THE UNTOLD STORIES OF LATINAS IN EDUCATION
Talia Rodriguez is a bi-racial, bi-cultural, and bi-lingual Latina from Buffalo. Ms. Rodriguez’s mission is to write about Latina’s, who have shaped the face of our city and our region. It is Ms. Rodriguez’s believes that our own people should inspire us and in telling our collective stories, we push our community forward. Ms. Rodriguez is a community advocate and the facilitator of a hyper-local consortium. She is a 5th generation West Sider, a graduate of SUNY Buffalo Law School, and an avid baseball fan. She lives on the West Side with her young son A.J.. Ms. Rodriguez sits on the board of several organizations including the Belle Center, where she attended daycare. Ms. Rodriguez loves art, music, food, and her neighbors. Writing for the Buffalo Latino Village is another extension of her professional journey.
(The normal Latina HerStory interviews will return next month. The writer would like to share a tragedy she discovered on social media which was very close to her past and journey):
Norma Santiago was a loving mother who fell victim to gun violence perpetrated inside her children’s public school at the hands of her estranged husband. She was the first person I ever knew whose life was taken.
My father and Norma’s husband were both law enforcement officers and our families were bonded one summer, but not for long; Mom noticed Norma’s husband was “not the nicest” and though my father was no boy scout (he was – but you get what I’m saying), and he agreed. During our last shared family outing, I was never able to forget…
I didn’t like Ferris wheels. I volunteered because I could see she feared going up with him alone.
A milestone, in the building or development of my young self-confidence, I felt proud that I could help someone.
That moment was immediately followed by a sobering sense of dread. While we were suspended in the air, I watched his eyes as he mentally fantasized about pushing her over. Being from the hood, guessing at what was coming next — the struggle for survival.
He never pushed her out of the car that day, but I’ll never forget his eyes, full of rage.
Ten years old and smart enough, I knew something bad was going to happen. I told mom he was going to kill her. I remember her taking me seriously; that was the last time we saw them, but I continue to see his eyes forever.
A handful of years later, she was gone.
There’s a blog I found memorializing her life and news coverage about her passing. I teared up when I found the page, there she was, in a bumper car, at an amusement park.
Part of my life is dedicated to advocating for vulnerable women and children as I had once been. Being honored as a storyteller this coming month I reflected. Whose story is left to tell?
I decided Justice is best served in the form of a celebration of one’s life. Norma, may you rest in peace you have not been forgotten.
The following is an anonymous contribution by someone on the site of the murder:
1. How did the act of violence that culminated in Norma’s passing affect your life? The act of violence changed my life because it was the first time, I remember experiencing trauma. I couldn’t articulate that as a child, but I distinctly remember knowing something evil just took place. I remember feeling scared and I remember seeing the body bag being rolled out of the door. I remember thinking “she’s dead” there were people everywhere, and so much confusion.
2. What did you learn that day? I think what I learned that day was that men are dangerous. That I should fear my future husband. No matter how long it’s been, I always think back to that man taking his wife’s life. I feared men. I feared having a husband.
3. What do you remember overall? My overall impression was fear. I think there was fear instilled in me that day that has never left my body, now I’m triggered when I must do active shooter drills at work.
I was 7 years old back then; I was in second grade. I knew the family because one of their daughters was my classmate at the time and the other daughter was in my sister’s class. I haven’t spoken to them since 1997.
INTERVIEW #26 : DORCAS CALDERON
“BLACK JOY CAN BE IN SPANISH. JOY, THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL RESISTANCE TO OPPRESSION”
Black joy can be served with frijoles, seasoned with Sazon, and fried twice until it floats the right way in the oil. In Puerto Rico, joy is food and flavors- like the three flavors that make up the soul. And since Puerto Ricans are so deeply food oriented, they often use flavors as a parallel for the ocio-cultural construction of race and feelings and just about everything else for that matter. Dorcas Calderon is Puerto Rican aka 3 different flavors of joy: Black, Taina, and Spanish. Plus 5 children and grandchildren and-a tool belt full of skills – una diva Campesina! A woman whose knowledge spans both rural and urban environments and infrastructures- biology and AI- and wifehood. A woman of contradictions with the flavor of high glam Latina CEO and a construction boss. She never dreamed of her current life. Once, a feminine single mother encouraged her husband into the construction business. Years later, she now runs her own company: The first Latina-owned MWBE-certified construction company in Monroe County, New York.
“Because everything in life changes,” She speaks many languages, streaming in between thoughts, webpage tabs, and content areas, and adjusting her intonation/verbiage to her audience. Socially, emotionally, politically, and intelligent she’s a thriver (I’ve abandoned the word survivor this year). Born in Puerto Rico, living in Rochester, a sometimes Buffalonian specifically-I’d pick her for a hitter any day. And now I’m volunteering-coaching T-ball this year. Her favorite school? Herman Badillo PS 76. Named after the first Puerto Rican congressman and mayoral candidate in a major city (New York City). Well-versed in our history, Dorcas says we all know about Puerto Rico’s black joy in Spanish. She’s right. Second, to knowledge there is silence. We don’t talk about blackness and during Black History month; I ask Why not? Ironically, race in the Caribbean was a topic of high discussion in Europe. Policies changing to match European fancy. The first African arrived with Ponce de Leon as a free man in 1509. 150 years later the Spanish offered freedom and land to Africans from non-Spanish colonies for emigrating. Then another 100 years later reversing and encouraged Europeans and specifically their slaves to move to Puerto Rico. Most slaves who were kidnapped and trafficked to Puerto Rico were from the gold coast- Many were Yoruba, Ashanti, Fon, Igbo, and Bantu. Did you know the Spanish Crown referred to Blackness as a defect? Allowing highborn “mulatto” Spanish subjects to apply and pay to be deemed legally white? My people were Bantu. On the 1872 slave census, my great-grandmother was recorded, 13, Elvira, daughter of Felipa, a Slave. Don Maximiliano Rivera- her owner’s name- the pain of generations in one name. We made it -out of the sugar cane field-No matter that her master set the price for her freedom. She paid for it. Dorcas ancestors faced the same adversities and generations later there are still serious challenges for Latinas in Business; they are no longer owned but owners. Programs like the MWBE seek to acknowledge and mitigate the impacts of lasting economic discrimination. A designation, but one that reminds us that “we” need to keep fighting for those who aren’t in the room and be authentic about why they weren’t in the first place. And in case you need the language for future advocacy specifically within our community – I usually tend to phrase the question “well why are there no Afro-Latinas here?” “Has the question been examined using the lens of an afro Latina? “Everyone who has been asked to speak is white presenting.” “Why are there no black professionals included here” and so on. Dorcas says to be confident no matter, even if you’re the only woman in the room, and I’m going to remember that piece of #latinaherstory and Elivira and Felipa and the feeling of the Puerto Rican Sun. THE INTERVIEW — Who are you? My birth name is Dorcas Calderon, from Puerto Rico, and mother of 5. A proud marine mom, and a grandmother of two, soon-to-be three. I am a serial entrepreneur, having multiple businesses. I have a brother and 2 sisters. There was an emphasis on the importance of education in my home. Growing up with my mom was very focused on education. As a child I was quiet. We spent family time together. I enjoyed being with my family all together at home. To me, family is number one and I am trying to maintain that tradition which is hard in this generation. What is the name of your business? The main company is Dorcas Construction Company. I am proud of the construction field that I am in. The second is Travel on Faith, a travel company. I have Tabitha Design, a shirt company, I design shirts and hats. Another is in the planning stages. I wanted to implement my name because it’s original to me and it’s rare. I love it and I feel like it’s perfect. I chose Travel on Faith because as a Christian woman, faith is important, and traveling is a theme for me. Tabitha is the Greek version of Dorcas, I named it Tabitha Design. What was your experience as a student? My journey was different from any other student’s. I was a straight-A student throughout 11th grade; during high school I became pregnant. I attended young mothers while pregnant. The women there were not motivated the way I felt I was, so I challenged the GED. As a young mother, I dedicated myself to my children and was a stay-at-home mom. In my mid 20’s, with all the kids in school, I decided to invest in myself again and go to college. I first studied accounting (Community College), then studied to become a medical secretary.
