veterans and military families against bigotry and hate, and a more representative, equitable democracy. Pam has been featured on NBC, CNN, BBC, and NPR, among others and holds a Masters of Public Administration from NYU with a focus in International Policy and Management. She is a member of Truman National Security Project's Defense Council. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? Growing up I spent a lot of time with my mother, a single parent who immigrated to the U.S. from Honduras. In Honduras she was discovered as a prodigal basketball player, a life she left behind to give me greater opportunity. As a child I saw her face many deep challenges, language, cultural, and social barriers. Yet despite having few means ourselves, my mother would always, without hesitation, go out of her way to help others. From bonding with the cleaning staff at the mall in Spanish, to staying with a man who had a seizure at a bus stop until the ambulance came. She was always reaching out to strangers- even across difference- in kindness without expecting anything back. I once asked her why she felt she had to do this- especially as I witnessed her face racial discrimination and xenophobic hate. In her ever-convicted voice she reminded me that people are people, just like us, no matter if it’s the President of the United States, or someone without a home. She taught me to act with a strong moral compass and compassion no matter my own circumstances, to respect others no matter their lot in life, and the impacts we can make if we step outside our comfort zones. She inspired the leader I am today and is my foundation for trailblazing my unique path in public service. 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 politicized at a young age and became very alert to disparity, inequality, and my consistently being outside neatly drawn boxes. From my being in a predominantly white, upper-middle class gifted children's program from elementary through high school, to the vivid experience of witnessing my mother's arduous road to citizenship and how difficult it was for her to finally get to vote, these and many more moments instilled in me a sharp, analytical affinity for change without my really knowing it. My career in the military intelligence community was very political as well, especially serving in the significant era of institutional changes. I rose quickly in my role in the Air Force and also faced incredible challenges which collectively sparked my desire to learn more about political and personal power, leadership, and change. At countless junctures of my journey I have seen both an opportunity to represent and expand representation, and also serve as a bridge across difference. My vision and life's work in civics, peace, and security is founded in the requisite for innovation, and progress being the diversification of voices, and political enfranchisement of underrepresented communities. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Honduran Best memory of growing up. Playing soccer has been a staple growing up- I started in 6th grade when my mom sent me to my first practice in cutoff jean shorts & chanclas. I later played on largely male military base teams at home and deployed and even played against the men's team in Kyrgyzstan. Best memory of a day at school or work. Too many to name. They are usually a mix of animated epiphanies about world change. Best day ever. Rooftops, sunny days, drinks, and meaningful "how are we going to change the world together" conversation is my idea of the best day ever. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? New York University (NYU), Master in Public Administration- International Policy & Management; Portland State University, Bachelors in Political Science Best book you ever read. "The Bridge Called My Back" Favorite quote? "Si se puede"- Dolores Huerta / "If you can control a [person's] thinking you do not have to worry about [their] action. If you make a [person] feel that [they are] inferior, you do not have to compel [them] to accept an inferior status, for [they] will seek it [themselves]. If you make a [person] think that [they are] justly an outcast, you do not have to order [them] to the back door. [They] will go without being told; and if there is no back door, [their] very nature will demand one.” ― Carter G. Woodson Favorite sports team. Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox Favorite song. El Costo de La Vida- Juan Luis Guerra Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Nothing good happens without courage. The courage to tell someone you admire them, the courage to follow your dreams, the courage to speak truth to power, the courage to ask for help, the courage to love yourself in a world that tells you not to. Courage- big and small- requires investment in yourself, and consciously cultivating a tribe that lifts up. When you believe in yourself, even in small steps, se puede!
Andrea Chaves STEAM Creative Director The Young Women's Leadership School of Astoria
how did you get to where you are today? During Andrea Chaves’ nine years in the NYC Department of Education, she has truly transformed the face of education at The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria. With a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Education from NYU, and a Master’s degree in Instructional Technology from NYiT, Andrea has found a way to blend her two areas of expertise in order to create an innovative learning experience for her students and the school community as a whole. She has transformed her classrooms into digitalized, student-centered learning zones and has established various technology internships where she recruits and trains student leaders in the implementation of technologies. Under Andrea's guidance young women collaborate to create innovative projects to inspire young women to take an interest in the male dominated fields of STEAM. For all of her efforts Andrea has been selected by The White House as a computer science champion of change for promoting CS for young women, especially Latinas, has been awarded the Empire State excellence in teaching award, has been recognized by the National Coalition of Women in Technology with the Aspirations in Computing Educators Award and has been recognized as a Technolochica. Furthermore, Andrea’s innovative practices have lead the Young Women’s Leadership Network and its students to be honored by the White House, NCWIT, Hispanic Heritage Foundation, Apple, Microsoft and more, for all the achievements through innovative technology. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My Grandma - grandmas are wise. My grandma is the most influential person in my life because she is one of the few people that has never stopped evolving. Even at her 92 years old today she still finds time to teach something valuable to someone. Two days a week she takes a trip of two hours to teach Yoga and breathing techniques to terminally cancer patients. She is a very strong woman who grew up in Colombia when women were expected to stay at home. She chose to get an education and teach underprivileged children, math. When my mom was four years old, the youngest of five children, my grandfather passed away. My grandma refused to stop working until she made sure all her children were educated. I have always seen her as a strong, independent woman who has influenced many people, not just myself. 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 chose my career because I believe that education and creativity are the most powerful tools a person can have. I wanted to be able to have a classroom with endless opportunities, where my students could explore creativity, not be afraid to make mistakes, learn by doing and exploring, collaborate with one another to find answers, not feel afraid if the teacher did not know the answer and then together go beyond our own expectations. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Colombian Best memory of growing up. Growing up in the countryside of Colombia I didn't have friends to play with, so I had to play with my dogs. They became the pirates of my ship, the horses of my wars, the heroes that defend me from the big monsters, and any other characters I created in my imaginary tails. We crossed rivers together, climbed mountains, swam lakes, chased cows and laid on the grass to stare at the funny shapes that clouds would make. Best memory of a day at school or work. Work is school for me, since I am a teacher. One of my best memories is the first time we were able to see the digital dance with all its pieces together. The Digital Dance was a project in which 50 middle and high-school girls, from the school I work at, collaborated to infuse art, coding, dance, graphic design, animations and film. We challenge ourselves throughout the creation of this project and at times we silently doubted that we could reach our goal. However, we were there for each other and when some of us were doubting our capacities, some of us were remind it each other that we were together on this and therefore we never gave up on it. The first time that we saw all the Digital Dance together, it was simply magical! We had done it! Best day ever. Tough question. There has been many greats days. However, I think the day that has started this chain of "best days ever" is the day I graduated. It was one of my best days ever for many reasons. Both my mom and dad were able to be there, and both were very proud of my accomplishments. I felt like I was living a dream and walking on clouds. I couldn’t believe I had graduated from a prestigious school a few year after coming to this country without speaking a word of english. I was incredibly thankful. But most importantly, I knew this day was going to be the day to unlock many future amazing days. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? I went to NYU for my undergrad and major in Education. After a few years I decided to attended NYiT to do my master in Integration of Technology. Best book you ever read. Hundres Years of Solitud by Gabriel Garcia Marquez Favorite quote. "I didn't know so many boys liked to code" Quote by one of my latina students, Nazaret Cuadros. She said it aloud as we entered the NYCS Fair for the first time. Favorite sports team. Colombian Nacional Soccer Team Favorite song. La bicicleta by Carlos Vives and Shakira Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. *I asked my past and current students: what is the best advice I have given you, and I compiled their replies...
Never be afraid of making mistakes when you are trying to learn, explore or create something. Observe the mistakes you made closely, you will learn and discover from these reflections. Instead be afraid of not trying.
One of the most rewarding aspects of life is knowing that in someway, somehow, you are giving your community hope for a better future and a better life. You are showing them who they could be so that one day they become somebody else’s goal.
Never be scared of having a goal that seems unreachable. There is always a way and persistence was made to reach the unreachable. Instead be afraid of not having a goal.
If someone ever doubts your capabilities or goals, ask them how they will do it differently, they could give you steps you need to get to your end result, however by no means lower your goal.
Always, always go the extra mile, when you get there you will find it less crowded.
