Liza M. Acevedo Spokesperson and Strategic Communications Adviser Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly
How did you get to where you are today? When I was 18, I was offered an internship with Congresswoman Yvette Clarke. It was during this internship that I would learn communications skills and began to understand New York politics. Following this internship, I interned with the Hillary for America campaign, then moving on and becoming the Director of Communications for Senator Michael Gianaris. After my time with Senator Gianaris, I became Deputy Press Secretary for New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. I volunteered on numerous campaigns in Florida, Atlanta, and other parts of the United States. I am currently the Spokesperson and Strategic Communications Adviser for New Jersey Speaker Craig Coughlin. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? Dolores Huerta. Her confidence, intelligence and grace are attributes that I admire. She has committed her life to helping others and was an important advocate for Hispanic women. She fought gender and ethnic stereotypes and it is her strength and honesty that have encouraged me to never give up, no matter how hard the battle, and to remember to always lend a helping hand. 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 captivated by the work of Economist Paul Krugman and ultimately decided to pursue Economics as my major. I was committed to fighting against inequality and making a change in communities. Growing up, the people in my neighborhood faced some of the issues we are fighting for today -- access to health care, common sense gun safety policies, and economic opportunities. It is through communications that I find I can best use my voice to advocate on behalf of others for economic fairness, low and middle class families and women and minority rights. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Puerto Rican and Hispanic Best memory of growing up. As a kid, my father was my baseball coach and my mother was a commissioner of the league. Every weekend, we would go to the baseball field and spend our days in the sun with friends and family. I would play baseball and spend time with the two greatest people I know. Best memory of a day at school or work. I left the Bronx County Courthouse with the family of a teenager who was found innocent and charges had just been dismissed. At the time, I was the Director of Communications for Senator Gianaris who had been fighting for the elimination of monetary bail in the state of New York, and I knew that the results of this case would help bring us closer to that goal. After leaving the courthouse, I sat on bench in the Bronx, smiling and reflected on the past week. I was thrilled for the family and extremely proud to be working for a legislator who genuinely cared about making difference and was fighting for the true meaning of "innocent until proven guilty." Best day ever. Monday, June 4th, 2018. I was invited to be the alumni speaker at my high school's senior awards night. It was not only an honor and privilege, but it allowed me the opportunity to tell kids who came from the same neighborhood and background as me, that there are endless possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Wheaton College. Economics major. Best book you ever read. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell Favorite quote? “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” -- Robert F. Kennedy Favorite sports team. New York Mets Favorite song Lisa Sawyer by Leon Bridges Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Our voices will be heard.
Guadalupe Estefania Ambrosio Co-Executive Director, BMCC Student New York State Youth Leadership Council, Education Spring 2019
How did you get to where you are today? Guadalupe Ambrosio is a long time community organizer and educator, born in Mexico City and raised in the Bronx. After having a difficult time with the education system being pushed out in and out of school by her counselors due to her immigration status. She felt hopeless and was ready to give up. Yet she decided to change her school and was able to find supportive educators who facilitated opportunities for her to grow. While working on a documentary about immigration her senior year in high school she found the NYSYLC - the first undocumented youth led organization on in New York. While working with them to film a PSA Guadalupe was inspired to come out as undocumented and challenge her own fear attached to her undocumented status. Through her involvement with NYSYLC, Guadalupe’s work has focused on the New York Dream Act organizing with the NYSYLC Dream Team Network of High School and College students since 2011. Where she has supported immigrant youth with their leadership development. She became a member and was nominated to become a Core member. In the span of two years as a volunteer she was hired as NYSYLC community organizer. She is now one the Co-Executive Directors of the New York State Youth Leadership Council. Apart from her work, Guadalupe is currently pursuing a degree in Bilingual Childhood Education. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? The most influential person in my life is my mother who continues to redefine motherhood, feminism and what home can be. Both my parents have sacrificed so much for me however my mother due to her gender has experienced so many obstacles and continues to encourage her daughters to reach all their goals and challenge gender norms. 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 bilingual education because as a bilingual student I was discriminated and my parents were shamed for being immigrants, low income and non-English speakers by the school's administration. I was very inspired by the lack of genuine support in public schools for immigrant families and bilingual students, it was the for me to be an educator and advocate for families like mine. The first job I got with Deferred Action was as a group leader in an after-school program in South Bronx. Although my job was to facilitate art programming I quickly became an official immigrant liaison. I supported students and families through legal, housing issues as well as emotional support around the impact of deportations in my student's families. The lack of intentional support in our education system is what motivates me to be there for families like mine because we deserve to be prioritized. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Mexican Best memory of growing up. The best memory of growing up is going to soccer games with my family. This was during the time my father was healthy enough to play and our small family and I didn't live in fear of deportation. Best memory of a day at school or work. I have many great memories of work. I love facilitating and creating opportunities for undocumented youth like myself and see them accomplish their goals and see them learn they can do more than they ever expected. Best day ever. The best day ever was hugging my grandmother after being separated for over 23 years. It was a dream that until this day seems surreal. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Borough Of Community College/ Childhood Bilingual Education Best book you ever read. All About Love by Bell Hooks Favorite quote? “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” ― Assata Shakur, Assata: An Autobiography Favorite sports team. Pumas (UNAM) Favorite song La Jaula de Oro- Los Tigres Del Norte Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. As undocumented immigrants, we are more than our immigration status and we do not owe this government anything. We are creative, innovative, resilient, whole loving people.