I was worked as a medical secretary when I learned of the opportunity to become a clerk in Rochester Schools, and be closer to my children plus get better benefits. I worked for the school district as an Office Clerk III Bilingual. I re-started my business degree, only 3 classes away! During Covid, I prioritized our business and paused my studies. How do you define a businessperson? I don’t just like winning. I like to see other people winning along the way. It’s not just about business, it’s about being a role model in a company that has a higher return than the actual profit. The satisfaction of motivating someone is incredible. I see businesspeople as people who work hard and want to see other people succeed in whatever way is good for them. What is the most important thing someone has taught you? What have I taught myself? Learning to fail in life, If I failed, I was not happy; I thought that each failure meant that I was not making progress, but then I learned without failing you can’t succeed. Failing is ok and that it’s part of the winning process. I never even wanted a B, I wanted an A. As an adult, you must realize failing is part of winning. You can’t concentrate on not failing because it creates fear of failing. What was the name of your favorite school? My favorite school was Herman Badillo. It was my last school in Buffalo on Carolina St. When I left for Rochester, I cried. I loved that school. I had wonderful friends, and we had such dedicated teachers. We had a better curriculum than the one waiting for me in Rochester – sad to say. I would have never thought that I would say this, my favorite job is construction. I can be so exhausted, but I am not tired of the job. And I am excited because I can earn that sense of accomplishment and completion. After all, I never saw myself in construction. I was a feminine pretty girl and never a tomboy. Now I know so much, and I have the whole package. What is your remedy for a long day? A long hot bath! Something about being in the quiet calms my soul and transforms me and I feel brand new every time! Who is someone who inspires you? My downfalls in life- me being homeless and me coming from a humble background inspired me to work harder to fight harder to achieve my goals. I told my husband we must open a business! He had the skill set and I had the business knowledge. We hit a hard time and I said we must make sure this doesn’t happen again. I am motivated to show my children that even though life is hard you must keep fighting to succeed. That is what motivated me- the hard times in life and realizing that I didn’t want that reality in my life. Where do you want your business to grow? I want to have a company that has an equal gender ratio. I want to implement workforce development programs to allow for opportunities for women like myself to learn about how important the construction field is. But mostly I want to go where God has in store for me. I want to leave something for my kids and my grandkids. I am also working hard so that when I do end up where I want to be in life, I can bless my children and my grandchildren. I have the urge to take care of my children no matter how old they are. They will always be my babies. What advice do you have for students who have experienced an interruption in their education? I would let them know that life is – ever-changing. Everything in life changes, we grow, and everything changes, our home, and our cars, having life changes is good- so you don’t stay stuck in one pattern. If I stayed in Buffalo, I likely wouldn’t be the woman that I am today. Change is good and sometimes we don’t see it that way because we are so comfortable in that comfort zone, and place and location that we don’t want to change it. Change makes you see things differently, and it makes you learn and grow. That’s one of the reasons I became a travel business owner — because now I want to travel the world. I am adapting my goals to my achievements, so change is good, and it helps in life. What advice do you have for women who walk into a room, and are the only woman there? Have confidence. No matter how much they think you can’t do what you’re doing. Show them. Women can accomplish more and beyond. I have been in this business for 7 years and people still consider me a novice, and a lot of guys give me advice like it’s my first day! If I got the job done that is the only thing that matters. Just because I’m not doing how you’re doing it doesn’t mean that I’m doing it the wrong way. What do you say about being black in Puerto Rico? Parts of my father’s family have African lineage. Because of where we lived, we knew Black people were here and they left the legacy of Plena and Bomba. We proudly carry the traditions in Puerto Rico; we talk about being part African and their influence on the foods we eat. What are the values you want the world to know you for? I want people to see me like ‘that’s the woman that was able and wanted to see other people succeed.” Seeing women succeed in life is so beautiful, especially when you have people who support each other, very important. Having someone there making your life easier in the business field is important; having a business is not for the weak. I want people to remember me for my efforts to promote women in business. As a mother and friend, I always put people before myself. I think about the other person and sometimes I think about “what about me?” I never hold hate, always forgive and I focus on building positive energy around me and positive relationships. I want people to recognize that part of my personality.
(Complete Interview/Questions continue at: https://buffalolatinovillage.com/talia-rodriguez/ and/or at: https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=latinoaherstory%20)
INTERVIEW #25: STEPHANIE CLAIRE MOSS
I don’t know why I am less susceptible to patriarchies’ lie that professionalism is emulating whiteness. Maybe because I am already white (thanks mom) and that in fact being a white professional doesn’t make you even any ounce more professional. And that’s coming from my lived experience. Professionalism is about your ability, not your identity and or appearance. On top of being white, I am also Puerto Rican with a strong sense that Latin America has instilled in me called – glamour. And Those of us who have watched Univision know that the news can be read in almost any outfit and mean the same thing. Being surrounded by innovative and free-thinking women lead me here – being less susceptible. My aversion to the “professionalism myth” is fortified by the amazing authentic women around me. Living testaments that- a woman is an art. Art cannot tone “it” down or dial “it” away. Art is seen- thus Stephanie Claire Moss. Haitian. Bold. Genius. Elegant. Regal and her fashion love her as if to say “thank you for wearing me today “. Her kindness helps guide people through different worlds. An ambassador for me and the rest of our friends on campus to everything Harlem, Haiti, fashion, and Brooklyn related she guided me. Well truthfully, I begged her to bring me with her. And from Rochester to Brooklyn, we went!
I have the fondest memories of waking up in a big white house on a Brooklyn summer Sunday afternoon surrounded by art. The art curated by Stephanie’s Amazing Mother depicted women whose experience is fundamentally the history of Haiti. A history full of joy but such sorrow. The pain from the island- even though she was young. She carried it with her. I was stricken by her keen understanding of privilege and her knowledge of history.
The thing about Stephanie that mimics Haiti is the way she carries joy so strongly – joy is in her soul. Pure Joy can withstand any policy created from a place of darkness and envy. Because those that seek the light will find it. Haiti’s history seems punctuated by three words – joy, jealousy, and freedom. Others are so jealous of Haitians, that throughout history so many leaders have tried to penalize their very existence because (I reckon)- to be Haitian is to be excellent. The people have proved many a time they are stronger than any natural or man-made disasters that come before them. So much is known to the world about their boldness- about their desire to be free that it’s almost like the word “Haiti is synonymous with the word “Freedom”. Actively fighting to understand what that freedom means every time it is challenged is the opportunity of history. An opportunity Haiti has paid over and over starting with its French slave owners. Who were paid to free their slaves as were the Spanish in Puerto Rico –But the Haitians paid the evil price for freedom for a nation cumulatively. Over a period of about seventy years, Haiti paid 112 million francs to France, about $560 million in 2022. I think that Stephanie’s motivation to serve the people when she is most needed and to coach others to succeed is part of the determination displayed by the richness of her culture. A teacher and life coach. She has purposely spent her time in schools where her talents were most appreciated and with children who need her. The youth are a source of great inspiration to her. Motivation is one of her emerging passions. Looking toward the future Ms. Moss sees the next phase of her professional journey in business, doing what I believe she has been doing for me for a while- life coaching. Trilingual she speaks English, Haitian Creole, and Spanish. Stephanie has been striving for excellence her entire life and every time she achieves her goal, she adjusts the bar and sets it even higher and for that alone, she is #latinaherstory.
What is the name of your business/artistry/passion? As of today, I am not a business owner, but do have dreams and aspirations of becoming one. Over the past year, I’ve developed an affinity for life coaching, particularly relationship coaching, as I’ve had to navigate relationships in the past that were not favorable to my mental health. I was able to overcome grief and depression through therapy and life coaching but found that the consistent coaching practices from some very talented people I’ve had the pleasure of working with, helped to stabilize my emotional state more than ever. The talented coaches I’ve encountered have now inspired me to open my life coaching practice, specializing in the mitigation of relational trauma. My goal is to help people identify the negative ways they may be showing up in relationships and carve out a synchronized plan of attack that will elevate their relational skills romantically and personally. My 2023 goal is to enroll in an accredited Life coaching certification program, so be on the lookout for me!!
Where were you born and what values were taught in your home? I was born in Brooklyn, NY. Growing up in a very traditional Haitian household I was taught that education was the only catalyst to success. Education was the vehicle to financial freedom. Additionally, my mother and father, both Haitian immigrants, felt it Important for me to be well-rounded socially and educationally. I was enrolled in a multitude of sports activities, musical groups, dance, and frequented enrichment programs geared towards college preparation. I played the violin, basketball, and ran track. If I wasn’t playing sports, I was playing the violin at the MET in NYC. The standards and values in my household were set high. The expectation was to always try my best at any and everything because unlike my cousins in Haiti that were constantly being plagued by political chaos, I was privileged to receive an uninterrupted education.
What was your experience as a student? As a student, I maintained above-average grades. I was a B+-A+ student, although college exposed my struggles with being a bilingual student. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an English Language Learner because I was born in the US and never received ESL services as a young child, but learning Haitian creole first created some barriers to me excelling at first in college.
What was the name of your favorite school and why? Frederick Douglass Academy was my high school located in Harlem, NY. I would say my high school was my favorite school as I was nurtured, challenged, and well-educated. The entire faculty assumed high standards for all of their students. While attending, I also played Varsity basketball. I had the most amazing coaches that facilitated opportunities for us to compete on a high level and ensured that we were able to travel cross country to play against teams above our competitive level. In addition, our principal brought free SAT, Regents Prep, and Paid internship opportunities to our school that further aided in my academic growth. FDA gave me experiences I am forever grateful for.
How do you define an educator? A person who not only builds students’ minds through knowledge but teaches a student for Life. A GOOD educator imparts critical thinking skills and experiential knowledge to develop a student.
What’s the most important thing a student/person taught you? It is okay to mess up. Failure is the best teacher.
What is your theory on human potential? Human potential is attainable with the right mindset and the right amount of intrinsic motivation.
What is your remedy for a long day? Turning off all electronics related to work, a warm shower, and Hulu in bed with a sweet treat.
INTERVIEW #24: EVELYN INDYKA ZAPATA
You can’t underestimate the power of self-motivation. Often, I think about my grandmother. In the moments before she decided to board the bus to the “March on Washington” with Martin Luther King jr. What motivated her? I am often asked what motivated me. I close my eyes and sometimes I hear them laughing around me (even the adults laughed at me when I told them I wanted to be a lawyer). The most operative question is not really what motivates me today. Concisely speaking, “I have no choice.” Where I come from, we’re still fighting. We are still fighting for representation for visibility and acknowledgment — and our Evelyn Indyka Zapata is leading the fight. Talking motivational talk to an 8-year-old me is nothing to play with. I had it rough, old school. “Your mom’s white, you don’t belong to us”, rough! “Go back to your country” – rough; “Sweetheart, it doesn’t matter you can read in Spanish”, rough”. 8-year-old me didn’t know how to read.
I didn’t know I was dyslexic back then, the school was racist, the children around me hated me, and they told or reminded me every day. My family was working overtime as Evelyn’s mom did. I didn’t even have new clothes on account that my parents were working their blue-collar asses off to send and keep me in the racist school system. I remember walking to school in the pants I got from Amvets on Elmwood thinking, “I’m going to succeed.” Looking back, I was worn out, at least for a kid, hyper vigilant, code-switching, culture-shifting, jumping from one area to the next, where, if you looked rich you were a target to the next area, and where if you looked poor, you were called last for everything. That girl, I want to hug her so bad. The rough little thing I was, maybe about 70 lbs. and all swinging at life with my softball bat. I call her forward when I need to be braced. Brave like Evelyn Zapata, who is one of the bravest civil rights advocates I know. Civil rights have defined the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality. Thus, our right to equitably participate in the repeal of marijuana prohibition is predominately expressed in our rights relative to administrative law, but also the shaping of general social public opinion. I think it’s likely 8 yr. old Evelyn, she was not taking any shit either, a Manhattan girl with a bright mind and a fast tongue. The sound of a self-motivated person’s voice sounds different, and when I heard Evelyn’s voice, I knew. She was the master of her destiny. She started one of the most valuable platforms IG has ever seen, the “New York Cannabis Times” with 20k plus followers. Her role? Lead us, share information with us, decipher the world of cannabis and cannabis regulation for us, represent us to the outside world of cannabis “us”- the Latino community oh and publicly appear and advocate in person.