Roy Emilio Contreras Sr. Director of Games Nickelodeon
how did you get to where you are today? I've spent my entire 11+ year career working with Nickelodeon producing or directing now over 1,000 games to date. I've had the privilege to direct and produce games from SpongeBob SquarePants to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Power Rangers to iCarly just to name a few. Under my leadership, my team of producers have all become awarding-winning games producers as I take great pride in managing, coaching and developing those who work around me. My specialties are content development, creative direction, game production, concepting and developing interactive experiences, budget efficiency and management, communicating with multiple teams, working with multiple platforms, and keeping up with the fast-paced, ever-changing gaming landscape. I was able to get where I am today by doing well in all levels of school which allowed me to get my foot in the door with my first interview with Nickelodeon. From there, the rest is history as Nickelodeon is the only company I've ever worked for after graduating college. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My parents and Bret Hart. Seeing all the hardships and sacrifices my parents made in life just so their two kids could have a better life is something that I'll never be able to repay them back for or express the amount of gratitude I have for their selflessness. Bret Hart, because he taught me to do things the right way and with Respect by just watching him on TV growing up. 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? My parents pushed me to become a doctor, lawyer, the usual prestigious professions. My brother pushed me to become an engineer. However I soon found out that I wasn't all that great at science related fields. So I decided to pursue my passions in TV, Music, and Movies by majoring in Communications and figured that while yes my starting salary might be low, if I did well enough, the money would come later. I always appreciated the opportunities granted to me as a minority. Whether it was attending the first Mott Hall or being a part of HEAF or Prep for Prep 9. Even when speakers visited our schools, I was always attentive because they spoke from experience and if they reached at least one person, mission accomplished. Therefore I had always told myself that no matter what I would go back to my former schools and other schools and speak to kids and young adults about my experience and hopefully motivate one person to better themselves. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Dominican & Mexican Best memory of growing up. Walking over 100 blocks in Manhattan looking for a Blockbuster Video Store that had the game "Power Stone 2" in stock. Best memory of a day at school or work. Achieving 9th place at The National Chess Championships in Orlando, FL in 1996. Best day ever. Any time I get to celebrate my birthday with family. 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, Communications Best book you ever read. Flowers for Algernon Favorite quote? Yesterday you said tomorrow. Favorite sports team. New York Yankees Favorite song. Mark Morrison - Return of the Mack Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Dream big, don't ever let anybody or anything hold you back. Don't let anybody tell you the sky is the limit because it's not, just look up at the moon every night and sit back, appreciate, take in, that we as humans made it there.
Iris D Coria Relationship Banker III M & T Bank
how did you get to where you are today? At twenty-three years old, I found myself in a career change after working for a logistic company for 7 years, so I decided to venture as a Tax Preparer and I felt in love with numbers. I must admit that my first year was a struggle, but the people I worked with were so knowledgeable and made everything accessible for me learn. My transition was very smooth thanks to those amazing ladies. After my 2nd year I became an office manager and I started working closer with my Hispanic community and eventually moved to M & T Bank to become a Relationship Banker. This platform has enable me to help customers not only to open business or personal accounts, it allows me to create longer relationships with them. I been able to help customers to get their business started or giving them proper guidance to achieve their goals. Once the community got the word out of the services M & T Bank offer and that I speak Spanish has truly add value to the service I provide and allows me to keep growing in my profession. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? The most influential person in my life is my mother She was determined to be successful and refused to be an statistic as a single mom. My mother's lack of education would not determine our future. She is one of thirteen siblings whom moved to Los Angeles, CA in 1986. She only attended elementary school the deficiency of financial support made her start working in the fields at the age of ten. After having 6 children of her own and the abandonment of male figure in our household she migrated to USA with hopes of a better future for her children. My mom is now in her early 60's and she tells me that she has live a life with no regrets. Her lack of education allowed her to be self-sufficient and inspire her to do more. She is confident that she gave us all the tools to be successful... & I can attest to that! 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? My Relationship Banker position allows me to spend time servicing existing Hispanic & non-Hispanic customers, and prospering on new Hispanic customers that might be able to benefit from the bank products. I’m able to interact with appropriate areas of the Bank to ensure customer needs and service issues are resolved timely, accurately and completely. The focus of my position is to serve as key driver to grow their business through proactive identification of new products for their businesses. My major concern as a Latina is to ensure proper communication with my community, being a Hispanic that reads and writes in both languages has been crucial for my success. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Mexicana Best memory of growing up. Best memory of my childhood is running around bare foot in my Pueblo with my friends. Best memory of a day at school or work. Best memory of work: My colleagues are amazing, always going above and beyond to make sure our branch runs smoothly. I have some of the best mentors in the industry and I'm bless to work with them. Best day ever. Is a Pleasure to wake up every morning, to ME every day is a great day. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? I went to Orange County Community College- my main focus is Business Accounting Best book you ever read. I read in Spanish a lot- these are some of my favorite author, Carlos Cuauhtemoc Sanchez La Fuerza de Sheccid, Un Grito Desesperado, Contraveneno to name a few. Favorite quote? “Más vale morir de pie que vivir de rodillas” Emiliano Zapata Favorite sports team. Baseball is my favorite sport, but the Mets is my favorite team. Favorite song. At Last- Etta James Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Let's keep moving forward. Let's be an inspiration to other and Let's be resilient...
Hob. Carmen N. De La Rosa NYS Assemblywoman - AD 72
Carmen De La Rosa is a young mother of a daughter entering pre-school, a career public servant and a resident of northern Manhattan deeply committed to serving her community. She was born in the Dominican Republic and immigrated to the Inwood section of New York City as a child. She attended elementary and middle school at St. Jude's School, before going to High School at Mother Cabrini on Fort Washington Avenue. She was proudly the first person in her family to attend college, graduating from Fordham University with a degree in Political Science and a certification in Peace and Justice studies. After rising through the ranks in state and local elected officials, Carmen was appointed Chief of Staff to Council Member Rodriguez in 2014, representing the communities of Inwood, Washington Heights and Marble Hill. In this capacity, Carmen managed the daily operations, strategy and focus of both the Legislative and Community Offices. She played an instrumental role in the passage of nearly a dozen bills related to Mayor Bill de Blasio's Vision Zero initiative, among other notable legislative accomplishments. In managing the office's discretionary budget, she worked to support countless neighborhood institutions, from senior centers, to after school programs, to social service providers, ensuring local non-profits received crucial funding.
Carmen has gained a firm understanding of the true needs of the uptown community and how to address them, through legislative action; smart, progressive budgeting; fierce advocacy; and community organizing. Carmen has taken a laser focus to serving the high needs of lower-income and disadvantaged communities. In 2007, she began working for the NYS Assembly where her passion for government and politics was sparked. Working with communities on the Upper West Side to improve senior care, fight co-locations in local schools and preserve affordable housing. It was here she learned the functions of a state Assembly office. As a lifelong activist, Carmen is passionate about using government as a tool for social change and a vehicle to empower and support communities. In September 2015, Carmen successfully ran and was elected as a Democratic District Leader for the 72nd Assembly District. This past May, Carmen completed the Coro Leadership Institute- New York. She is a candidate for the New York State Assembly 72nd District. A lifelong resident of Inwood, Carmen resides on the same street she was raised, with her fiance Jose and two-year- old daughter, Mia.
Diana L. Eusebio Program Associate New York State Youth Leadership Council
How did you get to where you are today? Diana Eusebio, is a proud daughter of an immigrant, loving aunt, and a passionate community advocate. She was born in Mexico and migrated to the United States at the age of six with her two older brothers and father. Her family found a home and community in Fort Myers, Florida. In 2011 she was profoundly affected by the deportation of her older brother, prompting her family to move once again. After experiencing first hand the impact of the Secure Communities Program, adapting to a new city and school, she struggled with her mental health. While searching for support online she found the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC), attended a community meeting and has been involved ever since. In 2012, she was nominated to become a Core Leader of the organization for her passion, leadership, and dedication to immigrant justice. While upholding her organizational responsibilities, Eusebio graduated in 2015 with an Advance Regents High School Diploma and Liberal Arts Associate Degree from Hostos Community College. Some of her favorite memories at the NYSYLC are attending the National DREAM Graduation in Washington D.C. (2012), speaking at the United Nations for the International Day of The Girl Child (2013) and Lobbying for the New York Dream Act (2013-2014). She is a current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient and the Program Associate at the New York State Youth Leadership Council. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? The most influential person in my life is my father. After experiencing many unfortunate circumstances such as the death of my mother, he has never given up. He was able to raise three children by himself in a new country, work multiple jobs, and learned a new language. He continues to fight each and every day with a smile on his face. He encourages me to stay positive and never give up despite the circumstances. 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? Growing up in Florida, I felt like I had a community until things started changing little by little. After President Obama took office, it seemed like parents, siblings, cousins, and friends began disappearing. At the time, I didn’t know what was happening. I just knew it wasn’t good, everyone was on edge including my family. In 2011, my oldest brother was deported. He was separated from his wife, child, my father and from me. Experiencing first-hand deportations in my community and family influenced the immigrant justice work I do. When I was younger, I didn’t have the political analysis to express how I felt. Now I work with the NYSYLC to make sure that people have the tools to do so. Through leadership development and grassroots organizing, undocumented youth are able to advocate for themselves and loved ones. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Mexican Best memory of growing up. After watching The Polar Express movie during the winter holidays at school, my class received free tickets for a Holiday event at the local train station. Barely understanding English I convinced my family we had the opportunity to see snow for the first time. Leading up to the day, my dad bought all of us a puffy winter jackets, gloves, and a new camera to take pictures of us building our first snow man. We ran to catch the train. We didn’t want to miss this once in a lifetime experience. Eventually, we got on the train and we were smiling and taking pictures. The train ride lasted less than an hour, we rode around the City of Fort Myers and came back to the same train station we had left from. We were all confused when the employees asked us to leave. When we got off we all laughed hysterically at the silliness and confusion. It didn’t matter the distance or money, my family enjoyed our trip and time together. I will never forget my family’s adventure to the North Pole. Best memory of a day at school or work. I ran for school president of James Stephens International Academy in the eighth grade. With the help of my sister-in-law, who supported my ambitious goal, I created my campaign which included flyers and poster boards. I ran against students who didn’t look like me. I felt that I could represent my community and change the opportunities available to all students. My strategy was to speak to students regardless of their grade or class and ask them about their concerns. It was a tough race with minimal resources allocated. The day finally arrived that students would vote for the school president. The announcement at the end of the day was the moment of truth. I held my head up high as my name was announced for president. That year, I discovered something about myself, leadership. That was the same year my brother was deported, my family moved, and my understanding of the world changed. Eighth grade taught me the power I have within myself. Best day ever. When I attended High School, I made sure I was involved in after school activities and did my best in all my high school and early college classes. I was the first in my family to make it to 12th grade. One day during my senior year, while I was focusing on college applications, I received a phone call that my second brother had been arrested. My heart dropped and I could no longer focus on my tasks. I didn’t tell anyone at the moment because the Immigration Movement doesn’t really talk about the intersection of criminal and immigration systems. I felt we would be judged. I fought for my brother to be released from detention while I was a High School senior. My father and I constantly reminded each other to stay strong. On June 2017, I graduated from High School. I was able to bring my nephews and their mothers to NYC to attend my graduation. My father was proud that day. It was my favorite memory because although it was heartbreaking to not have my brothers there to watch me walk across the stage, I knew they were happy and proud of what I had accomplished. Most importantly, I became a role model to my three nephews. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Hostos Community College and Year Up New York Alumni Best book you ever read. Bodega Dreams by Ernesto Quiñones Favorite quote? Undocumented, Unafraid, Unapologetic! Favorite sports team. Mexico's National Fútbol League Favorite song. Como La Flor by Selena Y Los Dinos Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Echenle Ganas, Con el Corazon enfrente, y el apoyo de la communidad. No nos vamos a dar por vencidos. Keep Going. With our heart leading and the support of the community, we will not give up.