Ivan Calero Intern Housing Help, Inc. & Green: Inside and Out
How did you get to where you are today? Ivan's is the first generation of his family name to have been born in the United States. His lineage is that of a Latino and Asian descent, of which he is proud to be a part of these different communities that share similar dreams of prosperity, motivating him to study hard and to achieve scholastically. Ivan has an established passion for history, psychology, and politics, which has prompted him to study Philosophy as a major in college as he perceives it to be a perfect blend of the aforementioned subjects. This subject prioritized the search and development of one's own method of living one's life to the best of their ability and how to give back to the world we inhabit. To Ivan, exhibiting respect for oneself, to others, to tradition and progression, to the world and creating camaraderie with all is the best way to live, in addition to giving back to the community. He graduated from SUNY Oswego in 2017 as part of the Dean's List of Academic Achievers and is currently interning at Housing Help, Inc., where he focuses on finding proper affordable housing for individuals from different walks of life that are enduring tremendously stressful living situations. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My father has been the most influential person in my life for he is a constant source of inspiration to me, emphasizing the establishment of virtues such as courage, honesty, love, diligence, and respect to any and every situation I would come across in life. He is both my father, as well as my closest friend. 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 to study philosophy for the purpose of developing an understanding of how to live well in spite of the obstacles that would impede our progression, whether the hurdles are external or born from within ourselves. Using what I have learned would assist me in establishing an empathic connec tion with those I meet or would assist in the public sector for the reason that I personally believe that understanding the joys and needs of your client is closely followed by the most optimal form of efficient service. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Nicaraguan Best memory of growing up. Going on a day or full-weekend trips with my father to different states to see the multiple natural sights and parks. Best memory of a day at school or work. Concert nights when the school band I was in would perform. Best day ever. Spending the day discussing politics and philosophy with friends. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? SUNY Oswego. Major in Philosophy Best book you ever read. The Rebel, by Albert Camus Favorite quote? "The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion." - Albert Camus Favorite sports team. Do not have one. Favorite song Fool in the Rain - Led Zeppelin Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Always be proud of where you come from on and of your lineage, for you are their living legacy. And then strive to go beyond it; become proud and love yourself for WHO you are as an autonomous individual.
Marlene Camacho-Rivera Assistant Medical Professor CUNY School of Medicine
How did you get to where you are today? I was born and raised in the East New York section of Brooklyn, New York. My parents immigrated from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rican with the dream of providing a better life for their future children. I'm the 3rd of 4 children and was educated in New York City Public Schools. I went to Cornell University and graduated with a bachelor of science in Biology and Society. From there, I moved to Boston where I pursued my MPH degree from Tufts University School of Medicine and received my master and doctorate of science in social epidemiology from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. I'm currently an Assistant Medical Professor in the Department of Community Health and Social Medicine at the CUNY School of Medicine. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? I consider my mother to be the most influential person in my life, in terms of shaping me into the woman I've become today. From an early age, my mother instilled the importance of education and demonstrated incredible work ethic and sacrifice to help me achieve my goals. Even now, as an adult, my mother continues to be my greatest cheerleader and and a constant source of support, both personally and professionally. 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 background in public health as a health disparities researcher, as well as my decision to become a professor, is rooted in my commitment to tackling the health inequities observed within and experienced by our community. I am dedicated to helping to improve the health and well being of our community by conducting research and designing programs to reduce the burden of chronic diseases in our communities, and by training the next generation of Latino physicians who will tackle these complex problems. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Dominican and Puerto Rican Best memory of growing up. Every holiday and family gathering with my immediate and extended family. The food, the music, the dancing, the laughter - all of these memories continue to remind me of the importance of family and the beauty of our Latino heritage. Best memory of a day at school or work. My best day at school was my commencement ceremony for my doctoral degree from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Best day ever. Three way tie between my wedding day, the birth of my oldest son, and the birth of my twins. 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, Biology and Society Major. Best book you ever read. The Alchemist Favorite quote? Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It's the only thing. - Dr. Albert Schweitzer Favorite sports team. NY Yankees Favorite song Anything by Juan Luis Guerra Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. It is never too early or late to make a difference in our community. Every one of us has the responsibility to support those who came before us, and to provide more opportunities for those who come after us.