Evelyn’s greatest inspiration was her mother, she worked hard to provide for her as a factory worker and that impacted her view on economics. Evelyn knows one thing, the women, the Latinas, we will be growing the cannabis, we will be cutting it, doing the hard labor, and we need a fair turn at the mic when they call for voices and we won’t get one. That’s an economic fact. But it’s A LOT harder to ignore the opinions of our Latina advocates who, like Evelyn, are fighting for all the Latinas who were disproportionately impacted by the prohibition of cannabis, predominately by holding our government leaders accountable. Evelyn is like my grandmother, she’s like every other civil rights activist who personally knows the socio-emotional, and cultural impact it has on mass incarceration or has had on our people as the result of cannabis prohibition. And at every turn of the page of the 240 plus regulation, she will be reminding them. And for that reason, I personally, with a law degree and all, have more hope. Take the time to follow Evelyn and COMMENT on the regulation. Comments on the proposed regulations should be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to New York State Office of Cannabis Management PO Box 2071 Albany, NY 12220
The Interview with Evelyn Zapata
1. Where were you born? I was born in the United States. I am of Dominican Descent; my mother was naturalized, and my stepdad was as well.
2. What was your experience like as a student? My experience was, as a student, difficult. I was an A student, but I have ASD- the borderline between ADD – Like 3% Autistic. I had to read things about three times to understand them.
3. When did you decide you wanted to start a business? I have decided I wanted to start a business since I was a little girl. My grandmother owned a supermarket in DR (Dominican Republic) so we were inclined to do business. My mother had her cosmetology license, and she would work in salons she had her clientele so she would go from house to house. But her first job was working in a factory out of Brooklyn, my first job was working at one of my mom’s factories out of Brooklyn for the summer, and my second job was working also in a factory for the following summer. The second one was on Ohio Street, near 207 and Nagel, there was a factory there. Again, I was born in NYC in 1970. I always worked a day job and had a second job as well.
4. What was your favorite job? I worked all over Manhattan Hospital, riverside cab service, paratransit, and black car services, I was a legal secretary, but my favorite job was selling weed. From the age of 19 to the age of 37 I supported the weed industry in the heights. We were at risk of becoming homeless. My mom was always the drive behind my business whether she liked it or not.
5. What is your theory on human potential? My theory on human potential is basically if you can see it – you can have it if you believe it, you can have it, if you think it thoroughly you can have it. I learned that from the thugs on the corner, they helped me keep invisible, and I was not arrested, only for smoking weed in front of my mom’s building. When the creator knows what’s in your heart you will be protected- no matter what you think you are doing wrong. Because he knows what’s in your heart. I didn’t look at weed like drugs, so I never got arrested for it.
6. Why did you start your business? I started the NY Cannabis Times in 2001 it was a “DBA” it was supposed to be a website about the cannabis movement in the heights. It was under the core name of the G Times, then I reincorporated as “the New York Cannabis Times” and I have been online since.
7. What are your plans? It should be a bi-weekly circular going through newsstands in a couple of weeks and it should also be a monthly or quarterly magazine.
8. What do you do on hard days? Well, my mom died, my dad died in august of 2021 and my mom died in May. I just try to keep my mind busy; they have all been bad days since my mom died but again, I keep my mind busy.
9. How do you define a businessperson? A businessperson should know the fine line between friendship and business, should know the fine line between personal and business, and should know the fine line between what is counterproductive when it comes to business.
INTERVIEW #23: MEET SANDRA MAYORAL
Sports Clothing Line LAGIRLstyle Fashion…
SANDRA MAYORAL: This month I turn 33 years old. I hardly know what I’m doing in life, but this month I feel like I know a little more about what I’m doing. I call that success. All because of something I knew all along. One of my most famous lines is the following:
“To change something. You need one person inside the city hall, one person outside the city hall protesting, and one person who wants to write about it.”
If you have that trifecta, you have an old fashion New York fighting chance.
Throughout my life, I have rotated between those three positions (within the city council), and (outside the city council). I gave my speech at the women’s march right in front of city hall, it’s on YouTube y’all. Now I am (the most underrated) of them all: the person who writes about it. Because (the other half of my line). “Because if nobody writes about it, nobody knows about it, and if nobody knows about it, they can’t care.”
That’s a Talia original. For the record.
Empathy is what I want to write about. It is defined as the first step towards a compassionate response and/or the ability to identify and understand other people’s emotions.
The world lacks empathy for my people or for all the people who suffer. The whole lack of empathy for a few, it’s a problem discussed in philosophy classes, including mine at St John Fisher College. I believe that the lack of empathy in human beings is the root of evil. You recover your spirit from envy when you are proud of others.
I couldn’t be prouder of Sandra Mayoral, born thousands of miles away in San Salvador, El Salvador. She tells stories of her grandmother, Paula, brushing her beautiful long hair and telling her to close her eyes and imagine the United States. MILLIONS HAVE THAT DREAM BUT PLOT TWIST: she made it, she made it out of the “mud”, as my people would say. Her aunt raised her and taught at the only university in El Salvador. Sandra is truly a movement, everyone around her instantly becomes more positive and is engulfed in the power of positive thinking. Science says that positive thinking encompasses the mental attitude of optimism. That’s Sandra, she is optimism embodied in a beautiful being with perfect hair and the most feminine voice you’ve ever heard from a CFO. And that I love (on and off my radio show where she joined me. She owns three businesses and several real estate investments, has a son who is in a very prestigious university, and an adoring husband who could have mentioned her a thousand times the first time he and I had lunch.
To be loved, I think is what we all seek. So many people love Sandra; if you were to make a map around that girl who is brushing her hair and add all the people she helped or allowed, along the way, there would be thousands of people in so many places on her map. The journey to CFO was not easy, she came to the United States with expectations: to excel. She earned her excellent Bachelor of Business Administration and an MPA in Public Administration.
New to Buffalo, she is from Los Angeles, a place almost a world away. A place of beaches and privilege, but she brings with her the best of California, the sun, and the determination of a young girl who wanted something she hadn’t seen yet. When I sat next to her, I felt capable. Sandra Mayoral runs several companies. LAGER STYLE on Instagram is an expression of her style and the community she wants to build for women, where all girls and women feel empowered and beautiful. We will talk about it all month on our social networks. Sandra makes women feel energized, loved, and safe and that’s why she’s our #latinaherstory for November.
THE INTERVIEW WITH SANDRA MAYORAL:
1. Where were you born? I was born in San Salvador, El Salvador. I was raised by my grandmother Paula and my educated by my Auntie Isaura Catalina. The main top five values I learned from them were the following: § Working hard for success § Education is a must not an option § Treat others as you would like to be treated § Pay it forward § Work hard and play hard.
2. what was your experience as a student? As a child, I didn’t necessarily enjoy school. I will rather be outside playing with my friends. Until the age of 10, I lived with my Auntie Isaura Catalina who was a professor at the UCA-only University in El Salvador. Where she noticed my deficiencies and instilled the skills necessary to become an outstanding student. Once I left home to come to the US the skills, she taught me were never forgotten. I developed a joy for studies and achieved my BS in Business Management, Minor in Human Resources and finally my MPA emphasis in Public Administration which was quite helpful during my 23-tenure working as an accountant for LAUSD in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles the Business district and focusing on a $35M monthly/budget.
3. When did you realize that you were a Leader? I do not necessarily think that I am a Leader, I am a humble servant of the General public and enjoy helping others, whether that is via encouragement 2 or guiding them and sharing my story of an immigrant girl who achieved the American Dream.
4. What is your favorite part of yourself? My positive outlook in life. I enjoy being who I am and my Life. I think that Life is too short to let it pass you by. I encourage everyone to travel the world, meet other cultures submerge themselves into a world that is so small yet so big.
5. Why? Fitness and fashion combined are my passion.
6. What/Who inspired you? Two women shaped my life and developed success early on in my life. My inspirations are my Grandmother Pali and my Dear Auntie Isaura Catalina Duran
7. If there is a specific person you could work with who would it be? John F. Kennedy was the youngest President to ever be elected president of the United States. His work and love for the country and abroad made an impression on my life. As a child, I recall my grandmother describing him as being one of the best. As he supported aid to El Salvador during its political turbulent times. One of his famous quotes is one of my favorites “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate”. This is something I carried throughout my Business career in college and real life.
8. What is your plan for growth? My plan for growth is steady, fun, and simple
9. What is one thing you want people to know about you/your brand. I was born in El Salvador. But the United Stated of America educated me and prepared me for the real world of success and reaching the American Dream. The LAGIRLstyle is trendy fun and comfortable for that woman who wants to conquer the world one workout at a time.
INTERVIEW #22: MEET AHRIEL DELGADO
AHRIEL DELGADO is not currently living in El Bronx (home to my Tio Noelle and a lot of other people’s tips) but she was born there. Instead, every ounce of her Taina stature and perfectly sculptured Spanish cheekbones, have been gracing (though I suspect they are not worthy) the picturesque Pocono Mountains. I am not currently living in Manhattan, though my father was born there, instead I am living in Picturesque Buffalo, New York, and the story of what AhRiel Delgado means to me is profound.
When I began this project in Dec of 2019, I started by writing about women in education. A shift came when I started “looking” for women to write about, that for whatever reason, “needed” to be recognized and written about. AhRiel Delgado is one of those women. She believes in herself enough to know the power of small-town girls with dreams. Who cares where you are from? How many people are in your town, or how small or dark your future may look from the outside? Who cares how small your chance is, the only reason you got one is because you think you do!