Paola Lazaro Writer/Actor Student, Columbia University, Playwriting
how did you get to where you are today? Paola Lázaro is a playwright and actress born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She holds a BFA in Dramatic Writing from SUNY Purchase College and an MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University. Her play Tell Hector I Miss Him was nominated for a Drama League Award for Best Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play and was also nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for the John Gassner Playwriting Award. Paola is Atlantic Theater Company’s 2016/2017 Tow Playwright-in-Residence, supported by The Tow Foundation. She was recently selected as a Sundance Institute Time Warner Foundation Fellow 2017. She was a member of the Public Theater’s 2015 Emerging Writers Group and was selected as Playwright-in-Residence for the 2016 Sundance Theatre Lab in Morocco. In 2017 she was selected as part of the Sundance Theatre Lab artists with her play “There’s Always the Hudson”. Some of her plays include Tell Hector I Miss Him, Contigo and There’s Always the Hudson, which was selected as part of Labyrinth Theater Company’s Up Next Series. Paola is the recipient of the Arts Entertainment Scholarship Award (2011) from the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. In 2015, she was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for her role in To the Bone at the Cherry Lane Theatre. As an actress, Paola just finished shooting a pilot for NBC. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My mother and my father because they have taught me the value of hard work and loving hearts. They have opened their home to anyone who has needed a home and from that I have learned to open my own doors literally and emotionally. 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? My love for storytelling started with a salsa song by Roberto Roena y su Apollo Sound called "El escapulario" that told the story of a young orphan who is taken in by this older woman and he becomes a famous bullfighter, and falls in love with a woman, and then when she realizes he’s an orphan she leaves him and he dies in a bull fight. I know it sounds extremely depressing, but it was beautiful because of the love that this old woman had for him and how he never forgot about her and how she took him in when he was a child and took care of him. For me it was the first time I realized what a story was and how you could tell a beautiful and complex story of a life inside a certain frame. Then I started writing poetry and my mom would make me perform it for the family if they came over for dinner. That's when I started falling in love with performance and writing and that's how I chose what I wanted to pursue as my major. I believe that one of the only reasons my choice is in any way helpful to my community is that through my work and my voice I have openly come out as a young, queer, pansexual, Latina woman who was raised in a pretty macho driven Hispanic and Caribbean island. I believe that every time a person comes out as LGBTQ that it makes it easier for other people to come out and live their life to its fullest potential by accepting themselves and seeing that they are not alone. Apart from that, I have written characters that are Latino which are exclusively meant to be played by Latino actors. And I have written characters that are dealing with past sexual abuse and addiction and how to move past it. The only thing I can hope is that by expressing stories involving these topics I can somehow help someone move forward in their journey for healing. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Puerto Rican born and raised. Best memory of growing up. Listening to Roberto Roena y su Apollo Sound's "El escapulario" in my father's Diamante car while driving to get the car fixed at the auto shop in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Dancing in my father's arms in front of the TV as Ricardo Montaner performed "Vamos pa' la conga" on a local TV show. Best memory of a day at school or work. When we went on a school outing to see a production of the play "La Carreta" by René Marqués in Puerto Rico. That play changed my life. It was absolutely beautiful, brilliant and heartbreaking. Best day ever. I believe that my best day ever so far was when I was sitting next to my mother in the theater watching the production of my play "Tell Hector I Miss Him". She grabbed my hand and she was crying because she had just listened to a monologue I had written that expressed many things that perhaps she had been storing up for 37 years and had not been able to express because she never had the opportunity because every time she went to speak up she would be shunned. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? For Undergrad I went to SUNY Purchase and my major was Dramatic Writing. For Graduate school I went to Columbia University for Playwriting. Best book you ever read. La Carreta by René Marqués / The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler Favorite quote? Rabo de nube de Silvio Rodriguez: "Si me dijeran pide un deseo Preferiría un rabo de nube Un torbellino en el suelo Y una gran ira que sube Un barredor de tristezas Un aguacero en venganza Que cuando escampe parezca Nuestra esperanza" Favorite sports team. MI FAMILIA Favorite song. have many favorite songs, but one of them is definitely this one: "Testamento" by Silvio Rodriguez. Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. EVEN WHEN OTHERS DON'T. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. EVEN WHEN THE SYSTEM TELLS US NO. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF, PUSH FORWARD AND BE KIND. YOU SHALL PERSEVERE.
Jose L. Lopez Co-Organizing Director Make the Road New York
how did you get to where you are today? Jose Luis Lopez is the Co-Organizing Director at Make the Road New York; a membership led organization with over 22,000 members working to build the power of Latino and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice through organizing, policy innovation, transformative education, and survival services. Jose has been with Make the Road New York for over 17 years organizing immigrant communities to advance public policy in New York State. At Make the Road New York, Jose helped to create and manage the Youth Power Project, the youth organizing arm of Make the Road which works to elevate the role of high school aged young people in the arenas of education reform and police reform. Today, Jose provides technical support to a department of 30+ organizers coordinating campaigns around a multitude of issues ranging from preserving tenants homes to protecting workers wages. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My parents whom made the difficult choice of migrating from Puerto Rico to Brooklyn, NYC in the 1950's in search of greater opportunity. For over 50 years, they hustled to provide what they could to their 5 kids and 11 grand kids so that we could pursue bigger and better 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? When the first crew of young people entered Make the Road New York, we were pushed by our mentors to think about solutions to the lack of youth services in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Within weeks, we set up our first organizing campaign which we dubbed ‘Wise Up’. Our mission, bring young people together to challenge the NYC Council and then Mayor Giuliani to invest more fiscal resources into programs and services for young people. After a year or so of hearing that the city had no additional funding to invest in youth programming and services, then Mayor Rudy Giuliani put forward a capital plan of $64.6 million dollars to expand two youth detention centers in NYC that were not sitting at full capacity; Crossroads and Horizons youth detention centers. We knew, if the city was intent on building new jail beds, the city would fill those jail beds with young people who looked like us. For over one year, with allies, we pushed a ‘No More Youth Jails’ platform with the key demand to stop the Mayor’s capital plan from moving forward and WE WON! This citywide charge led by young people of color was my introduction to the work, but also my marriage to the work. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Puertorriqueño Best memory of growing up. Best memory of a day at school or work. Best day ever. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Alumni of Hofstra University. Major: Sociology / Minor: Labor Studies Best book you ever read. The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As told to Alex Haley Favorite quote? "Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar." - Antonio Machado Favorite sports team. New York Mets Favorite song. Inner City Blues - Marvin Gaye Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Behind every successful social movement is a network of communities. This requires individuals like you (the reader) to organize, build strong relationships grounded in love and support and be willing to take risks in the most trying of times. As expressed by activist songwriter Joe Hill, “Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!”