Mariel De La Cruz Bronx Borough Director NYC Comptroller's Office
How did you get to where you are today? Born in the Bronx but raised in Washington Heights, I had a close connection with Dominican Heritage. It was such a privilege to grow up in a place so far from my immigrant family’s home but that we, as first generation immigrants, were able to learn Spanish, eat traditional Dominican food, and our culture. My first venture in civic engagement and happened when my building organized a tenant's association because there was a threat of a MCI and lingering repair issues. After we were successful, I knew I wanted to do work that has lead to community empowerment. By chance I ended up at Fordham University, a Jesuit school. I met a lot of young people that wanted to make a difference in their community/ world. The Jesuit traditions were deep in me and I decided to join the Jesuit Volunteer Corp, in Detroit. This was a transformational year for me being away from home and living with folks very different than I. Detroit was a culture shock, never did I think in the US I would see such abandonment but such a will to persevere. We worked to ensure vulnerable populations kept their homes. In the program, I was one of a few people of color. I learned how the rest of America saw me or rather didn't see us (Latinos) at all. I then decided to do a second year of service in Atlanta, GA as a Paralegal assisting migrant workers. After that experience, I solidified that my purpose in this world is to work with the disenfranchised and underrepresented. These experiences made me confront my privilege and understand that we as people are more resilient than we think. When I returned, I became a housing organizer for tenants with Section 8 subsidies at Tenants & Neighbors. I worked almost 3 years ensuring tenants had basic rights and extending affordability around the state. I also worked to expand leadership and technical skills of the tenants. I was then given the opportunity to spend some time as a housing organizer in the Bronx with an organization called CASA. Here I had an opportunity in helping preserve rent stabilized units, which is NYC’s greatest affordable housing stock, cultivate leadership and work on several campaigns. I had the honor of working on a campaign that aimed at getting representation for folks that are in threat of eviction. I was then given the opportunity to join NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer Community Affairs team as liaison. I was responsible for being the eyes and ears of the Comptroller in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan. Being in this position has allowed me a vast vantage point in what is important to groups around NYC as well as the role of ensuring there was open communication between Comptroller Stringer and NYC residents. We hold accountability sessions with constituents, several heritage events and are responsible for capturing the accurate community narrative. Currently, I serve as the NYC Comptroller’s Bronx Borough Director . I oversee and manage a team who cover the borough of the Bronx. I never thought that I would hold such a distinguished position when we were constantly told we inner city kids were not capable. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? Mayra De La Cruz is a major influencer. My mother adopted my cousins to raise as her own. Always understanding that no one can succeed on their own, she sacrificed her own needs and desires to make sure we achieved our 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 had seen how important choices made by elected officials impacted me personally and I wanted to be a part of that process. Being born and raised in NYC I understand NYC on an intimate level. I find it to be my responsibility to make sure I accurately represent the community narrative and work on solutions What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? I am a first generation immigrant from Dominican Republic. Best memory of growing up. Playing outside of the building with the neighbors late into the night. Best memory of a day at school or work. When on an immersion trip to the Navajo Nation, we had the opportunity to go to a bear dance. This dance requires the woman to seek out the man and start the dance. I had the time of my life engaging with the tribe in the manner. I then realized that even though we may be worlds apart, we are unified by dance. Best day ever. The last day Que Lo Que at Apt. 78 where people of all ages enjoyed Tipico music and celebrated the small community we created. 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. Major: Political Science . Minors: Urban Studies and Business Administration Best book you ever read. In the Time of the Butterflies The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Favorite quote? "Love hard and don't let anyone take the ability to love away from you." Favorite sports team. The NY Yankees Favorite song El Farolito- Juan Luis Guerra Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. We are bigger than ourselves. Do not let anyone create our narrative. Work hard, travel a lot, and give back to the community.
Rocio M. GarcÍa Outreach Coordinator Violence Intervention Program Inc
How did you get to where you are today? Rocio Garcia began her tenure as the Outreach Coordinator of The Violence Intervention Program, Inc. in July 2015. In October 2016, Senator Jeffrey D. Klein recognized her for her work as a Domestic Violence community activist within the Bronx. In 2018 by Wellcare as a Community Hero. Ms. Garcia has been in the social service field for over ten years, she has worked in the capacity of caseworker, supervisor, data, and quality manager. For five years she was a co-chair of the Soundview Community Partnership Program. In the capacity of co-chair Ms. Garcia has been an integral part in planning community events in order to address those impacted by domestic violence through their annual women empowerment event, as well as an array of services including the creation of the new initiative set forth during the spring of 2016, focusing on free immigration and legal services fairs. Presently she is the Outreach Coordinator at the Violence Intervention Program, Inc. In this capacity Rocio continues to educate the community by providing workshops on domestic violence prevention and education for man, woman, children, and youth. Advocating for victims rights and involving the community during health fairs and/or special events, while overseeing unique events such as the annual Brides March against domestic violence and the denim day march in order to raise awareness and empower those affected by sexual assault. Rocio Garcia was raised in the Bronx NY, and is a product of New York City public school system. She received her Bachelor’s of Science in Business from DeVry University and Masters of Science in Education from Capella University. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My grandmother has been the biggest influence in my life. She was smart independent, determined, ahead of her time and a community activist. Her desired to better her community allowed me to see that life is better lived when you help others. Her advises and way of life continue to inspire me to do the best I can. My grandmother was born in the 30's in a male lead country (DR) and still manage to do what she wanted, defy gender norm, fight for her family and community, she was truly an amazing person and I am blessed to have met and learned from 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 career choose me, I initially studied marketing and thought that I will be taking over the world. As many graduates I could not find a job in my field and opted to work as a case planner for a medical foster care program, this is When I realized that helping others and giving back is what I was meant to be doing. I transitioned out of that position and started to work in a new program, at the same time decided to study for my masters and discovered my true passion for community. In 2012 I started to build my network with the help of individuals that where passionate about the improvement and growth of their community. I have been given the immense privilege of learning from survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, undocumented immigrants, and child abuse victims they continuously show me that you are not your circumstances but rather your determination. I do the work I do in order to ensure that those that are struggling within our community know that they deserve better and can get anything their heart desire regardless of their "limitations" What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Dominican/ Puerto Rican Best memory of growing up. Visiting my Abuela in Dominican Republic and being spoiled by her with the best food, love, and her life changing consejos. She was truly a force of nature. Best memory of a day at school or work. Helping one of the promotoras practice for a panel discussion and interview we just had. This lady has been through so much but her resiliency and humbleness is a great example of the American dream. Best day ever. My birthday, it is an opportunity to enjoy life and evaluate your accomplishments. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Masters degree from Capella University Best book you ever read. The latina Bible- Sandra Guzman Favorite quote? Quod me nutrit me destruit Favorite sports team. Yankees Favorite song Lose yourself- Eminem Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Your dreams will be your driving force don't quit on yourself regardless of the adversities you may face, enjoy every step of the process while living your life. Don't let success and others vision of you change what you want for yourself. As my father says ay que ser humilde.