GO FOR IT. That is what her life displays or models.
Positive affirmations are phrases that you say to yourself to affirm and build yourself up, specifically when your body is under stress. I wasn’t taught coping skills and self-esteem building, rather my greatest insecurities were turned into nicknames. AhRiel has the eyes of someone who believes in themselves. 23 years old, young, but wise enough to know her talents, which sometimes take people a lifetime to discover. Naturally, her entire family’s culture is built on music. Rightfully, those who walk the journey before us enlighten our steps. Her great-grandfather was a writer (Spanish), she told me, he wrote a book of poems to her great-grandmother, who was Taina, to convince her to marry him, or so the story goes.
Is it possible that when the pen hit the paper generations ago, the universe knew about AhRiel? Knew that this man and this woman’s union and lineage would lead to a soul who would change my life? AhRiell made me brave enough to write about artists, and since I wanted to be one, even writing about them makes me feel revolutionary. It’s like starting over after three years-AhRiel Delgado- artist and businesswoman, number one.
What’s an artist? An artist is a soul that knows its gifts. They put their emphasis on building up that gift so they can share it with the world; that is the most important part. The person receiving your gift can mean so much about how you feel. That is why I write, to my invisible audience, my readers whom I can’t see but know. I know you are there, and I want to share it with you. Look for her in print in the Latino papers in your local Latino businesses. If your hometown isn’t getting a delivery but you are reading this and you want a paper – reach out to me. This entire project is based on people giving other people hope.
Join AhRiel”s audience, follow her, listen to her, comment on her, like her statuses, message her, “engage” as they would say, with someone who knows the power of positive thought. See yourself in her, the part of yourself that wanted to do or be something different than you are or do now.
I created Latinaherstory to celebrate the life of my grandmother. As I was writing I recalled my Abuela was a singer, she loved to sing “En mi Viejo San Juan.” Telling my aunts, she used to “sing” when she was younger for the farm workers.
I see my grandmother in AhRiel. When the pen hit the paper for AhRiel”s first song, did God know she would remind me, three years after my grandmother’s passing, about one of my grandmother’s most private aspirations — to sing, to be an artist as well?
INTERVIEW WITH AHRIEL DELGADO
1. What is the name of your business/artistry? I decided to go with AhRiel in 2019. I needed something new and adding an H to my name seems to be all I needed.
2. Why? Even though I only added one letter to my original name, I decided I liked the pronunciation better. My real name is supposed to be pronounced ah-riel, but many people associate my name with the little mermaid. Even though it is one of my favorite Disney movies, I would like for people to associate my name with me.
3. Where were you born and what values were taught in your home? I was born in Queens NY and lived there till I was about 6. My home was always full of music and family. My parents always taught me about the importance of being kind and keeping my imagination alive. I learned to value family and those who care for me. Family or not.
4. What was your experience like as a student? I liked school and learning a lot. I still do. It was a little harder for me to understand things taught in class, but I had amazing teachers that spent extra time with me to make sure I finally understood anything I was having an issue with. Growing up with dyslexia also made it hard for me because I was constantly thrown off. I always pushed through and I’m grateful I did because I may not like learning anything new if I didn’t have to, as I got older.
5. How do you define an artist? – An artist is someone who shares their passion with others. No matter what it is or whom it’s shared with. Someone who pours themselves into something they love doing or making.
6. How do you define a businessperson? I’ve always seen a businessperson as someone who pays attention to the small details of the analytics of anything and understands why they are important. Someone who can separate what is important for themselves and someone else and what is not. Understanding there is a meaning for everything that’s done and what action or plan is necessary to reach whatever goal or goals they have.
7. Where do you see the intersection between both? Understanding that both are necessary to grow. They are both important to each other is the biggest intersection for me. Sometimes you need one or the other and there are times that you need both. To understand how to grow and what needs to be done. Being an artist and businessperson becomes very important to one’s success in anything.
8. What is your theory on human potential? Potential lies in the belief in oneself. I feel that most people overthink this and feel that the only way to have potential is to meet the criteria in someone else’s eyes. If you know there is always more to learn and unlearn, your potential is limitless. No matter what you do.
9. What is your remedy for a long day? I love a warm bath with salts and bubbles. Taking care of my body by applying the lotion head to toe with a lotion that smells cozy and natural. A face mask and skincare routine after, then falling asleep to nature sounds. Sometimes meditation before I fall asleep.
10. What are your values? My values are still the same as what I was taught when I was little. I’ve also learned about the value of self-love and self-care. They are just as important as anything else. The world is taught to care for others and put others first, but I’ve learned I can’t give someone my best if I’m not giving it to myself first. If I’m not taking care of myself mentally, physically, and emotionally, I can’t efficiently help anyone else figure out how to do that for themselves.
11. What is your favorite thing about yourself? I’m always excited to try and learn new things, but I do not have a problem saying no if doing something is not good for me, but maybe for someone else. I finally care enough about making myself comfortable first. I loved that I’ve learned that it’s okay to say no and that the actions of others have less to do with me and more with themselves. Because of my want for learning new things, I’ve learned that and so much more.
Interview #21: Meet AMBER MARTINEZ
What is culture? – To me – a shared set of experiences and the values-driven from those experiences. What’s it worth? Whelp – mostly usually oppression lol factually speaking of course. The fun parts are- lots of times- food, shared music, song, and art, some interesting stories, unique yet athletic or sports-like games, and then there’s government and religion – aforementioned.
Latinos, who are we? What is our culture? How many of us are there? & who “Counts? We are but one people separated by constructed privileges, a couple of oceans and rivers, and connected by technology and we all love el Conejo malo (I don’t care what you say).
Further, our Latino culture is shared by people whose experiences span such polarized degrees of privilege- that it blows my mind. How much keen injustice exists within the culture I wonder?
Factually injustice in this country and (others) is so, that I can have the very same name, the very same everything as another woman but if by a randomized act of God, she is born outside of the United States, and our lives are measured differently. Same name kept I am a citizen and she’s not two different social realities – that’s undeniable.
There is a girl whose last name is Rodriguez (same as mine) sitting in a cell somewhere because she was born on the WRONG side of an invisible line or the tracks and had the common sense to run for it. Is that fair?
Is it my culture to accept that? It’s the way the numbers work that I’m on the outside and she’s on the inside. The scary thing of all is – we might even have the same dreams. Maybe even agree on religion and like the same food. But because it benefits some folx- they try to make it seem like me and her – we don’t have the same culture and trick me into wanting to lock her up. Nope. Not I. When I close my eyes the days, I feel the worst for myself I close my eyes and think about that girl.
I won’t support “culture” that doesn’t count such women and me in the same deck. Just cus I’m half white and born in the United States doesn’t make me more deserving of liberty – the way that I see it. You’ve got to believe in liberty to be brave – because if not- what are you fighting for?
Who are brave people in a culture?
Brave people ask themselves that too. And the bravest of all, answer their question in the worst way- in a way that causes them to have to act. Amber Martinez is brave and complicated. She is a leader because she creates community (whose foundation is coalition building) – which itself is a challenging enterprise. Why do some build communities? Answering for myself – because they know the feeling of being alone.
Anyone who can make It is the small-town USA and the city has got my respect. You’ve got to two have two different types of Moxy – on call- for both the country and the city in New York State, Amber’s got them. The type of “gotem” that made her a welcome guest in Croatia -finding herself making friends she could keep for a lifetime, a million miles away from home and impromptu ambassador for the Latino community. After 20 years or so in Buffalo she calls her home.
What is her business? She is one of the co-curators of the brand La Kultura in her words “we chose that name for what it means: The Culture”. Explaining: “We are one and we will be the ones to set the tone for what creating unity looks like.”
Amber Martinez– Her role? to unify communities around spaces centered around freedom of identity. Freedom of identity, the freedom to shed your culture born or not and or to assume another, to leave freer than before, if you so choose.
Read Amber’s Interview, follow her brand, and accept we are all in constant states of transformation and growth and that’s part of our culture too.
1. Where were you born and what values were taught in your home? Well, I was born in a small town in NY with my mother and brother. Some of the values that stick out at a young age are respect, discipline, and responsibility.
2. What was your experience like as a student? My college experience was interesting. When I first went to college, my first semester was a realization that I was not ready or prepared for what college had in store. By my second semester, I dropped out and started my first full-time job at DD. It took 4 years to find my way back into college. I started back up at ECC and graduated with my associate’s degree in Liberal Arts. By this time, I took a year off to focus on a sales position. After the year, I decided to sign back up for school and started my journey to receive my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. It was a little hard connecting with other students at that time because I was 5 – 6 years older than the students in my class. I decided before I graduated, that I wanted to do an abroad program to meet people with the same interests. At first, I was denied for abroad programs. Then I took an International Marketing class, and the professor was promoting an abroad Spring break trip to Croatia. I wasn’t convinced but signed up anyway. I ended up being accepted into the program during my last semester in college. Long story short, it was a life-changing experience and that opportunity helped me develop relationships with the students on that trip whom I still speak to, even in today’s light of life.
3. What was your first job? My first job out of high school was with Dunkin Donuts (DD). Working in a fast-food environment is not easy but I was determined to do the best I could in the position as an employee. My work paid off and within 6 months I was offered a shift supervisor position running my shifts. I did the same thing with the shift supervisor position and within a year, I was offered my store to manage. Throughout my time at DD, I ran 4 different stores. It was at DD I gained more interest in the business.
4. How do you define a businessperson? A business person to me is someone who doesn’t conform to the norm. Business-minded individuals see outside of the box and strive to make changes. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, with the challenges and the consistently changing world we live in is an important part of being a successful businessperson.
5. Why did you decide to open your business? I’ve lived in Buffalo for over 2 decades. Since I’ve been here, the well-known businesses in Buffalo that are Latin-based do not work together. The way I see it if the community sees businesses within the community working together, they set the tone for the community on what it means to be united and support one another. We’re here to do just that.
6. What is your theory on human potential? Human potential is limitless. If one is willing to put in the work and heal and be present, one can do and be anything one wants to be.