Lorena Lucero Attorney Human Resources Administration
how did you get to where you are today? I started working at an early age with my parents and older sister. At that time there weren’t many stores in Brooklyn that sold Mexican products. My parents saw this as a need they could help meet. My parents Thursday-Saturday sold Mexican products out of their car to folks in Queens & Brooklyn. Initially we sold products to the extended family and through informal networks our client base grew. My job was to bag produce that was sold. My parents eventually open up their own Bodega in Sunset Park. Through the family business my parents instilled a strong worth ethic and sense of community. The core values I learned as a child have been a driving force in allowing me to flourish. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? The most influential person in my life is a High School dropout, who consistently pushed me to do more and to see beyond any limitations, set by society or that which I set for myself. My older sister, Yesenia, has been the most influential person in my life. Although she eventually graduated from a four-year college, her path towards higher education was not traditional. She juggled a full-time job, a toddler, younger siblings, aging parents and a full course load. She taught me that passion and perseverance are forces that will consistently allow me to reach higher. 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 a law degree because I find impact litigation as a strategy to bring transformative change to communities of color. Most if not all of the social movements have eventually led to new law that protects rights of disenfranchise people. I want to be one of those individuals who are at the forefront of transforming the lives of millions by working on cases that help us get to a more just and balanced society. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? My parents are both from Puebla, Mexico. I am Mexican-American raised in Brooklyn, New York. Best memory of growing up. Attending an elective Saturday History class in Middle School. Because it was an elective the instructor gave us reading material from diverse authors, including excerpts from A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. Zinn’s writing allowed me to question the education that I had received until that point because it was overwhelming Eurocentric. After taking that class, a group of classmates and I talked about everything we learned. We were all so empowered. I became a social activist after taking that elective, it truly transformed my life. Best memory of a day at school or work. After working with a client for a number of years on her U-Visa application, the best day at work was handing the same client her green card Best day ever. Learning that I passed the New York Bar Exam. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Oberlin College, Comparative American Studies/History Best book you ever read. A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. Favorite quote? "Do what you think is right and let the law catch up." Justice Thurgood Marshall Favorite sports team. Mets Favorite song. Si Quieres by Juan Gabriel Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. You are powerful, believe in yourself and your abilities.
Marinel Martinez Coordinator for Human Resources, Training and Development University of Maryland, College Park
how did you get to where you are today? My name is Marinel Martinez. My name derives directly from my parents names Maritza and Nelson. I was born in the Dominican Republic and immigrated to Brooklyn, NY when i was 4 year old. I have two beautiful and intelligent younger sisters, Pamela and Esther Marie. I attended Brooklyn public schools from elementary to high school. I continued my studies into higher education at the University at Albany (BA ’11, MS’13). I am a proud member of Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, Incorporada and have served on both a regional and national level for the sorority. Through this involvement, I have found a love for volunteering. A special project i was involved with was coordinating the programs for the Latino Youth Conference with the Capital District YMCA. I was previously at Iona College within Student Development. In addition, I have worked at the University at Albany and The College of St. Rose working within Residence Life. As of recent, I work within the Adele H. Stamp Student Union—Center for Campus Life in Human Resources at the University of Maryland College Park. What i love about higher education is the different levels of interactions with students that i can have. From advising service trips abroad to providing leadership development opportunities for their holistic growth. My higher education areas of interests are diversity and inclusion, social justice education and leadership development. I recently moved and live in Maryland with my new fiance Anthony. I enjoy dancing salsa, swimming and reading. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My parents are the most influential people in my life. They are my champions who consistently show my sisters and i what success, kindness, commitment, hard work, mutual respect for others and love truly are. Antonia (preferably called Martiza)and Nelson Martinez have challenged and inspired me to speak my truth, care for others and work hard for anything i want. They have empowered me to be the best person i can be. I am where i am and who i am today because of the these two amazing people. 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? As many folks working in higher education, i stumbled upon it because of a college mentor i had. This individual saw my potential in working with students and advancing our community. I was very active within my sorority, Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, Inc, as an undergraduate. He suggested i consider higher education, my senior year of college. I conducted some informational interviews with other professionals and after that i applied to get my Masters in Education Administration and Policy Studies at the University of Albany, my alma mater. I believe that by joining the field of higher education i have the opportunity to be in spaces where i am to advocate for underrepresented students such as creating a mentorship program for ALANA and LGBT first year students to fostering dialogue and education. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Dominican, Afro-Latina Best memory of growing up. My best childhood memories consists of my sisters and I growing up in my father's store, Martinez Grocery in Brooklyn, NY. Since we immigrated to this country from the Dominican Republic, it has been a staple in our community and a place we still call our second home. Here i learned to work the cash register as soon as i could count and learned to speak English. Here is where my sisters and i met neighbors, friends, and allies in the community. Here is where i learned about the sacrifices my parents made for us and where i learned compassion through their selfless actions with not only us but all community members. Best memory of a day at school or work. One of the best days at work was the first day i gathered the mentors and mentees of the MOSAIC Mentorshop Program I created at Iona College. It was our first community meeting as a program and i was so nervous as i got to the podium to address them regarding the mission, values and origin of how the program for ALANA and LGBT first year students got started. This was the pilot group of the program, so even more pressure for success. But with the help of the advisory board overseeing the program, i felt so accomplished at the end of the semester when almost 40 students and 15 mentors completed the program. I felt blessed to be part of something bigger than myself. That last community meeting was the day i felt like i had created a legacy on campus hopefully for generations to come. Best day ever. The day i graduated college with my masters degree is a day i will forever remember. I remember looking at my parents and saying “the first one was for mom, the second one for dad, and the last one, one day will be for me.” I could see the pride and joy in their eyes and hearts since i was a first generation student and graduate in my family. As I grow older, I realize that the struggles my parents endured, the obstacles they faced, and the sacrifices they made amount to the educational success I was able to attain. 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 the University of Albany for both my undergraduate and graduate studies. My undergraduate degree is in Spanish because i thought i wanted to teach English as a Second language, something that was instrumental in my growth as an immigrant (with no knowledge of English) and new to the education system in the United States. In my senior year, i decided that i wanted to work in Student Affairs at a college/ university so I attended UAlbany within the Education Administration and Policy program. Best book you ever read. I don't know if i have a favorite book, but one that has left a lasting impact in my higher education career is the “The Little Book of Restorative Justice for Colleges and Universities” by David R. Karp. This book has truly transformed my way of thinking when working with students. The book offers so many practical models for fair treatment, community efforts to repairing harm and boosting morale. The most recent book i have read that touched my heart was “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates because it made me reflect on my future bi-racial family and society's treatment of african american people and people of color. Favorite quote? "Tell me, I'll forget. Show me, I'll remember. Involve me, I'll understand" - Chinese Proverb This is exactly how i try to envision and carry out my work with students. Favorite sports team. I don't really follow sports but if i had to pick a game to go to it would be the New York Mets. Favorite song. I love anything John Legend Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. To Young Latinos Everywhere: My story is just one of many Latinos doing beautiful and inspiring work in our communities. Whether it's to my own little sister or my students or to you, i want you to find your passion, speak your truth, advocate for our communities, and inspire others along the way. Be intentional with your time on earth and do good. Recognize that our people are resilient! Embrace your vast identities and always seek to learn more about your culture/ ancestry/ heritage. Don't be afraid to be bold and fearless. Find mentors and allies that will support you in reaching your goals and dreams. Know your rights and resources. And lastly, take time to read and stay current with worldly news. This is important for our future and livelihood. I have to admit, i did not do all of these things in my youth, some of these things i learned to do now. And that’s ok.