Anayeli Gomez-Brittain Brooklyn Borough Liaison NYC Office of the Comptroller
How did you get to where you are today? Anayeli Gomez was born in Mexico City and immigrated to the United States at the age of four with her parents. She was raised in Sunset Park, Brooklyn along with a he r younger sister. Growing up undocumented, with limited resources for her family, led her to become an immigrant rights advocate. During college, Anayeli joined the NYS Youth Leadership Council, an undocumented youth led organization, founded the Brooklyn College Dream Team and helped coordinate a nine-day walk to Albany, NY to advocate for the NYS Dream Act legislation. Anayeli was later named the NYS Dream Act Coalition coordinator which prompt her to work with numerous non-profit organizations, labor unions and education advocates across the state.
Anayeli worked as the Executive Assistant to the La Fuente Inc. Organization and has also worked as the Membership & Capacity Building Associate at the NY Immigration Coalition. Working with grassroots organizations expanded her expertise in civic engagement, community organizing, issue-based and political campaigns and program management.
Anayeli is currently a Brooklyn Borough Liaison for the NYC Comptroller's Office in the Public Affairs Bureau. There, she represents the office at community and stakeholder meetings in the areas of Downtown Brooklyn, Park Slope, Red Hook, Sunset Park and Bushwick.
She continues to give back to her community and is currently serving on the Board of Directors of Mixteca Organization, Inc. Anayeli holds a B.A. in Bilingual Education from CUNY Brooklyn College and is pursuing her Master's Degree. She owes all her achievements to her parents, who immigrated to this country and continue to work tirelessly for their family. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My mother Rosa and my father Octavio are the most influential people in my life. They immigrated to this country to ensure their children have better opportunities. They continue to work tirelessly. In a time where, immigrants are under attack by the current administration, they show such beautiful resilience and strength. I do what I do because of them. 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 pursued a degree in elementary school bilingual education because I was passionate about working with immigrant children to teach them the language and culture. I received my Bachelor's Degree but due to my immigration status at the time, I was not able to pursue a teaching career right after college. I chose to become a vocal advocate for the Federal and State DREAM Act legislations. This sparked my interest in community organizing and campaigns and consequently, lead to my various positions in non-profit organizations and currently in city government. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Mexican Best memory of growing up. Spending summer days at Owls Head Park in Bay Ridge with my family. My dad would be fishing at the promenade, while my sister and I would play, run around and eat snacks looking over the river. Spending time with family are the best days. Best memory of a day at school or work. Graduating college was the best memory of school. Being the first to graduate from college and making my parents proud was one of my greatest accomplishments. Best day ever. Returning to Mexico, after 25 years. Embracing my sister and my grandmother and spending time with cousins and extended family was remarkable. Being able to return to my home country was truly a magical, emotional and overwhelming experience. Mexico is truly beautiful and I look forward to returning soon. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? CUNY Brooklyn College - B.A. Bilingual Education & Puerto Rican & Latino Studies (Graduated 2011) Best book you ever read. The Alchemist By Paulo Coelho & Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza By Gloria E. Anzaldúa Favorite quote? "You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here." - Max Ehrmann Favorite sports team. NY Yankees Favorite song Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip Hop) By Erykah Badu ft. Common Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Advocate for yourself, no one will advocate for you more strongly than yourself. As young people of color, especially women of color, we tend to work longer hours, we tend to say yes, we tend to add more on our plates in our professional and personal lives. It is important to know your worth, speak your truth, demand a seat at the table, ask for that raise or promotion or have the courage to even just say "no". Believe in your power while also continuing to uplift your communities and leaving the door open for others to follow.