7. What is the most important thing you have learned along the way? Life has taught me the only way to get to the success you want is to believe in yourself and to put yourself first in anything and everything you do.
8. What is your remedy after a hard day? When a hard day arises, I like to put on soothing music, run a bath, eat my favorite foods, and smoke a joint.
9. What are your business values? Our business values are surrounded by passion, community development, and collaboration. We’re passionate about helping unite our community once again. Finding new innovative ways to help rebuild. Creating more opportunities for our people through community development and showing our community when we collaborate with other businesses thriving to make our community better, will show others what working together can achieve.
10. What is the name of your business and why? Our brand name is La Kultura. We chose that name for what it means: The Culture. We are one and we will be the ones to set the tone for what creating unity looks like.
Interview #20: MEET LUCITA MATOS
Introduction: Some of us don’t have the luxury to be scared. Have you ever been too poor, or too tired, or too sad, or too something to be scared? Like when everyone else (who’s right-minded) would be scared you are not and, you step forward because you are already getting beat down, what’s another one? A fighter’s halfway through the fight you know.
What is it to live a personal hell so severe that state troopers, shotguns, white supremacists, and German Shepherds –look like a walk in the park? I’m not saying she wasn’t scared the trip to DC was the only time she ever got away from my Abuelo. The bus, charted by (Gilberto Valentin the most important Puerto Rican you ever heard about) was yellow-stepping on the stairs with my 5-year-old father in hand – a civil rights advocate and domestic violence victim- Simultaneously. Right now, as Latinas, we are too poor to be scared. It’s go time. It’s stand-up for your sister because “if you’re going to talk to her like that, you’re going to talk to me like that time”, it’s “what would your mother say” time, it’s time to call it out. We need to celebrate gentlemen-Don’t roll your eyes at me at you read this and text your toxic-ex — we all have them, girls. It’s time to free our sons of toxic patriarchy- no sweat (for me that comes in between baseball and chicken nuggets) nevertheless.
The work though, it’s serious and needs motivation; for my grandmother, it came from her belief in the transformational power of the love of Jesus Christ and I honor that. Lucita is the founder of the first “Walk Against Domestic Violence” here in Rochester NY. She preaches love and Christ. When they call the leaders (just like my grandmother), she steps forward. Confidently in every step, there’s a brown leather sandal of Jesus, it’s inside their shoe print they walk so close to him. Owner of “Taina Soy”, a faith leader who has expanded her ministry to business. She creates jewelry that celebrates and preserves our unique Puerto Rican culture – specifically our indigenous heritage. She smiles like the sun, it’s hard to explain until you see her beaming back at you pumping all the positive energy of Christ’s forgiveness into the atmosphere
“Christian” is an action word. She knows it. Plus, Lucila means light. Christian light, holding the hope in the dark, Lucila Matos. Quantum Physics teaches that nothing is fixed, that there are no limitations, and that everything is vibrating Energy, and that everything is in a state of potential. You, we, are in a state of potential, as the largest group of female workers in the United States we are the potential.
Lucila Matos’s ministry builds community, she has the power to join people in spirit, to convene, to bring forth a group of God’s children in action, and to guide that action to improve the lives of others and that is what will fuel her business success. Lucila’s continued success is evidence there is a distinct space for businesspeople whose mission and purpose are motivated by their faith. She also happens to be the founder of the first “Walk Against Domestic Violence.”
Rochester has ever held. August 20th, 11 days before what would have been my grandmother’s 99th birthday and three years since my grandmother’s passing, meet me and Lucila in Rochester to continue to make LatinaHerStory. Love to Dona… And if you can’t join us in person, be sure to join us digitally. TAG US! Set your route, WEAR PINK, check-in, and we will share you and your message! We are together even when we are far away.
1. Where were you born and what were the values in your home? I was born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Ponce is a beautiful town in the south of Puerto Rico. I was raised with good Christian values, values of respect and kindness, and love for others.
2. What was your experience like as a student? My experience as a student was good. A student is always inclined to the arts. My favorite class was social studies I had my struggles like a lot of teenagers, but my parents were always there for me.
3. What was your first or favorite job? This is a hard question, I think I am a natural caregiver, any job where I’m able to give, always will be my favorite. A job where I am a source of help or hope that is a job for me. My first job was I work for the Airline Delta it’s fun
4. What advice do you have for other Latinas and people who want their voices to be heard? My best advice to other Latinas out there is to be focused, organized, and consistent. Find another woman with similar goals and be supportive. Encourage other women, to work together and work hard. But consistency is the real key, never give up! keep trying until you see results.
5. What is your theory on human potential? My theory about human potential is that all people are different with different goals values and abilities. we all have the potential to fight and meet our goals, grow, and improve. Therefore, it is a quality whose training and results are very subjective. We can’t base our success on other people’s success or compare our processes.
6. How do you define a businessperson? A businessperson for me is a visionary, a person with the ability to work hard to make a dream come true. A person that doesn’t give up any matter if your network is millions of dollars or a hundred dollars is a person that sees an opportunity and goes for it.
7. Is there a businessperson and or mentor that you look up to and why? My mother will always be the person that I look up to and my mentor, Sonia Rodriguez always has been an example of a woman of God, a woman ………
8. What does success look like for you? Success for me is being able to accomplish your expectations without changing your essence as a person. Positively impact people and be an example of improvement and hope. Success is not about material stuff, for me success is about to go sleep every night satisfied and with a clear conscience.
INTERVIEW #19: MEET DIANELIX RIVERA
One of the best things about growing a community around #Latinaherstory and #latinasinbusinessNY is that I meet amazing women who continue to inspire me. They take risks and risk-taking is something that, I didn’t know I didn’t like. I’ve become a little bolder, drawing on the strength of their “formation” stories that we share at our events. We all get together after eating and talking and make deliberate space to share our stories. I used the word “deliberate space”, and I am going to come back to that. How do you build deliberate space? You respectfully show an individual that you are in whatever capacity that looks like to you. To us, it looks like sitting in a circle and giving each other eye contact and no phones. Organically sometimes Latinas build deliberate spaces to share like – Noche de damas – at church but most of the time we can’t economically afford the time it takes to build deliberate spaces. Because you must pause.
That needs to change, we need to embrace change and build deliberate space around the people and the ideas we support. And in those spaces with your colleagues or with your elders or sisters, give each other space to be flawed, to speak Spanglish, to not know, and most of all to be ambitious. Our community has a rich history in the United States and some of that history frames the ending of the marijuana prohibition differently for us. As a result, we need to build deliberate spaces to learn about what this means for our community both from an economic perspective and social justice perspective. Marijuana prohibition impacted the lives of the children whose family members were prosecuted under its law. One such child has now grown into a beautiful strong Puerto Rican woman, and she has decided, properly, to use the end of marijuana prohibition in the United States to her economic benefit. If that’s not economic restorative justice I don’t know what is. She’s braved, her name is Dianelix Rivera and she is the CEO and owner of Loud Sirnez Cannabis Fashion Boutique. Why is this important? She is not looking to cut even for the impacts that marijuana prohibition marked on her family’s economy, she’s looking to overcome economically and form a new future.
Loud Sirnez Cannabis Fashion Boutique is loud proud and sharing information about the positive and medicinal effects of Cannabis. Resistance can be an outfit and Dianlex knows that. Restorative Justice is defined as Restorative justice is a response to wrongdoing that prioritizes repairing harm. It can be defined in three action terms: Encounter, Repair, and Transform. As a community, we know that persecuting someone for the possession of a plant that has been used for thousands of years as medicinal is wrong (encounter), we know the policies that were shaped to enforce marijuana prohibition were unjust in that they specifically targeted communities of color; we know that to reverse these racist polices we need people impacted by those racist policies at the table (repair), we know we need to transform our understanding of Marijuana.
Dianelix Rivera is a pioneer. She is less than thirty years old, a student of the world, the oldest of four children, and a Latina whose Puerto Rican heritage inspired her to be unafraid of the unknown. Maria upturned her life, and Covid impacted her, as a student she has had successes and gained perspective. At present, she is also enrolled in a program for small businesses at our SBA at SUNY Buffalo State College.
Ageism is defined as prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age. We must accept two things as a community (1) cannabis is now legal and a source of economic opportunity (2) young people will lead the way. Statistically, Latinas will grow the marijuana, but will not be afforded a seat at the table to discuss it.
1. Where were you born and what were the values in your home? I was born and raised in Puerto Rico predominantly by my single mother of four (4). I was the oldest and our values consisted of family unity, humility, and hard work. My momma worked a lot and was an example of perseverance and taught me, in a combination of my own experiences, to never give up. Her determination in raising a family with limited support through also pursuing a professional career as a pharmacy technician and studying to be a nurse while also providing was very inspiring and taught me lots of strength and gratitude.
2. What was your experience like as a student? I consider myself more a student of life than traditional schooling systems. Theoretical learning takes special discipline; however, I have found that in my experience, I have learned more through the mastery of following my path. My educational resources vary, I was in pursuit of my bachelor’s degree in Communications & Journalism at the University of Puerto Rico in Aguadilla, however, did not get the opportunity to finish the program due to my moving to Buffalo after losing everything in Hurricane Maria in 2017. When I moved to Buffalo, I came to continue my degree but through the paths of life, real-life factors, and financial needs, roads lead to a different pursuit. I can proudly say my approach to being a student has been of extreme value to me in my journey. I am currently participating in a program with the Small Business Center Development and Buffalo State College and am consistently looking to grow and expand my knowledge through workshops, mastermind alliances as well as mentors who have helped shape and guide my trajectory. I strongly believe learning from the natural laws, art, and entrepreneurship in a combination with consistently reading books has made me a good student of life.
3 What was your first or favorite job? My favorite job before entrepreneurship was in the wireless and marketing industry, being part of the T-Mobile events and social media team. Hospitality was my least favorite. I started working at a very young age, I remember as early as 2008 selling toys, candy, and dinosaur figurines in elementary school, to bracelets and hair accessories as I expanded. Later, that translated to embroidery hats and tutoring programs in high school. All these different roles, fields, and experiences have helped shape my work ethic, ambition, and passion for solving problems through creative means such as beauty and loud self-expression in fashion.