Yesenia Mata Deputy Director La Colmena
how did you get to where you are today? Yesenia Mata is an education and immigration activist in Chicago and New York City. As the daughter to former undocumented immigrants, Yesenia has advocated for immigration reform in Washington D.C. Growing up in the South Side of Chicago, she saw the need to adequately fund public schools. She has written on The Hill and Univision on sanctuary cities. She was the former National Latino Outreach Strategist for the Bernie Sander’s Presidential Campaign, where she organized the Latino communities in Chicago, Arizona, New York, Pennsylvania, California and Florida. She is currently the Political Director for the Dream Action Coalition, a national organization that advocates for immigration reform. She attended Robert Morris University where she obtained her Master’s in Business Administration and is currently attending John Marshall Law School to pursue her law degree to become an immigration attorney. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My father came to this country when he was 16 years. Leaving everything behind, not knowing anyone, not knowing the English language but coming to this country to pursue the American Dream. Growing up I saw all the opportunities that were taken away from my father due to his undocumented status. I remember my father telling me to please never give up because he was leaving his American Dream through me. He said his American Dream was to become an attorney so he could represent our community. He told me that the day I become an attorney would mean he became an attorney. I told my father at a very young age, that I would never let his American Dream die and that is exactly what I have been doing, pushing towards his dream. 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 a Masters in Business Administration because I wanted to know about finances. I grew up in the South Side of Chicago and saw the limited resources in my neighborhood. I saw how some politicians kept stripping money away from my neighborhood but I just didn't know how to look for the information or how to explain it. What I decided to do then, was to learn about finances, so I can know how to argue against the injustice of the limited resources given to low income neighborhoods. At a very young age as well, I saw how this immigration system affected my parents' lives and dreams. This is the reason why I decided to pursue a law career because I wanted to help families like mine. Growing up as well, in a Latino/undocumented community. I saw how this broken immigration system affected families in my community. Not only did I know education was the key to obtaining knowledge on issues that I cared about but I knew that getting involved in my community was by far more important. At age 18, I decided to get involved in local political campaigns. I knew the importance of having people that cared about us represent our community. I understood the power of the Latino vote. I understood the power that my community had. In 2016, after organizing for Senator Bernie Sanders in Chicago, I obtained the opportunity to join his National Latino Outreach Team. Where I further obtained the opportunity to travel to several states to organize our communities to push the Latino vote out for Senator Sanders. After the campaign, I became the Political Director for Dream Action Coalition (an Immigration Rights Advocacy Organization) and Deputy Director for La Colmena (an Immigration/Labor Rights Organization). What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Chicana, Mexican-American, American-Mexican, Latina Best memory of growing up. My best memory has been when I graduated from High School, when I graduated from my Bachelor's Degree, when I graduated from my Master's Degree. The reason why, is because I saw how happy my father was. To him it meant I was another step closer to getting accepted to law school. Best memory of a day at school or work. I would say, working with my community everyday makes it a best memory. Seeing my community engage and making moves brings me hope and it motivates me to keep pushing forward. Best day ever. My best day ever was when I got accepted to law school because my father's first words were, "Yes! I made it to law school, so when is my orientation?" (I took my father to my first day of orientation, because it was an accomplishment made by both). Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Robert Morris University: Associate's Degree in Paralegal Studies. Bachelors Degree in Business Administration. / Master's in Business Administration. John Marshall Law School: Present Best book you ever read. The lies my Teacher told me. Favorite quote? I usually say Latina, Mexican-American or American Mexican, and in certain contexts, Chicana. - Sandra Cisneros Favorite sports team. Chicago Bulls Favorite song. The Hamilton Mixtape: Immigrants (We Get The Job Done) Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. "Don't let this administration or any other administration divide our community, with the good immigrant v. bad immigrant narrative. Remember we must fight for all immigrants."
Meagan A. Molina Legislative and Communications Director Office of NYS Assemblywoman Nily Rozic
how did you get to where you are today? Meagan Molina is a lifelong New Yorker raised in Queens who was proud to graduate from CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice with her B.A. in Political Science. Following her exposure to state politics through the New York State Assembly Session Internship Program, Meagan began her career in government with Assemblywoman Nily Rozic serving as her Legislative and Communications Director. Since 2014, Meagan has helped chapter several New York State laws, the first of which was a bill to allow 16-and-17-year olds to join their local community boards as way to encourage civic engagement. In her free time, Meagan can be found rooting for the New York Mets and discovering the best coffee in New York City. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My parents. This sounds very simple, but I remember very vividly growing up my parents would always tell me that I could do anything I put my mind too. Along with that though, came constant reminders about being confident, speaking up for myself, and staying focused. I think what they don't realize though is that me working towards that didn't solely happen because they taught me the importance of those values, but because they modeled those values every single day. That kind of supportive environment really laid the foundation for me to feel empowered to pursue my goals -- especially during times in which I was confused about what those goals are. I don't take any of that for granted knowing that I'm not on this journey alone. 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 chose Political Science has my major because I had a genuine curiosity about people's relationship to information / news that I associated with concern for community via politics and policy. At the time, I was aware that John Jay's Political Science department offered the NYS Session Internship Program as a full semester's worth of credit and applied hoping it would be my chance to have hands-on experience related to what I was studying. I was accepted into the program and at the conclusion, was hired by Assemblywoman Rozic where I have been working ever since. It continues to be a hands-on experience where I have the opportunity to help the community I was raised in through engagement with local residents, and working to pass legislation in Albany. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Puerto Rican Best memory of growing up. Summers in Puerto Rico. My dad is 100% a family man and every summer in Puerto Rico was and is always spent with family. I think my relationship with my heritage would be a lot different if it weren't for that. My time there has really shaped me and inspired me to learn more about our history and how it's directly connected to the crisis we now see unfolding on the island. Best memory of a day at school or work. There's a bill that Assemblywoman Rozic carries that would prohibit the use of solitary confinement for pregnant women who are incarcerated. The day we picked up that bill and passed it in the Assembly kick-started an even bigger focus on women's conditions in our state correctional system. It's an issue that I care about not only in the office, but also on a personal level. I'm really concerned about how public perception surrounding mass incarceration impedes on efforts to reform, and how we can educate more to move away from the "lock them up and throw away the keep" mentality that can really plague progress. Best day ever. I would say graduating from John Jay. I am in the first in my family to graduate from college with plans to attend graduate school. That day was really meaningful not only because it was the culmination of the the work I had put in to get there, but because I had my family's support and encouragement every step of the way. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Political Science with a concentration on American and Urban Politics and Policy. Best book you ever read. Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano Favorite quote? Do work that matters. Vale la pena” ― Gloria E. Anzaldúa Favorite sports team. New York Mets and the New York Giants Favorite song. The New Slang by The Shins Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Keep going. The Latinx community needs to stay strong and united and at the end of the day, we are our best advocates. No one can speak for us except for us and we have to use our collective voice to ensure that the issues we care about are not only being discussed, but given the time and attention needed to reach meaningful solutions. Reaffirm to yourselves everyday that you hold the power within to be a driving force of change. Lastly (but as equally important), take care of yourselves in the process and look out for one another.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Educator, organizer, service worker, and Candidate for United States Congress
how did you get to where you are today? I am the daughter of proud, Bronx working class parents: my father was a small business owner with a love of community, and my mother did just about everything to help keep our family afloat - from driving buses to housekeeping. As a first generation Puerto Rican family, we often thought of our home as our little finca in New York. We shared food and family values at no-nonsense dinner table talks over the importance of hard work, common sense, fairness, curiosity, and compassion. At an early age it became clear that the zip code we lived in had an outsized influence on our opportunities. We started our journey in the Bronx, but were forced to leave our neighborhood in search of public schools with more to offer than a 50% dropout rate. From the get-go, it seemed wrong that a child could be disadvantaged simply due to the zip code in which they were born. It didn’t stop at schools, either -- healthcare, worker protections, and solid jobs are all part of the equation for healthy communities. Everywhere we looked, it seemed like these rungs on the economic ladder were slipping away from ordinary Americans. Seeing critical life opportunities denied in the Bronx inspired my dedication to expanding economic opportunity for working and middle class Americans in New York, and beyond. My passions brought me to Boston University, where I studied Economics and International Relations. While there I had the honor of working under the late Senator Kennedy as an immigration and foreign liaison. Afterwards, I worked as an Educational Director with the NHI fostering high-ability Latino youth with the skills to lead and succeed. Then I founded Brook Avenue Press, an early childhood literacy project exploring storytelling and project-based curriculum. All of my work shared a common thread: supporting and empowering local communities. This is when life hit. My father passed away from cancer in the middle of the ‘08 financial crisis, and my family was buckling under the strain of losing him and our life savings while trying to put two children through college. Our home was on the brink of foreclosure, so I did what any committed daughter would do: I started waitressing on the side to help keep our family above water. Serving, bartending, and helping manage a local business have ranked among the best educational experiences of my life. The fact is, much public policy is all talk until you’ve worked 18-hour days to make ends meet. Doing that, and having the experience of a working person, we begin to truly understand the real-life impact of healthcare policy, labor laws, a living wage, and basic working class protections. This is how I realized how far D.C. has strayed from everyday Americans, and where my background in activism turned into a run for United States Congress. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My father. He encouraged my curiosity, instilled strong community values, and fostered in me a sense of bravery and wonder. 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? My values dictate my direction. Whether it’s working with young children in the Bronx; visiting community members in Flint, MI; or now running for United States Congress, my dedication to authentic and real improvements for families has always been at the heart of my actions. It is why I have chosen to not accept corporate contributions and push forward ambitious legislation like Medicare for All as a core element in my congressional bid. Those bold actions have led to a lot of momentum on the ground. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Puerto Rican Best memory of growing up. Going for walks and gardening with my abuela every morning as a child. Best memory of a day at school or work. I was working at my day job when I found out that our Congressional campaign pressured the incumbent to co-sponsor H.R. 676: Medicare for All. It was a spine-tingling moment that reinforced the idea that ordinary people can still have an impact on national legislation. Best day ever. Any day with loved ones, books, a good workout, and some community organizing, of course! Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? I graduated from Boston University with dual degrees in Economics and International Relations. Best book you ever read. Cien Anos de Soledad, Gabriel Garcia Marquez Favorite quote? “Be, and not seem.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson Favorite sports team. BU Terriers! Favorite song. El Cantante, Hector Lavoe Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. We all have our innermost dreams and aspirations. They are as unique and diverse as we are - perhaps you want to be a writer, or a scientist, or aspire to raise an incredible family. Each of us has a calling, and there will be hundreds of reasons to not pursue it. But if you feel in your heart that you are called to tell a story, solve a problem, raise a family, and pursue your dreams, that’s the only reason you need.