Erika Halstead Executive Director Minds Matter NYC
How did you get to where you are today? Erika Halstead is the Executive Director at Minds Matter NYC, an organization that helps high achieving students from low-income families prepare for college success. Erika has spent her entire career in education, as a bilingual teacher in Texas, a lecturer in English at Hunter College in New York City, and most recently as the Senior Program Officer at Humanities New York where she directed education and community engagement programs, including a nationally recognized reading program for Latino families. She holds a BA from the University of Texas at Austin and a EdM from Teachers College, Columbia University. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My grandmother, Ana Cardona, has been the most influential person in my life. My Mama Ana grew up in rural Colombia, where she received almost no formal education. Despite this seeming disadvantage, she was a natural businesswoman and became a successful seamstress. She was able to make enough money to send her two daughters to high school and then to college. Her hard work and personal sacrifices allowed her daughter, my mother, to become one of the first female engineers in Colombia (and later the United States!). Not only did Mama Ana set an incredible feminist example, she was also the kindest, most loving person I have ever known. She will forever be my biggest cheerleader. 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 Central Texas, I was surrounded by other Hispanic families but I noticed that only a handful were ever in the advanced classes at school. I was often the only Latinx student in the honors courses, even though I had many friends who were just as smart. The difference was that my parents had gone to college and knew how to advocate for my education. They pushed for me to get the best teachers and to read more books at home, and they made sure that school was first priority. When I went to college, I continued to feel the absence of Latinos -- not just on campus but in the curriculum. When I graduated, I knew that I wanted to be someone who made sure the next generation of Hispanic students were seen and heard in college and beyond. In education, I've been able to empower future leaders by telling their stories and helping them find their path. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Colombian Best memory of growing up. I have so many happy memories from my childhood, but I especially loved taking long family bike rides. Best memory of a day at school or work. I've had the opportunity to work with so many amazing young people in my career that it's hard to choose just one best memory. But my favorite day at Minds Matter NYC is graduation, when I get to see our kids walk across the stage knowing where they're going to college in the fall. To see everyone in the audience cheering them on makes me so proud of how far they've come and where they are going. Best day ever. My wedding day -- it was wonderful to have all of my friends and family in one place celebrating together. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? University of Texas at Austin, majoring in Economics and English Best book you ever read. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison Favorite quote? “The tragedy of life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It isn't a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream... It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for. Not failure, but low aim is sin.” -- Benjamin E. Mays Favorite sports team. University of Texas Longhorns Favorite song "Stuck in the Middle with You" by Stealers Wheel Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Latinos are the future of this country. We must work together to make our voices heard and to lead the changes we want to see. Each of us must have the courage to step forward to do our our part: learn,
Angélica Martínez Director of Policy and Legislation NYS Senator Jamaal T. Bailey (D) 36th District
How did you get to where you are today? Angélica Martinez was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. Alongside her family, she emigrated to New York City as a teenager in 1999. As an immigrant and a dreamer, Angélica faced many challenges as she started her college career and joined the workforce. Nevertheless, she pursued her passion for policy and creating smart legislation to help those in need. Angélica graduated from CUNY's Baruch College with a degree in Finance, Investments, and Economics. After working as a consultant for a small non-for-profit in the South Bronx, she became passionate about the public sector and decided to return to her alma mater to pursue a master's degree in Public Policy. Fortunately, with President Obama's DACA executive action, she was able to obtain a work permit and utilize all of her skills to participate in the workforce. Angélica is deeply passionate about food policy and served as president to the student organization Food Matters at Baruch as a graduate student. As president, she led her group on several initiatives, including the school’s first year as participants of Food Day, panel discussions, and the hiring of a new food policy professor. Another of her interests is immigration policy, as a dreamer she has first hand experience of what undocumented immigrants in this country face. Upon graduation, she was fortunate to work alongside Professor Rob Smith from Baruch on a research project to identify individuals that were eligible for DACA and find ways to assist them in applying. After that, she became interested in local politics and started working as Special Assistant to New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, where she served for 1.5 years. At the start of 2017, she moved to Albany to serve as Director of Policy and Legislation to New York State Senator Jamaal T. Bailey, where she reviews all bills that come across the Senator’s desk and advises him on several policy issues. She feels incredibly proud to serve the people of the 36th District, and is happy to be living her dream effecting real change in people's lives. In 2018, Angélica was selected to be a New Leaders Council fellow and subsequently joined their board of directors. Currently, she is a 2018 Dream Lead Institute fellow and is very excited to gain more leadership skills to continue to give back to her community. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My parents had to make the difficult decision to move our family to New York City from Colombia and start from scratch with two kids in a foreign land and foreign language. I owe everything I am to them, and their tenacity and braveness thought me so much at such a young age. Every single decision I have made since has been with them in my mind and attempting to make them proud and make their sacrifice worth it. 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 original career path was in Finance and Economics, mostly because I liked math and statistics, however due to my status I could not work in that field and that led me to a consulting job with a small nonprofit, while working for them I realized that the nonprofit sector was in need of professionals with a business background at the same time I wanted to be more knowledgeable of the public sector and decided to pursue a masters degree in public affairs. While in graduate school I became extremely interested in policy and the role government plays in people’s lives and that landed me where I am today working for the New York State Senate, this job gives me the opportunity to be part of the decision making process to improve New Yorkers' lives across the state. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? I was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia Best memory of growing up. My best memory growing up is family Sundays! In my family when my brother and I were kids we had a tradition to spend the day together as a family on Sundays and it was the highlight of our week. We would go to amusement parks or a museum or the zoo and eat lunch at our favorite restaurants and just have fun together, then we would come home and cuddle in my parents' bed and watch a Disney movie before bedtime. Best memory of a day at school or work. When I was in graduate school I was the president of a student organization called Food Matters. As president, I led my group on a number of initiatives, one of them was participating in Food Day, which is a national celebration across the country hosted by the Real Food Challenge organization. It was our first time participating as a college and we had an ambitious agenda. We started our day off with a cafeteria sample of menu items made of "real" food (the real food definition was set forth by the Real Food Challenge) we worked with the chef to come up with the menu and the ingredients we needed. Our goal was to convince the cafeteria to participate in the Real Food Challenge and commit that 20% of the food sold fell under the category of "real" besides that we also hosted a policy panel on the issue of labeling GMO's in New York State. It was a lot of work to put all of this together as a group but seeing it all that day and how much interest we generated from our fellow students made it all worth it and it is a memory I will cherish forever. Best day ever. Graduating from graduate school is definitely the best day ever for me. When I went to undergrad I had to work full time in order to pay for it and it was a lot of work, at the same time when I graduated my future was uncertain due to my status. However, I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship that allowed me to solely be a full time student for graduate school and this changed my experience completely. Additionally, as an older adult I appreciated my studies a lot more and was all in for all the stuff I was learning; I also obtained DACA while in school which opened up a lot of opportunities for me. Graduation was the culmination of all my hard work and the beginning of a bright new future for me and for my family. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? I went to CUNY's Baruch College for both undergraduate and graduate school. I obtained a Bachelor in Business Administration in Finance, Investments, and Economics. As well as, a Masters of Public Administration in Policy Analysis and Evaluation. Best book you ever read. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende Favorite quote? "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." by Margaret Mead Favorite sports team. The Colombian Soccer National Team Favorite song Rise Up by Andra Day Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. I would say this, life will throw curve balls at you and test you, however these experiences shape you into the person that you become and prepare you for the tougher challenges that you will face as an adult. As an undocumented teenager I had to fight for things that my peers took for granted and that taught me to value the opportunities given to me and give it my all. Always stay strong and remember that eventually the sun always shines!