4. What advice do you have for other Latinas people who want their voices to be heard in their community? If you want to be heard you need to speak loudly, Mija. What is your message? Once you find that, tell everyone. Tell the mail lady, the barista, and your dog; to make yourself heard safely, intentionally, and respectfully. To find the community you’re trying to serve and start giving what you once needed to see. We spend so much time thinking of the when and how when we just need to combine purpose with desire.
5. What is your theory on human potential? Every great human invention started with a thought. I believe we have the power of self-evolution, we can create, shape, and evolve into anything, as we possess endless potential. I think to reach that higher potential, you must open your mind to the idea of greatness. My theory is you can become anything as long as you’re clear with your message, intentions, and who you are trying to serve, it also serves to say my theory includes doing it with mindfulness, prayer, and establishing the right systems and habits that will boost accessing that higher potential.
6. What experience do you have as a businessperson? In addition to the prior experience described, I consider my experience characterized predominantly by entrepreneurship. A businessperson refers to those who offer products and services with existing ideas and an entrepreneur starts an enterprise with a new idea or concept and undertakes commercial activities.
7. How would you define a businessperson? To relay it with simplicity, my definition would be “one who successfully makes a living in the chosen path and can sustain, one who identifies a problem or need and finds a way to creatively solve it or deliver what is needed”.
By definition, a businessperson refers to someone involved in a particular undertaking of commercial and industrial activities to generate revenue.
8.. Is there a local businessperson you look up to? I admire and look up to both the businessperson and the entrepreneur who embraces a sustainable journey of success. Those who provide value to their community and serve with authenticity, kindness, and good intentions, those who are proactively solving problems. I’d say I have a special admiration for those that are parents and are still out there dreaming while taking care of their families. To me, that’s truly worth looking up to and it’s important to recognize. Even as I was making less, half the time doing more, while also possessing a unique skill set, including bilingual and translation services, I felt I was fortunate enough to even be there. Growing up with a lack of historical representation and knowledge, I perpetuated with ignorance the belief of inferiority, I wasn’t even aware of it through my youth and early adulthood.
9. How do you feel about the fact that Latinas are the most underpaid demographic in the US? It truly infuriates me how it takes us almost 22 months to catch up to what white non-Hispanic men are paid in just one year. My jaw dropped with anger, and I could not believe reading the National Women’s Law Center’s report on the fact that it would take us more than 400 years to earn what a white male earned in a normal 4-year career. That is beyond insane and irrational to me. I was very unaware of this phenomenon even while I was experiencing it. Even as I was making less, half the time doing more, while also possessing a unique skill set, including bilingual and translation services, I felt I was fortunate enough to even be there. Growing up with a lack of historical representation and knowledge, I perpetuated with ignorance the belief of inferiority, I wasn’t even aware of it through my youth and early adulthood. We not only owe it to those who have advocated for us in the past and have paved the way till today, but we must also give it to those who are coming after us, our daughters, neighbors, and communities. We are not done fighting for equal rights. We must continue to pave the way because we are not done fighting to close this racial pay gap. After reviewing the last report on this matter, I’ll loudly say they can keep their two cents we are coming for the full dollar.
INTERVIEWN #18: MEET STEHANNIE ALCAZAR
I don’t think I ever fully believed in myself until I started writing this column. Honestly, I’ve spent most of my life scared of nothing. By writing, I have gotten to know myself and my dreams again. As I started to follow another plan of forming my LLC (Limited Liability Corporation), I reflected on the commonalities in my experience and the experiences shared by some of the Latina HerStory alumni. It seemed – like life- being in business was more complicated – just because I was Latina.
I remember searching for Latina-owned businesses to work with for Latina Herstory, and it was hard. I realized what I was looking for didn’t exist: (1). a centralized listing of Latina owned businesses (that was inclusive of a home or small niche business that are characteristic of our core economies of our community); and (2). a group of women that I shared common values and life experiences with that I could talk to about business. So late one night, on our Latina Herstory page, I added a tab that reads “Latina Business Directory.”
It turns out; It’s the only one in New York. It’s the only page exclusively dedicated to Latina businesses in New York, accompanied by an accessible private community. Its history, ironically, one month in or so, we had a gathering, we had 15 seats, sold 19 tickets, and we outsold. We started a community digitally, which has grown into 40 plus Latina women and our allies. One of the women in attendance’s name was Stephannie Alcazar (two n’s on purpose), a woman who brought the spirit of the city of lions (a nickname for Ponce) to the table.
Stephanie is the woman who will marry my two projects, who embodies the values that have propelled me forward, and a work ethic incomprehensible to even some of the most brutal moms I know. Thus, our Latina HerStory features will be businesswomen listed on our directory each month. Each month we will marry our column with a podcast broadcasted on Facebook that will bring our communities together and encourage others to learn about independent Latino-owned papers and local journalism. We will ultimately form a fund to build a giving circle and issue microloans to our members. Big dreams and I need big help, so again, Stephannie.
In 200 words or so, she dares to believe in people more than themselves. Ella de Ponce, Fuerte is elegant, intelligent, sensitive, and easily one of the most generous people I have ever met. Spoiler alert, there’s a lot more to this amazing woman who also happens to be the proud Latina owner of “Wonderland’s Soothing Creations.” She will be everywhere in May. Look for her interview in print in our papers. If you want to catch a glimpse of her life, join our Latina HerStory or LatinasinBusinessNY communities and view the first episode of our podcast.
The reason I chose to write about Stephannie is not that she’s donating 40% of her profits to LatinasinBusinessNY and granting 10% off on her entire shop for the month of May for any purchases using the Promo Code: LIBNY716 or because she makes me feel like I can take over the world. When you open yourself up to God’s love in the form of people, it can be a mighty blessing.
Even her “formation story” (the story of why you started your business) is inspirational. Stephanie’s motivation to start her business centers on her love for her special needs son and his sensitivity to harsh indigents. She started making soap as a mom (her favorite job). One of her greatest assets (admittingly) is her partner in life and business, Joseph Santiago; he suggested they start a business after Stephannie lost her job during Covid, and she hasn’t looked back since.
Stephannie wakes at 5 am and makes a LatinaHerstory every day- support her like you do our column.
1. What advice do you have for other Latinx people who want their voices to be heard in their community? I would tell them not to give up fighting for what they want to achieve; it’s not about winning. It’s about not giving up
2. What is your theory on human potential? The limit is the sky, and people have already made it to the moon. I believe that everyone has potential, but to use that potential, they need to figure out what they want to do and what they want to achieve.
3. What experience do you have as a businessperson? As a businessperson, some of the best experiences I’ve had so far are that I’ve grown as a person, and I never stop learning. Also, now I make plans- I try to be more organized, and I get to be more creative at the same time. I’ve learned to be more open-minded, and I’ve learned to manage my time better.
4. How would you define a businessperson? I believe a businessperson must be committed, decided, and can create their path: a person willing to take the risk and the chance to achieve their goals.
5. Is there a local business person you look up to? I look up to those local businesses still standing even when they’ve struggled to stay up and run but didn’t give up. I look up to those business owners that day who fight hard for what they want and don’t give up, and if they fall, they get up and come back stronger even if I don’t know them personally; I know they are out there in this region.
INTERVIEWN #17: MEET MARISOL HERNANDEZ
Sometimes God doesn’t give you what you want. He gives you what you need. Trials and tribulations, you later realize, are blessings. One such blessing – the ability to speak two languages at varying levels of confidence- unites me with so many of my readers. In a deep breath, I reflect -my life has been -linguistically fluid. In my mind, I see all my readers. Smiling, waving at me. Publications that I contribute to are the heartbeat of our neighborhoods — like the smell of sofrito and casas that start their day before the sun rises with ‘cafesito and una oracion de Dios.’ Readers with souls full of music and pain. Every time I write, It’s centered around one girl — a version of my inner child — Una “Nena”.
In her life, our papers are the most relevant and most identified affirming publication she has. She struggles to access digital material outside of school. She has a sharp tongue, too impulsive, a dreamer’s spirit in a gray town and in when she grabs our paper, and she sees herself in the stories. She’s less than ten but she knows she’s bigger than her hometown and her dreams stretch further than the highways that isolate her. It’s all for her – really.
I know she’s out there. If you know that little girl lift her up. If you are her grandmother, or if you are mother, or if you know a little girl (inside yourself) or in your community. Give her our paper. It’s a gift to give someone a reason to dream. I described that girl to Marisol when we first zoomed- she just smiled- she knew. I knew God sent Marisol to my life.
Marisol was waiting for me, before I met her. Her path aligned with mine as she also is a bright thinker, empathetic, a leader. A graduate of SUNY Empire State College’s – like me, a fighter- like me. Marisol’s spirit was created to light the torches of other women’s intellect across the world. 1,400 miles away from her homeland of Puerto Rico there is something wild about her refinement almost exotic about her deliberateness in speech. She is a woman with many different chapters inside her writer’s soul. All those chapters led up to the creation of the most humble and significant Puerto Rican literary minds in the state. Marisol- (the version of her I love the most- Marisol my editor).
The lead chief editor of CNY Latino publication with a circulation of 6,000 papers, she is the leading lady of public opinion for one of the fastest-growing Latino communities in our state.
Love independent papers, advertise in them, submit to them, blog about them, just love them. And know, when you talk papers in New York State, la Reina de todo esto es Marisol Hernandez, Senior Editor, and a great role model and mentor for our young generation.
1. Where were you raised, what were the values taught in your home? I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. When I was 12 years old, we moved to the tiny island of Vieques. That is when my parents divorced. I am the middle child of seven. For us, family comes first, even now as adults and living in different countries/states, my siblings and I are very close. Faith has always been a strong value in my family but also integrity, honesty, and humility. One thing that I also learn growing up is to have fun, enjoy life, and help others. When we were struggling, I remember my mother saying “has bien y no mires a quien, las cosas se hacen bien o no se hacen and mañana será otro día”. With that said, we as a family pray for others which is a habit, I have included in my daily prayer ritual.