how did you get to where you are today? She is currently a senior consultant on strategic communications at Progressive Cities, a communications, press, and campaign strategy firm for progressive leaders, labor unions, coalitions and issue advocacy groups. Before joining Progressive Cities, Marlene was a senior political reporter for El Diario, the largest Spanish language daily newspaper in New York City. At El Diario she covered Mayors Michael Bloomberg, and Bill de Blasio, Governor Cuomo and urban politics. She has over 15 years of experience in English and Spanish language media, also having worked for Newsday, AM New York, HITN TV, 1010 WINS Radio among others. Marlene is an Emmy award nominee and is the recipient of three Communicator Awards from the Academy of International Visual Arts (AIVA). She has a Masters degree in Broadcast Journalist from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My mother has been the most influential person in my life. Even though she came to the US not knowing any English she was never afraid to ask questions about resources to help her and her family. I think that's where I got the urge to help others, since I am always learning and looking for ways to past that knowledge onto 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 become a journalist and work in the media world because I understood from an early age the power of the press. As journalists, we empower people to hold all kinds of entities accountable. We help seek justice, we help push for equal rights by reporting injustices. Now as a communications consultant, I empower non-profit and grassroots organizations and progressive entities to use media to give needed visibility to their cause. Their cause is often pushing for resources for low income communities or those who have been neglected for too long. My work is crucial to ensuring adequate public education for all children, affordable housing and environmental justice for low income communities environmental justice among other social issues that need immediate attention. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? I was born in the Dominican Republic. Best memory of growing up. My best memory growing up is about spending Summers and school breaks with my cousins at the beach in the house my grandparents owned in the countryside back in the Dominican Republic. Those memories are priceless. Best memory of a day at school or work. One of my best memories is co-hosting primary elections debate with candidates for NYC Comptroller which featured former Governor Elliot Spitzer. I asked him about the role morality plays in politics given his scandal involving prostitutes when he was a Governor of NY. Best day ever. The day I received my graduate degree Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? I hold a Media Communication Arts degree from CUNY's City College and a Masters degree in broadcast journalism from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Best book you ever read. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Favorite quote? "A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true." MLK Favorite sports team. NY Mets Favorite song. Scar Tissue by Red Hot Chili Peppers Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Never be afraid to fail. Failure is your path to success.
Enny D. Pichardo Journalist Univision
how did you get to where you are today? Enny Pichardo is an Dominican-American journalist. Pichardo has been a reporter for Noticiero Univisión, Despierta América, and Primer Impacto since 2013. Prior to that, Pichardo worked as the NY based Correspondent for Nuestra Tele Noticias, NTN24, from October 2009 to 2013, after working as a news writer/producer for NY1 Noticias, since his graduation from Mount Saint Mary College in 2006. He started his journalistic career as an intern for Despierta America in New York, and was also a writer for Dominican Times Magazine (DTM). As an international correspondent and producer for NTN24, Pichardo traveled to Haiti after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed thousands of people; and three months later, visited the country again to produce and host a special program, 'Haití: 100 días después', where he showed the progress and reconstruction of the country. Pichardo has also traveled to Phoenix, AZ after the implementation of the SB1070 law; and went south again to Tucson, AZ after the fatal shooting that killed a federal judge and left Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords wounded. He had the opportunity to travel to several states to cover news-worthy events and tragedies. Pichardo covered several events such as the capture and death of Osama bin Laden, high profile cases such as Dominique Strauss Kahn's, the Occupy Wall Street protest, the yearly General Assembly meeting at the United Nations, and has also interviewed several world leaders including, former UN's Secretary General -Ban ki Moon; Presidents Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Republic, Porfirio Lobo of Honduras, Laura Chinchilla from Costa Rica, Alvaro Colom from Guatemala, Juan Manuel Santos from Colombia, Shimon Peres from Israel, Felipe Calderón from Mexico, Otto Perez Molina from Guatemala, Michel Martelly from Haiti, Cristina Fernández from Argentina, and other world leaders, ambassadors and foreign relations ministers/secretaries. Pichardo has also interviewed several US leaders, as well as state and local elected officials from several municipalities and states. Born in Yamasá--Dominican Republic in 1982, Enny earned a double Bachelors Degree in Communications and Hispanic Studies from Mount Saint Mary College in May 2006. Enny grew up in The Bronx, where he attended PS 43, IS 184 and later on South Bronx High School. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? The most influential persons in my life have been my mother, Digna; my father, José Fidel; and my partner. I must also include my brothers and sister, who have always been there for me. 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? Very interesting question: when I was little, I wanted to be a priest. Later on, I started my college years wanting to major in Political Science, then I decided to go for Economy. However, I ended up taking some classes on 'Communications', which really caught my attention. After that, I ended up doing a Dual Major: Hispanic and Media Studies. I chose Hispanic Studies, because I had taken AP Spanish, in South Bronx High School--and since I passed my exam with a 5 score...I was told that it would give me 6 college credits. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? I am a proud Dominican-American. Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New York City. Best memory of growing up. Coming to NYC--walking around Randall's Island Park picking up bottles, to sell them. Doing it while keeping up with my studies, imitating some news-anchors and reporters. Always being active in the community--being honor roll student, and years later: finishing my degrees...going to my graduation with my family--making my father very proud, a year before he passed away. Best memory of a day at school or work. In school: graduating; later on, entering Univisión--basically, "A dream come true". It is also great when someone approaches you, because they recognize you based on the work you do... Best day ever. Being able to do a news report, and seeing it on air. Speaking to my mother, knowing that she's doing great; and having some good time with my partner: walking around, with him...and even with our mothers, nieces and nephews. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Mount Saint Mary College, Dual Bachelor Degrees: Hispanic Studies and Media Studies Best book you ever read. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho Favorite quote? Two of them: "Find a passion in life and you wont ever work again"; and this one in Spanish, "En esta industria, el éxito lo logra NO el más inteligente, sino el más persistente"... Favorite sports team. New York Yankees Favorite song. Porque Me Amaste by Milly Quezada Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. NEVER give up...if you really want something, you must work on it, focus and push for it until you achieve it. We all make mistakes, but learn from them...they can turn you into something better than how you were before. Also, ALWAYS remember this: "Success is NO accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, making sacrifices". We can ALL make it to the top...and remember, the sky is NOT the limit...