Arlenis D. Morel Chief of Staff Make the Road New York
How did you get to where you are today? Arlenis Morel is the Chief of Staff of Make the Road New York. She immigrated with her mom to the US from Venezuela in 1992, lived in Bushwick for over a decade. She's a mom of 2, Ariadna & Giancarlos and has worked at MRNY for the past 15 years. In 2003, Arlenis joined MRNY’s staff as a part-time receptionist. She became more and more involved in MRNY, and eventually worked her way up to lead the organization’s Operations department. In 2015, she stepped into the role of Chief of Staff, overseeing the Operations, HR and IT departments. She is leading the implementation of MRNY’s strategic plan and is responsible for maintaining overall day-to-day operations of MRNY. Arlenis is part of MRNY’s four-member Executive Team, with our co-executive directors and deputy director. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? The most influential person in my life has been my mom. She has immigrated twice, first, from the Dominican Republic to Venezuela (1980s) and then from Venezuela to the United States (1992). My mom held several jobs, including factory work in order to support our family. My mom joined Make the Road NY when they were a small organization and she's counted within the first 15 members of the organization, as of today we have more than 22,000+ members. My mom introduced me to the Social Justice Movement and thought me the importance of fighting for respect and dignity for our communities. How did you decide on your college major OR the career you have chosen? and how do you see your choice as an opportunity to help your community? I graduated in 2003 with an Associates Degree in Office Administration from Kingsborough Community College. Through MRNY's proffesional development opportunities, political education trainings, studying progressive history and community organizing strategies she has been able to develop her skills and leadership. I've trained at Coro’s Immigrant Civic Leadership Program, which expanded my network of colleagues working in different sectors, including policy, education, arts and philanthropy, who support community organizing and change efforts in the city. As a participant in Columbia University’s Senior Leaders Program for Non-Profit Professionals, I drew insights into strategic planning and management that were immediately applicable in my role as Chief of Staff, enabling me to make more effective decisions for MRNY and our communities. At the Rockwood Leadership Institute’s Art of Leadership program, I learned leadership communication skills, as well as personal ecology and sustainability tools, that I now practice and pass on to the rest of our staff. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? My parents are Dominicans and I was born in Venezuela. Domi-venezuelan! Best memory of growing up. Being the daughter of immigrants in Venezuela it's one of my best memories I have growing up. Although my mom and dad did not have any immediate family and moved to this new country with my 13 yrs old brother, our neighbors quickly became their primos (cousins), they became my aunts/uncles and till today they are our family. Community love and support is everything! Best memory of a day at school or work. The work I do at MRNY to support our communities and staff is inspiring in many levels. My best memories are our Membership Assembly, this is a bi-annual event where we bring together 600-800 members and we celebrate our victories and brainstorm together on the priorities of our communities. Best day ever. March 31st is the best day ever! I'm the mom of a 14 yrs girl named Ariadna and a 12 yrs old boy named Giancarlos. They were both born on 3/31, 2 years apart! Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Kingborough Community College - Office Administration Best book you ever read. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho Favorite quote? “Caminante, no hay camino. Se hace camino al andar. (Searcher, there is no road. You make the road by walking.)" ― Antonio Machado Favorite sports team. Mets Favorite song Un beso - Romeo Santos Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Ain't No POWER Like The POWER of the PEOPLE, cause the POWER of the PEOPLE Don't Stop!!! Let's keep creating leadership and building opportunities for young people, let's continue taking the streets, being resilience and fighting for respect and dignity.
Dayana Nicole Pichardo Student College of Saint Rose Criminal Justice Major graduating 2019
How did you get to where you are today? I am a leader and activist dedicated to uplifting women by creating supportive communities. A student at the College of Saint Rose, she is the co-founder and chairperson of Sabor Latino, co-founder and president of Purely Positive Women of Purpose (PPWOP), and founder of WERise Network. A proud native of Washington Heights, Dayana hopes to enter politics, after graduation, in order to change legislation and bring back vibrancy and love to her neighborhood. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My mother is because shes the first feminist that I have ever meet. 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 childhood was interrupted when my father became part of the system. My father was lost in the system when he was convicted of many crimes and served 15 years. I believe that he was very sick and needed rehabilitation rather lost in the mass incarceration system. I believe i'll disrupt the system and serve for the voice of men and w omen who need help. Help through mental health counseling or drug addition control. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Afro - Latina Best memory of growing up. Growing up in a latino/latina community was the best part of growing up. Best memory of a day at school or work. The best part of school was creating a Latinx organization on my college campus named Sabor Latino, which was a way to bring home to campus. Best day ever. My best day ever was the day I visited the White House and meet Michelle and Obama. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? The College of Saint Rose, Criminal Justice Major Best book you ever read. Pride and Prejudice Favorite quote? "Empowered woman empower women." Favorite sports team. Women's Basketball Favorite song You don't own me. Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. I'm working everyday to better myself so that one day my people will vote me into office.