2. What was your experience as a student? My first experience in kindergarten was not good and I struggled in school. I didn’t learn how to read and write until 3rd grade. I remember hearing my mom say “pobrecita Marisol, déjala tranquila, ella no puede dar más”. That made me feel bad about myself and my own abilities to do things. I was one of those students that pass thru school under the radar. I finished high school with low grades and entered college on a special program at the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico.When I move to the Bronx in 1984, I met my aunt’s “Comadre”. As the manager of a women’s clothing store, she hired me to do inventory, merchandise pricing, and to keep an eye on thieves. I didn’t know any English and I already had 2 years of college in Puerto Rico that was when I realized that if I didn’t learn English, I was not going to be successful in New York. She encouraged me to get back into college, I enrolled in Eugenio María de Hostos Community College and within a year, I was fully bilingual. I worked very hard every day that year, but it felt very empowering to make the honors roll. My outlook about the school, myself, and my own abilities changed forever at that moment. I realized that I could make things happen, that I can do anything I put my mind to do. In 1999, I completed my bachelor’s degree from Empire State College, State University of New York Auburn, New York’s branch with a degree in Human and Community Services and a concentration in Child and Family Studies. It took me 18 years on and off from college to finish my bachelor’s degree, but I feel very proud of the things I accomplish at work and for my community all those years while pursuing my education.
3. When did you start working and what was your first or favorite job? My first job was babysitting my neighbor’s daughter and cleaning my boyfriend’s bosses’ house, feeding their cats, etc. I was just 16 years old, with them I learn to be responsible and do what I promised I was going to do. I have had many jobs since then. I have been an outreach worker, a family support specialist, an interpreter/translator, a youth program development center director, a coalitions’ coordinator, a healthy lifestyle coach, and a business coach. In all those roles, I gave my 100% and did my best to excel and make an impact in my client’s life. But my favorite job is running CNY Latino Media with Hugo Acosta who is my partner in life as well. As the Editor in Chief of the CNY Latino Newspaper and the Radio/Podcast Producer, I get to have an impact on people’s lives in a different way. I enjoy celebrating our culture, highlighting the great things our people do for their communities. I get to meet amazing Latinos and non-Latinos, attend events, and network. I get to be the voice and represent my community, my people everywhere I go but most importantly since the beginning the CNY Latino Media has been a venue for connecting the Latino community with everyone else in Central New York. I can’t think of anything more powerful than a community newspaper in both English and Spanish to impact our community, to represent our culture, and to empower our people.
4. What was the moment that you were inspired to take control of your future? There have been many moments in my life where the decisions I made helped me take control of my future. Attending college, learning English, running for a political office, changing my eating and lifestyle habits to take control of my diabetes to name a few. I feel that I really took control of my future when I decided to leave the non-for-profit work to run CNY Latino with Hugo.
5. What advice do you have for other Latinx people who want their voices to be heard in their community? I will say to be yourself, find your passion, and figure out what you are good at. Then, use it to help others, to speak up, to make a difference in your community. For me, it was putting time and effort to serve as the second Latina elected official in the history of Syracuse City School Board, to create WISE Latina, an annual luncheon to motivate, empower and connect Latina women in Central New York by supporting their existing and developing entrepreneurial objectives. This is an effort to reach the Latinas in Central New York and provide them with the resources and connections to build successful enterprises and contribute to the economy in this area. As time changes and opportunities come, I jump in to make an impact in my community by partnering with the WISE Women Business Center to translate and co-facilitate at no cost to attendees the Éxito! program and during the pandemic the WISE WBC Small Business Resilience Program (COVID-19). So, once you figure out what you are passionate about or what programs in your community you want to impact, jump in and be yourself. Advocate for others, open doors for others, help bring awareness.
6. What is your theory on human potential? As God’s child and a believer, I know that everyone has a purpose in life. God made us all equal and gave us the potential (the power within) to seek the truth in our lives, to be the best we can be. Everyone has the potential to overcome any obstacles and achieve success. They just must find the motivation within to do it.
7. What is your opinion on the fact that Latinx women are the most underpaid demographic in the United States? It makes me feel sad that Latinas are so underpaid. This impacts the social and economic resources Latinas, and their children must make in this country. We must close the wage gap to advance as a community.I also have seen that many Latinas are opening their business at a rapid pace. This is one way; we can also help to close the wage gap because I know that we will not underpay our workers.
8. What experience do you have as a businessperson? As a businessperson I learn that if I don’t plan and stick to my plans, my business will not succeed. I love to have the flexibility of not having to request time off for vacation or to spend time with my family or to help a family member or a friend. As a businessperson, you make the decisions but you are also accountable for it. When I met my partner in life, we both realized that he needed help with “his Spanish”, and my ability to find mistakes – along with the feminine touch of a Latina perfectionist, make him realize, the value I bring to our business. Once I started it, I could not think of anything more powerful than a community newspaper in both English and Spanish, to impact my community, to represent my culture, and my people. With time, I realized that being my own boss will give me the flexibility to spend my time doing things that are important to me, and at the same time, I am able to make a difference in many people’s life. In February we celebrated the 18th Anniversary of the CNY Latino Newspaper. In my mind, to be celebrating another anniversary edition in the ‘newspaper’ industry, AND in our culture, as a small ethnic publication and a small minority business, is a “HUGE” accomplishment.
9. how would you define a businessperson? A businessperson is one that uses his/her skills and talents to sell and market products or services to others making financial gains. A businessperson has a passion for what he/she does, takes risks, seeks to achieve goals. I also realized that you must be self-reliant, confident, and motivated. A businessperson is willing to seek advice, is willing to ask for and accept help when needed. One last thing and most important trade you must have been to accept your mistakes, learn from them so it wouldn’t happen again.
I also see that successful businesspeople contribute money or time to causes and missions that align with their values. They also find a balance between family and business.
10. Is there a local businessperson you look up to? There are many business owners I admired or look up to. In my own journey, I admire those who take the leap even if they think they are not ready like Hugo did in 2004. I see women (many of whom are Latinas) all the time doing this as I work with the Éxito! program at the WISE Women Business Center, as I interview many of them for our newspaper or radio show. I also see and hear their stories as we do Amigas Conectadas every Monday.
11. What is your vision for your future? The vision for my future is to continue taking care of my health and wellbeing as I get older and continue to grow and spend time with our family. I certainly believe that CNY Latino will continue to be the voice for our community. I look forward to having as part of what we do a Podcast, a Digital Radio Show, our own TV Show. We have so many plans and as we are able to implement them, I know for sure that Hugo and I will certainly continue to make it fun, exciting, and about our culture (and hopefully profitable). I believe we are the bridge that connects – as our slogan says – the Hispanic community with everyone else in Central New York. I think we have done a great job at helping our community cross that bridge and we in the future will continue to be that bridge.
INTERVIEWV #16: MEET YALEYSKA MEDINA
This month I had the opportunity to meet and interview a brave, young Latino, named Yaleyska Medina.
She is committed to addressing public health disparities in her community. Raised by two loving parents, she was born with a family on the strength of prayer. She is grounded and unafraid. She is motivated by her children and especially by her father who she considers her hero.
It is said that energy is our most precious currency, and you may not interact with Yaleyska without absorbing her energy of strength. A supernova is an exploding star. You can add in the parathesis “Yaleyska”. An overcomer, she has faced numerous social ills in her life (domestic violence, hunger, housing insecurity, depression, gender, racial bias), and survived – always applying the strength of a supernova.
With her persistence, she uses her strength, surrounding and attacking the historical lack of health and medical trauma faced by Latino women. For Puerto Rican women, sovereignty over our bodies is like sovereignty over our land. We never had it!
I felt like I knew her when we first met, and I was elated to learn that she worked at United Health Care. I took that to mean she was empowered; I trust them to show up for my community whenever in need.
Her curiosity about how I ended up a lawyer, public housing, and conducting a back-to-school drive (which she supports), I confided that I used to stand in line for food, backpacks, summer lunch, Christmas presents, whatever the social agencies or institutions were offering – not knowing the “who” or the “they.” All I knew was that we were in need.
Before I could finish explaining, she immediately asked me, “so, now, what are you going to do about it? That is always the question.
That’s when I began to see what Yaleyska wants to see in all women – motivation, inspiration, to show and demonstrate how we have unbreakable strength and energy. We just must learn how to channel these elements; I see all those elements in her. Physics says Force is equal to change in momentum (mass times velocity) over time. In other words, the rate of change is directly proportional to the amount of force applied. Yaleyska learned that a long time ago.
March is Women’s History Month, a time to recognize and celebrate our contributions.
Even though our #Latinaherstory community is across the state and beyond, we are going to celebrate together with an exercise: Pull out a calendar, each day write the things you like about yourself, and make sure to always remind yourself, and draw from the strength of others. Read the following interview, but make sure to take a deep breath, and say: “I am going to make it!”
Where were you born and what were the values in your household? My family is from Puerto Rico. We are a Pentecostal family. In my household, God was always first. My parents were strict. They taught me the importance of honesty, respect, kindness, and humbleness. We were humble, we lived in the projects called Castillos. My parents were always willing to do everything in their power to survive. My father was a mechanic and knew the value of his work and the cars that he fixed. As a single mother who is raising her children totally independent of anyone’s financial help, I look back on the sacrifices my parents made. One time, we needed food. My father was so resourceful that my father went to his car and took a car part out, so they could get food, you know? One of my father’s values that I’ve always taken- with me: that no matter what you do, no matter what situation you are in, you don’t go out there stealing. You don’t go out there doing harm. Secondly, you know how to stay determined to survive.
Even though I am alone in the parenting journey, one thing that I take from my family, from my parents is: that no matter how hard it is. You gave it your best and with God you are capable.
Don’t let anybody bring you down. Don’t let anybody discourage you, you have in your hands the power to do whatever your heart desires.