Noel Quiñones Associate Director of Service Learning & Civic Engagement Brooklyn Friends School
how did you get to where you are today? Noel Quiñones is an AfroBoricua educator, writer, performer, and community organizer born and raised in the Bronx. Following his mother's footsteps as an educator and his father's love for literature, Noel began teaching poetry workshops at the age of 15. For the past nine years he has dedicated himself to the belief that art, community, and education are inseparable. As a writer and performer he has received fellowships from Poets House, CantoMundo, and the Watering Hole, and featured with The Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College and BronxNet Television as well as performed at Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors Festival, La Casita, the Nuyorican Poets Café, and Jawdance in London. Instilled with a love for the Bronx, Latinx culture, and his Puerto Rican heritage Noel not only pursued Creative Writing but community organizing. He is the founder of Project X, a Bronx based arts organization providing the borough with open mics, workshops, community programming, and the Bronx's own Slam Series to produce its first all Latinx Slam Team. He currently works as the Associate Director of Service Learning & Civic Engagement at the Brooklyn Friends School and lives in Washington Heights. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My mother, Dahlia Mendoza, has been the most influential person in my life. As a single mother in the Bronx she taught me what love looked like. Love was dressing up like a jíbaro and playing the güiro during Christmas, was opening your house to family and friends every single weekend, was teaching yourself about the world even when you didn't have to. While I use to say being a teacher made my mother love learning, the truth is loving to learn made my mother become a teacher. I have vivid memories of us taking trips all over the city, visiting museums, historic landmarks, and tourist attractions because she believed in learning as a 24/7 experience. Even more importantly, she took me to spaces focused on Puerto Ricans, on our art, our people, and our languages. Yet what I carry most closely in my heart is that learning is best felt when shared and documented. It was as if we couldn't do anything alone, every trip was with friends, family, or co-workers and every milestone was photographed for the stacks of scrapbooks my mother still has at home. Only as an adult did I realize the immense impact this had on me and my work. My dedication to and love for the Bronx, my family and friends, and my current students come from her unending devotion to community and to learning as not singular events but a lifestyle to be cherished. 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? My parents were huge advocates of education, both stating that college was their escape from poverty. I saw how school had changed their lives and I wanted to do that for other students who identified as I did. Along the way I grew a deep love for Creative Writing, which further influenced my teaching ideology. I didn't surprise anyone when I decided to major in English Literature with a focus in Creative Writing, and minor in Education. Yet what did surprise me was what happened post-college. Until I entered the working world I hadn't realized the numerous ways you could combine these three disciplines. I thought my choices were limited to being an English Literature teacher or a Teaching Artist but I have found so much depth and purpose in combining all three of my passions. So much of Education and English Literature is traditional and devoid of POC voices, yet Creative Writing has allowed me to see the need for our narratives to grow the canon and diversify the curriculum. In the same way working in schools has allowed me to see the desire students have for integrated arts programming. I have always believed that seeing the world from multiple perspectives leads to impactful social change but I am blessed to live that belief everyday through my work, my students, and my passions. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? AfroBoricua Best memory of growing up. My best memory growing up is turning my cousin, Celeste's, bedroom into a blanket fort and creating a machine that held a bunch of legos in a net above the door so that when my grandmother walked in they all fell on her. We were smart, mischievous kids. Best memory of a day at school or work. My best memory at work was when I was a Youth Development Coordinator at the Bronx High School of Business and we were banned from using the outdoor field for our Field Day. Initially all of my students and faculty were upset but we rallied together and set up our Field Day on the balcony. Teachers, community organizers, students, and families all worked together to move our food, DJ equipment, and games up there. It was a huge success and we proved once again that the Bronx knows how to make a party out of a bad situation. Best day ever. My best day ever would have to be three years ago when I was a volunteer teacher in Capetown, South Africa. I had encountered a group of students who loved American Hip-Hop and so we spent a day recording songs in their makeshift studio and talking South African rap culture. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Swarthmore College, Major in English Literature with a focus in Creative Writing, Minor in Education Best book you ever read. The Pendragon Series by D.J. MacHale Favorite quote? “The Nuyorican poet is responsible for creating newness. The newness needs words, words never heard before or used before. He has to invent a new language, a new tradition of communication.” -Miguel Algarín Favorite sports team. New York Giants Favorite song. All Star - Smashmouth Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. You are enough. I don't care if you can't cook arroz y habichuelas, aren't fluent in Spanish, don't know how to dance Bachata, or hate the taste of platanos, you are still Latinx. Don't let anyone, family, friend, or stranger take that away from you. Define your own version of Latinidad and trust that there are others who travel that same path.
Bianca Rajpersaud Director of Constituent Services Office of NYS Assemblyman Michael Cusick
how did you get to where you are today? My name is Bianca Rajpersaud and I am a daughter of immigrant parents; my father hails from Guyana, South America and my mother from the Dominican Republic. I currently serve as the Director of Constituent Services for NYS Assemblyman Michael J. Cusick’s District Office, located in Staten Island, NY. I am a graduate of the University at Albany-SUNY, where I received my Bachelor's degree in Sociology with a minor in Criminal Justice. Currently, I am taking online courses through Kent State University in the hopes of obtaining my Masters in Public Administration, with a focus on Nonprofit Management. I was born in Queens but raised in Staten Island. Being the daughter of immigrant parents, I strive to go above and beyond to make my family’s decision to move to this country worth it. Through my education at the University at Albany, my experience being involved in student government, and my internship experience with the NYS Assembly Internship Program I discovered my passion for public service. I utilized my network and previous work experience to obtain my current position with hopes to make a difference in my community and my country. In the future, my desire is to focus on addressing and reforming the mental health stigma associated with minority communities in our country. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? The most influential person in my life is my father, Randolph Rajpersaud. My father is the most selfless person I know and I aspire to be just like him. My father came to this country at the age of 25 with nothing. Without a college education from a university/college in the United States, he had to work hard every day to provide for his family and make a living in this country. My father is the ultimate role model for my two sisters and I. He is a walking example of the fact that nothing is handed to you but hard work pays off in the long run as long as you stay focus on your goals. 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 enter the public service field due to a lack of participation in government from people my age. I believe being involved in politics is the way to bring forth real change to my community. I am in a position where I can be a voice for people in my community regarding the quality of life and needs of the people. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Dominican Best memory of growing up. My best memory growing up was going to Dorney Park with my family every summer. Going to Dorney Park became a family tradition. This is one of my best memories growing up due to the fact that our trip to the amusement park would bring my family together to enjoy each other’s company. Best memory of a day at school or work. One of my best memories occurred when I was in college. I served as the Director of Programming for the Student Association at UAlbany. I put together a Black History Month Speaker Series event for the student body, where I was able to have Common (rapper and actor) come to UAlbany and speak on racial injustice. Meeting and speaking to Common was such an amazing experience. Best day ever. Recently, for my birthday, my co-workers bought me all of my favorite treats and bought me a pair of shoes that were called "Queen Bee". My nickname around the office and amongst my close friends is Queen B, hence the reason why they bought me the shoes. My co-workers really showed how much they appreciated me by doing this for me. 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 the University at Albany-SUNY where I received my Bachelor's degree. I currently attend Kent State University where I am looking to obtain my Masters in Public Administration (MPA). Best book you ever read. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander Favorite quote? "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." -Martin Luther King Jr. Favorite sports team. NY Knicks Favorite song Rise Up by Andra Day Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Stay focus and believe in yourself. There will be people who will tell you that you can't achieve your goals but this is 100% false. As long as you remain true to yourself and remain driven you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.
Julio E. Reyes, Jr. Branch Area Manager Popular Community Bank
how did you get to where you are today? I was born in Spanish Harlem and raised in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx. My mom and dad were both born in Puerto Rico and came over at young ages to attend school and find work. Both of my parents worked for the city (My mom was a teacher, my dad worked for NYCHA)and had very discipline and strict work ethics that translated into my school work and professional development. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?my mom and dad are equal influences. they both have strong work ethics and discipline. Both are very humble, down to earth people who put family and religion atop their priorities. 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've always been interested in money management and helping people. I believe banking, financial literacy and finance management are extremely important in providing security to one's self and our family. I take the knowledge I have gathered in my field and try to give it back to our community through numerous financial literacy workshops and classes in our market (the Bronx). I believe a large majority of the people in our communities lack basic money management skills which indirectly prevents the chance of long term, generational movement from happening. I also lead my 49 employees to do the same while I develop them to be confident banking professionals and advisors. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Puerto Rican Best memory of growing up. being named captain of my football team for the first time. Best memory of a day at school or work. The first time my employees were promoted. I had 4 simultaneous promotions take place for 4 individuals who started their banking careers with me the year prior. watching them grow into leadership and banker positions was really special when I considered the endless amount of training and development that was invested. Best day ever. the birth of my children Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Lehman College - Business Administration and Finance Best book you ever read. Joel Osteen - Your best life now Favorite quote? life isn't only about the daily increase, its also about the daily decrease - you must hack away at the unessential. Favorite sports team. New York Yankees/Denver Broncos Favorite song. hector lavoe - sonogoro cosongo Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Although life may seem complex, if you keep it simple with consistent hard work and passion, you can achieve anything you set your mind on. My rules to life: work hard, be good, have fun.
Juan Robles, MD Montefiore Medical Center
how did you get to where you are today? I was born in Honduras and immigrated to the South Bronx at the age of 13. Growing up socioeconomic disadvantaged and caring for underserved communities was a powerful motivation for me to pursue a career in primary care. I attended Cornell University and graduated with a B.S in Biology. I continued my educational pursuits and earned a Master's Degree in biology from NYU. I then taught science as a New York City Teaching Fellow. I attended the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and completed my residency training in family medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. My areas of interest include caring for marginalized populations, preventive care, nutrition literacy, and mentoring underrepresented minority students pursue health care professions. I am currently an attending Family Medicine physician in the Department of Family and Social Medicine at Montefiore and an assistant professor of Family Medicine at Einstein. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? I have had numerous mentors and role models who have guided and supported me in my personal and professional journey. I am the first one in my family to pursue a career in medicine. In additions to my family and teachers, my former pediatrician Dr. Alan Shapiro also had a significant impact in my decision to pursue a career in medicine. I admired his compassionate care and dedication to serving immigrant populations. He inspired me and gave me hope. 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? My decision to purse a career in medicine is rooted in my own experience with health care and training in underserved populations. Since arriving in the USA my family and I have depended on the public health care system. Choosing family medicine and practicing in the Bronx has been a blessing. My life journey has naturally positioned and prepared me to be an agent of change addressing social inequalities including health care inequalities in this community. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? I was born in Honduras, Central America. Best memory of growing up. I have vivid memories growing up in the natural beauty of rural Honduras. I also have wonderful memories of growing up in a thriving, vibrant, and diverse neighborhood in the Bronx. Best memory of a day at school or work. My workdays are packed with unforgettable moments. My patients’ life story and resiliency are powerful and motivating. Best day ever. My best day ever was when I was accepted to medical school. I could not believe it, I called the Admissions office just to confirm! 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 Cornell University and graduated with a B.S in Biology. Best book you ever read. “Surviving the Fall: The Personal Journey of an AIDS Doctor” by Dr. Peter Selwyn Favorite quote? “Only A life lived for other is a life worth living” by Albert Einstein Favorite sports team. New York City Football Club (NYCFC) Favorite song. “Ojala que llueva cafe” by Juan Luis Guerra Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. I am a strong advocate of youth in our communities pursuing health care professions or other careers of service. Our communities need smart, dedicated, and compassionate leaders to transform and impact the life of those less privileged. We need you.