Favio M. Ramirez-Caminatti Executive Director El Centro del Inmigrante
How did you get to where you are today? Favio Ramirez-Caminatti has been the Executive Director of El Centro del Inmigrante since November 2015. Under his direction, El Centro has increased the number of operative projects and clients served, expanded the work area, and duplicated the number of undocumented immigrants graduated from English classes and Occupational Safety Certifications. He also reorganized the organizational structure and expanded the legal department to triplicate the number of clients served. Mr. Ramirez-Caminatti worked closely with District Attorney Michael McMahon to create an Immigrants Affair Unit at the DA’s Office, goal achieved in 2018. They are working now in creating a Community Justice Center on Staten Island. Ramirez-Caminatti is Chairman of the Staten Island Family Healthcare Coalition and Coordinator of the Staten Island Immigrants Council. Also, he currently serves on the board of directors of the New World Prep School, and is Representative of Augustinians International at United Nations. Prior to his current position, Mr. Ramirez-Caminatti was Director of Santa Teresa de Avila School in Uruguay. In 2017, he received the Mayoral Service Recognition Award from Mayor Bill de Blasio for his service to the immigrant community in New York. In April 2018, he was selected by the prestigious “City & State New York” as one of the 100 Most Powerful People in Staten Island. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? A lot of people have touched my life in different ways. Pope Francis is probably the most inspirational figure 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? I always have wanted to help people. I did volunteer work in every place I lived and loved it. When I moved to NY, I discovered the problems that immigrants face every day. It was sad, but also eye opener. So, I decided that that should be my next mission. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? I was born and raised in Uruguay. Best memory of growing up. Las cosas simples de la vida. Even in a poor neighborhood, in a poor city, extraordinary things happen every day. Talking with a friend, hugging my mom, my grandma's food... We were rich and we didn't know it. Best memory of a day at school or work. The day when we granted asylum for Edy and his 4yr old daughter who were escaping from persecution in Africa; when we saved David from going to jail; when we help Maria, a victim of domestic violence, to have the custody of her children. There are a lot of special memories, I think I can't choose just one. Best day ever. Two days: my wedding day, and the day my daughter was born. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Inter American University of Puerto Rico. BA in Psychology Best book you ever read. The Bible. Favorite quote? “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.” -John Wesley Favorite sports team. Nacional (the best Uruguayan soccer team) Favorite song Don't have one. All songs of Jorge Drexler or Mark Anthony are welcome. Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. We are living in a moment in history where our country, this place that we call home, is facing a hard time. Latinos and other minorities have become the target of xenophobia and discrimination. As Latinos, our heritage pushes us to say "Sí se puede" and fight back. "Sí se puede" is not only a wish, it's a challenge for all of us. It's mantra to remind us that a change is possible only if we collaborate to make it possible. That's our goal. Pa'lante!
Jessica Ramos NYS Senator Elect Senate District 13
Jessica Ramos has spent her life fighting for working families, advocating for labor, and organizing her local community. Born in Elmhurst to an undocumented seamstress and a printing pressman, Jessica was raised in Astoria, attended Queens public schools, and now lives in Jackson Heights with her two sons.
A strong union advocate, Ramos worked with Build Up NYC to fight for construction, building and hotel, and maintenance workers in New York City from 2014 to 2015. Ramos also worked with a local chapter of the Social Service Employees Union from 2008 to 2011 and a regional branch of the Service Employees International Union from 2011 to 2014, where she helped building maintenance workers, office cleaners and public schools cleaners win contracts that protected their rights, wages, and benefits. As a community organizer and activist, Jessica joined Community Board 3 and served as Democratic District Leader in the 39th Assembly District from 2010 to 2014. Jessica sits on the boards of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group and Farmspot, Jackson Heights’ community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. She has received awards for her work on behalf of the community from the New Visions Democratic Club, Powhatan Democratic Club, and the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens—and she has been recognized by the Queens Women’s Chamber of Commerce for her advocacy on behalf of Women and Minority Owned Businesses.
As the first American-born in her family, Jessica felt a deep sense of responsibility in bridging the gap between immigrant and non-immigrant communities. Jessica’s mother crossed the Mexican border by herself at 24, and her father was arrested in a workplace immigration raid in the early 1980’s and spent days held in a detention center. Jessica’s first job was at a Jackson Heights immigration law firm where she first met construction workers hurt on the job—inspiring her commitment to workers’ rights, and racial and economic justice.
Even as a teenager, Jessica was outspoken against poverty and the internal displacement of Colombians. She was elected President of the NYC Colombian Liberal Youth Council in 2002 and subsequently elected President of the NYC Colombian Liberal Party in 2005.
Most recently, Jessica served as Director of Latino Media for the City of New York. As the city’s chief Latina spokesperson, Jessica helped keep our city’s 1.87 million Spanish-speaking residents, and the community and ethnic media at large, informed about government services and initiatives.
Jessica credits her love for activism and public service to her parents, Colombian immigrants who fought for and won the right to dual citizenship for Colombian-Americans and founded Siempre Colombia, a not-for-profit organization in Jackson Heights that sent aid to Colombians affected by the devastating earthquake in 1999.
Natalie Mercedes Rivera Chef Morning Glory Markets, Wellness in the Schools, PS 3 & Sports & Arts in Schools Foundation & Peter Kelly Teaching Kitchen
How did you get to where you are today? I am a Natural food chef, farmers market manager and educator. I grew up in Yonkers NY, raised by a single mother and grandmother who instilled in me a strong work ethic and passion to help others. I was lucky enough to see my mother go from humble beginnings to being able to provide our family with a comfortable lifestyle. Through that experience it taught me that not everyone has that opportunity. When providing culinary classes and promoting food sovereignty, my focus always goes back to making sure everyone has the same access to good food and nutrition. Income should not be a barrier when feeding your family a quality meal. Currently I have several roles in the culinary industry. From teaching culinary labs under the non profit, Wellness in the Schools and instructing nutrition focused classes under Sport & Arts in Schools Foundation. I am lucky enough to be able reach students in the Bronx and Harlem. I also have held a managerial position at the Bronxville Farmers Market and recently added the renowned, New York Botanical Gardens, Farmers Market. Additionally I teach monthly classes at the esteemed Peter Kelly Teaching Kitchen which is part of NY Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital. This facility offers cooking classes with a focus on health and nutrition. And I have continue working as a personal chef for the past 7 years. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? I would say my grandmother. She raised me to be fiercely independent and vocal. I am who I am today because of her. Even though she is gone, I constantly find myself wondering what she would think on decisions I have make. For better or worse, she is the voice in my heard pushing me to do better. 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? In 2008 when the recession hit I was finding it difficult to find work in the editorial industry. At the same time I had an increasing interest in health and eating well. I had suffered from severe IBS and also was looking to stay healthy. After researching several career opportunities, I came across a famous Natural Food chef who was doing everything I loved, including personal cheffing, writing healthy recipes, and helping individuals eat healthier. I researched how she came across this path and found my culinary school. From the day I went to the open house I knew it was what I wanted to do. And as they say..the rest is history. When I started managing at farmers markets, I began realizing the deep problems in our food system. From that I saw the problems with have in food policy and nutrition. I slowly took steps to use my career to help others. I started doing free cooking classes at community centers and donating leftover food. These were little steps that eventually led me to where I am today. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Cuban & Colombian Best memory of growing up. Spending summers with my family in Cape May. Best memory of a day at school or work. The time I spent studying abroad in Cuba. That was a dream of mine for so long and to be studying my passion, food & sustainable agriculture... someone pinch me! Best day ever. Being in Cuba with my entire family including my mother who hadn't been back there since she was a little girl. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Natural Gourmet For Health & Culinary Arts SUNY Stony Brook SUNY Westchester Best book you ever read. The Alchemist by Paulo Chuelo Favorite quote? I thrive off the mistakes I make. Favorite sports team. NY Yankees Favorite song Signed, Sealed, Delivered - Stevie Wonder Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Find beauty in being different. Embrace who you are and where you come from. Those things in the end will make you stand out among the crowd.
Jessica Saul Founder/ CEORemo System, Inc. d/b/a Art of Stepping
How did you get to where you are today? Jessica “Remo” Saul, often referred to as Remo (short for “remolina”) due to her being a “whirlwind” of energy, is the founder and owner of the Art of Stepping®(AOS). AOS is the 1st and only organization in the U.S. to build a nationwide curriculum-based program that teaches stepping based on mathematical formulas. HER GOAL: To ensure individuals of all ages have access to artistic programs, especially those in underserved communities, that encourages & promotes both education and healthy lifestyles. In 2010, AOS was the proud recipient of the President’s Council Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Award for its mission in aiding the fight against childhood obesity and other related diseases. In 2012, AOS has grown to 7 different states offering services to over 1,200+ individuals nationwide with national recognition by Fox News Latino, MTV Triue Life: I’m a Stepper, Univision-Accesso Total, Despierta America, Latina Magazine and Famous Footwear. Born & raised in the Bronx, New York by Dominican-Puerto Rican parents, she has created a curriculum to be taught both in English and Spanish with the hopes of bridging the educational gap within inner city and underprivileged communities. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My grandmother who left the Dominican Republic in search for a better life. 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 a Hispanic in an industry dominated by African Americans, my goal was to break the barriers for all Hispanics and people of color by creating the dance form of stepping into an art form open to everyone. Currently I stands as the #1 Steppers in the Hispanic community owning the largest national performance circuit for Hispanic/Multicultural college students across the country in California, New York, Illinois and now expansion into Georgia. In 2013, I continued her efforts with the younger generation by launching AOS2S National Youth Step Tour that travels throughout the country partnering with local Hispanic and multicultural organizations to promote the art form through mathematics and engaging students at an early age. As passionate about my program, I am about my culture and now in 2015, I will be bringing her tour to the Dominican Republic in hopes to go back to her roots as she stated. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Dominican/Puerto Rican Best memory of growing up. Spending the holidays with my family as we celebrated our Dominican heritage and culture. Best memory of a day at school or work. The moment I was recognized by Famous Footwear with my 1st commercial on my accomplishment in the world of stepping and the impact I am making on our younger generation. Best day ever. 4.2.16 - The day my daughter was born. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Political Science Best book you ever read. Walt Whitman - Leaves of Grass Favorite quote? I rather live by standards than die by others. Favorite song I was here - Beyonce Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Get up every morning to where you are headed, not to where you are going. That will lead you to where you need to be and not where you want.
2011-2017Copyright HCNY The Hispanic Coalition NY, Inc. is a 501 c 3 non-profit organization. We are a non-partisan organization and are not affiliated with any political party or candidate.