How did you get to where you are today? I am a multimedia artist, publisher, and activist based in New York. I came to activism and politics as a young Latina raised in the South, relocating to New York at age 18 to study art. Inspired by the NYC subcultures and communities of which I was a part, I began tattooing alongside my own visual art practice. I have developed my art and tattoo practice to be what it is today, a space for discussion and honoring of our identities as well as a platform for discussion of political issues, particularly LGBTQ+ rights, anti-racist organizing, criminal justice reform and prison abolition. In 2016 I founded Discipline Press, an independent multimedia publishing house dedicated to narratives and history of counterculture, with a focus on excavating experiences of marginalized peoples within subculture. I am currently a volunteer art teacher at Rikers Island as well as a hotline operator with NYC's Anti-Violence Project. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My mother, for being a shining example of determination and self-reliance, and always offering unconditional support. 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? Tattooing has shaped my life in so many ways. Today I view it as a form of social work. The large majority of my clientele is female, queer, trans, Latinx or other POC, and in the intimate space of performing the tattoo I hear an infinite number of moving and inspiring stories. Tattoos can have a transformative or affirming impact and I am honored to be able to provide that service for my community. The tattoo shop also serves as a gathering space and social hub, and I am proud to work at a shop with the staff and ethos of Saved Tattoo. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Mexican-American Best memory of growing up. My mom very patiently and graciously putting up with my punk haircuts and my blasting death metal from my bedroom. Best memory of a day at school or work. Most days at work are wonderful, but I especially love the days that I get to tattoo younger activists and have conversations with them. Best day ever. Any day off where I can go look at art and have some studio time. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? I graduated from Pratt Institute with a BFA in Printmaking. Best book you ever read. It changes daily- currently I'd say "Borderlands" by Gloria Anzaldua. Favorite quote? At the moment: "What...the political correctness debate is really about is the power to be able to define. The definers want the power to name. And the defined are now taking that power away from them." -Toni Morrison Favorite sports team. I'm not a sports fan, but I am moved and inspired by the teams and athletes kneeling to protest racial injustice at the moment. Favorite song Betty Davis- "Game Is My Middle Name" Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Don't let others define who you are. Honoring tradition in our culture is important, but we are also complex and nuanced individuals. Allowing ourselves and others that ability is what gives our communities strength, beauty and the power to grow!
Angel Ismael Vasquez Chief of Staff Office of NYS Senator Marisol Alcantara
How did you get to where you are today? Angel Vasquez is the Chief of Staff to New York State Senator Marisol Alcántara, the first Dominican woman to serve in the New York State Senate and currently the only Latina serving in the chamber. In his role, Angel has worked to have Senator Alcantara secure and allocate over $5 million in state funding during the 2017-2018 budget cycle for community-based organizations serving the working-class communities of Washington Heights and Inwood, pass legislation that would create a $5 million Diversity in Television tax credit for television companies that hire more minority and female writers and producers, and pass legislation that would increase the size grants that New York City agency contracts give to minority and women owned businesses from $35,000 to $150,000. Prior to his current role, Angel served as the Education Policy Analyst for the Independent Democratic Conference at the New York State Senate. During his time as a policy analyst, he set the conference’s K-12 and higher education agenda, negotiated the state’s K-12 and higher education budgets, and drafted numerous policy reports that served as the basis for change in New York State. His most proud accomplishments as an Education Policy Analyst include securing $1 million to increase the diversity in New York City’s specialized high schools and negotiating legislation to address the profound issues plaguing the East Ramapo School District. Angel served as a 7th Grade Reading Teacher and 8thGrade Socratic Seminar Teacher in Denver, Colorado educating predominately low-income and minority students through the Teach For America program. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and a Master of Public Administration degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? The most influential person in my life has been my mother. She is, like me, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, and has managed to overcome barriers that to many who have the privilege of being born in the United States seem unimaginable. With limited English proficiency, she has become a small business magnate managing three small businesses in New York City. And while she never attended a University in the United States or held a white-collar job in the United States, she has always provided me with the right invaluable advise when I am confronted with a life-changing professional challenge or decision. I admire her work ethic and every day seek to be more like her. 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? My parents and I immigrated to New York City from the Dominican Republic when I was just four years old. We settled in the Dominican-enclave of Washington Heights, which at the time was riddled with crime, drugs, and gang violence. My parents very well understood that our local schools were failing my brother and me, and that the dangerous environment was no place for young children. As a result, when I was twelve years old and entering the 7th grade, my parents moved our family to a white-picket fence home in suburban New Jersey, which served as their version of achieving the ‘American Dream’. It was my time in the Teaneck public school system that allowed me to understand the meaning of an excellent education. Fast-forward ten years after our move from Washington Heights to New Jersey I found myself coincidentally teaching 7th grade reading in a school of predominantly low-income immigrant students in Denver, Colorado as a Teach For America Corps Member. It was during my first year of teaching that I realized that the students I was instructing shared my life story. We were all the product of immigrants who came to the United States yearning for their own version of the ‘American Dream’. However, one sad reality settled in: by 7th grade, my parents had given me the opportunity to escape the challenged NYC public school system; meanwhile, ten years had gone by since I had completed the 7th grade, and the students I was teaching were still stuck in failing public schools. In short, nothing had changed in ten years. After my first year of teaching, I thought to myself that I could stay in the classroom and try to change the lives of 120 students every year, or I could attempt to tackle the problem at the macro-policy level. After all, the problem I had witnessed and had personally escaped was an institutional problem. After teaching for a second year, I decided to pursue a Masters of Public Administration where I focused on Education Policy. Today, I am the Chief of Staff to the State Senator in the neighborhood where I attended elementary and middle school. I have decided that if I am to make institutional change, it is most important to start in my home neighborhood. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Dominican Best memory of growing up. I was ten years old and I had just walked home from school to my apartment building in Washington Heights. My aunt, who lived in the apartment next to mine, was waiting for me in the hallway. She asked me to go into her apartment and to have a seat. With a smile on her face, she said to me, "you probably do not understand what all of this means at your age, but today your parents received in the mail your green card. You are finally a legal resident of the United States, and you can travel freely wherever you like." While I did not fully comprehend the meaning of being a legal resident at ten years old, I jumped for joy. I was mostly excited about the prospect of being able to visit my grandparents and cousins in the Dominican Republic, who I only really knew through phone call conversations. I was undocumented for nearly seven years. And while I did not understand what it meant at ten years old to be documented, the memory is sharp and shocking enough that today it still serves as one of my most vivid childhood memories. I would argue that perhaps the impact of going from undocumented to documented is truly that meaningful. Best memory of a day at school or work. It was 2 o'clock in the morning and I had been working around the clock for nearly three weeks straight negotiating the state's education budget when I received a call from my Chief of Staff at the time to step into his office. When I walked in, he said, "We've managed to secure the $1 million for the plan you put together that would go toward increasing diversity in New York City's specialized high schools. Please draft the bill language that will into the appropriations bill." That was the moment when all of my hard work had paid off. I had spent nearly eight months putting together policy reports, press conferences, and negotiation arguments to turn the issue of the low numbers of black and Latino students admitted into the specialized high schools into a state issue. I had worked with various organizations to design what the experts believed would be the right solution, and this was my moment to turn all of that into a $1 million program financed by the state. Best day ever. The best day ever was the day I received my acceptance letter to Cornell University. It was a moment that I did not take as one to boast, but as one to take pride in all of the work my parents had done for that moment to become a reality. From a tin-roof home in the Dominican Republic to a rat and roach infested apartment in Washington Heights to a beautiful suburban home with a well manicured lawn in Teaneck, NJ was the immigrant story of my family. To me that entire journey came together when I was able to proudly share with my parents that their hard work, determination and perseverance had manifested itself into an admissions letter to an Ivy League institution. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations | Bachelor of Science Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs | Masters of Public Administration Best book you ever read. The Shame of the Nation by Jonathan Kozol Favorite quote? "Only thing we have to fear is fear itself" -FDR Favorite sports team. New York Yankees Favorite song. Favorite artist is Ricardo Arjona Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. No matter the obstacles, barriers, and challenges life throws at you, continue to persevere and continue to fight. Almost always, our journey will be twice if not three times as hard because we often find ourselves paving the ways for others behind us. Remember that as the Latino population expands in our state in the our country, it will be our responsibility to train and mentor those that will come after us.
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