Did you enjoy school? I did in part. It’s tricky because in Puerto Rico I enjoyed school. I enjoyed school as it was amazing because I was very smart. I was always outstanding. My grades were perfect. They did what is called the NASA project in Puerto Rico and they were picking from every single school. The two most outstanding in the whole entire school. I was one of the two picked. I was so proud.
However, when I moved here, they placed me back in 12th grade where I had a complete, I think like six months’ worth of school to qualify for graduation. At that time school became a challenge because of the language barrier. You know it’s intimating. I was very smart but learning a whole new language is challenging. It’s a difficult challenge to assimilate into a school environment when you do not speak the instructional language. Still to this day, I think in Spanish, and I must translate in English when I speak to make sense. I feel like I’m always doing double the job because for me I think in two languages. At the same time, it’s amazing to be able to understand two different cultures and two different backgrounds. I am proud of my culture, but I also consider myself to have American grit because I overcame the challenge of moving to Buffalo with no fear whatsoever.
What was your first and was is your favorite job? At 17, My first job was at McDonald’s and then after that, I went into restaurants. However, to be quite honest and I’m being authentic. And I’m not saying this because I currently work with the company, but my best job is the one that I have right now.I have to say sincerely- that working for United Healthcare is my favorite job specifically Because of my position and the supportive people like my current boss. I appreciate her mentoring and leadership so much. I have worked in the health industry for 9 years and I know UHC is the best place to work. When I started my journey at United Health Care, I had no idea it was going to affect my life in this way. As an outreach specialist, I have the privilege to build community and governmental relationships. So, I can connect with other people. It’s amazing meeting people in the field with the same goals inside and outside the company. A lot of my colleagues- have the same ambition to help others and help the community, that I have naturally. So, supporting the community in identifying our health needs and connecting our company and its mission to the community is invigorating to me. My heart is open to helping everyone and so are our companies and the people that work there like me. Literally, my job title is to engage build relationships. As a professional, it fulfills me completely as a human being. Every day I am fulfilling my purpose in life. I feel like everybody is born with talent and a purpose, and my purpose was to make others happy and give. United Health care allows me to do that in the place that is most important to me, the place I call home. Whatever it is at United Health Care I know we are helping, and my job is aligned with my personal principles.
What was the moment you were inspired to take full control of your future? Immediately I think of when I went through my divorce. I was a young wife and mother when we relocated together from Puerto Rico, six months later we separated. That’s one of the reasons that school was difficult for me because I was struggling to adjust to a new city as a new mother with no support. Prior to that, we did everything together. Together we welcomed children and learned to parent together. He helped me mature and learn English. He also taught me to drive and gave me independence, but I didn’t have true independence. During the time I was in school, and we were married I suffer at home. My entire world revolved around him. When I divorced, it was 20 days after having my baby. I was abandoned in a house with nothing but my bed and my television. I had two children and that’s when I said, you know what? It is up to me to take it from here. Nobody is going to tell me what to do going forward. It was then I realized, if I want it, I must get it for my children because no one is going to come and knock on my door. No one was there to ask me, and my children did need help? I had to help myself and lead my children. I hope people are motivated by my story and understand that part of my lived experiences and struggles and triumphs are why I appreciate my job so much. I appreciate my boss and everyone else who comes into my life and gives a positive family. Again, I come from a very humble and poor family. For example, we ate rice and beans every day, we only had pizza as a treat because my parents were very responsible about money and balancing our needs and want. I knew I achieved success when I was able to budget and provide what us to be our treats on special occasions, to a daily occurrence if I wanted to – for my children.
What advice do you have for other Latina like the next people who want their voices to be heard in the community? So- not to be silent. That, you, cannot let fear control your emotions. To not allow anybody (not one single soul) anybody tells you are not capable. If you feel that you have the potential to do something and you want to be heard, you must speak up.
What is your theory on human potential? I feel everybody has potential. I feel everybody is already born with potential. However, not everybody has the same life circumstances and joys. No, two people stand in the same space. Everyone has potential and everyone has things that must work at or things that are unique to their experience and personal life. We all aspire to live up to our full potential and we need to try.
What is your opinion of the fact that Latina women are the most underpaid demographic in the United States? I think it’s unjust because that pay does not reflect our contribution. We are always being labeled and people undervalue us because of our race. My race and identity do not equal my abilities or my potential to do my job. They underestimate us a lot.
What fuels your personal ambitions? My kids.
Who do you admire as a leader? My father because he is a source of huge inspiration for me and my backbone. My father lived his life for his family. He was always a proper gentleman to my mother and never asked her to work outside the house. His life reflects the values that he taught us and that is a source of great motivation for me. He taught us to be supportive to each other, to keep the faith- knowing that God is real and knowing that no matter what you do, God is always going to be there. His relationship and faith in God inspired me and it was a source of great discipline for him as he would do absolutely anything to provide for us. He taught me to believe in the unseen, he taught us the answer to how do you believe in a God you don’t see? My dad always made me feel like no matter what you do, no matter what we’re going through right now. Just know- you’re going to be great in life. We worked hard as a family, and he worked hard in life. He always taught us, if you have 2 feet, you can work. He is such a hard worker he is now in his 70s but still helps the community by working on cars when he can. He is an amazing man, and I am so grateful to learn from his leadership.
What is your vision for your future? My vision is to build a space of resources for my community. I would like to centralize services where people can go to heal and improve their health on their journey of survivorship. Part of my desire is to teach women the power they have when they can exercise control. I am inspired by my life. I want people to feel inspired and to be self-motivated. I always strive to teach my children to be servant leaders. Every year as a family, we feed the homeless every single year on Thanksgiving. My children and I pay for all the food out of our household budget. We prioritize saving for this event every year over our own wants because they are wants and not needs. I teach my children the importance of helping others because at one time I needed help and I got it. I overcame because of my faith in God. I want to use my life to inspire others. We can heal our community by speaking life into each other and not judging instead of saying it’s your fault! Say, what resources can I give you? and I believe in you! My vision is to build a space of healing and continue to work at United Health Care and maintain my commitment to community and family.
An interview # 15: Featuring WINNIFER GUERRENO
They are going to tell you, “You can’t do it.” That is exactly what they told Winnifer; and the thing is, I didn’t even have to ask her. I knew because I was told that, too!
Winnifer Guerrero, the owner of Elevate Permanent Makeup Studio in Buffalo, New York, realized, what I did. If you try you can’t fail. Physics says energy can be transformed from one form to another but it can neither be created none destroyed. Experiencing the forward motion of trying is a success. And you earned it — to a higher degree than those standing still will ever know.
Never in motion, Latina women statistically have a better chance at cleaning a board room than ever sitting at the table. Women like Winnifer will change that. Kind, hilarious, and inward, she is constantly evolving her energy and craft. She has the skill of seeing people’s beauty stronger than they could ever see it for themselves. Her bright smile is one of a solider though quietly she is fighting centuries of economic exclusion and degradation of her demographic by the hands of history.
All competitors in the system of capitalism are made equal, but not with equal access to power. Constantly fighting for a seat at the table (we build and clean), Latinas universally fought for the right to vote until 1942, especially in the case of the Dominican Republic.
Undervaluation is a good term to describe the Latina state in economic politics. A valuation is the estimate of something’s worth. Demonstrably, Latinas make 67 cents to every $1.00 dollar a non-Latino white man makes.
Aware of these facts, Winnifer doubled up and invested in herself. She is brave, considering that Latinas are often excluded from systems of capital that finance business. Despite that, as an economic community, we are working to address the apparent opportunity gap, specifically when doing business with local, state, and federal governments. For example, the creation of the MWBE Classification (Minority Women Business Enterprise), a classification that opened the door for minority businesses to apply for government contracts.
Winnifer Guerrero is a third-generation “Buffalo Beat the odds” businesswoman. Her generation of female entrepreneurs are going to change the way people conduct business. In many ways, they already have. Never count anyone out in capitalism, not because they are too young or too inexperienced, or under-resourced, or whatever descriptor you want to use in place of “young” and “black/brown.” Never. Latinas will find a way.
And for those of us who have the “privilege” to have a “seat” at the table we cleaned or built, make our presence reflect our intolerance for the language of sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, ageism, racism, patriarchy, and classism. We are successful.
Read Winnifer Guerrero’s full interview:
1. Where were you born and raised? What values were taught in your home? I was born in Brooklyn NY and came to buffalo when I was 11 years old. I am blessed to have been rooted in values of integrity, humility, and compassion.
2. What was your experience as a student: As a student I always found myself trying to find new ways to connect with my peers and build connections with people.
3. When did you start working and what was your first/favorite job? My first job was washing hair and doing roller sets at my mother’s salon when I was 15 years old, I was her “little helper”. I always found ways to make money around the shop. As her clients sat under the dryer, I would offer to paint their toes and do designs for $5. (lol) I knew I wanted to work with my hands as soon as I realized I had the gift of helping other women feel beautiful.
4. What was the moment you were inspired to take full control of your future? When I was 19 years old, I had my first baby. It was then that I had realized I had to work for something greater, I finished beauty school and took my craft very seriously. That’s when I started to grow my own clientele as a hairstylist and makeup artist.
5. What advice do you have for other Latina females who want their voices to be heard in the community? We all have the gift to be able to inspire and cause a butterfly effect in this community. To inspire and be heard from my experience, you must find what you believe in and really go hard for it. Connecting with other people from our community and sharing your views on what you stand for can really go a long way.
6. What is your theory on human potential? I believe humans have unlimited potential. That’s why it’s important to feed your mind positive thoughts to develop unlimited beliefs about yourself and your potential.
7. What is your opinion on the fact that Latina women are the most underpaid demographic in the United States: The fact that Latina women are the most underpaid should be fuel for us to continue to open our own businesses and create opportunities for each other.
8. What fuels your ambition? Multiple factors fuel my ambition, family, my heritage, and the women that look up to me fuel my ambition. I want to be able to break the curses that have been subconsciously feeding into us. That “we are not worthy of a certain level of success” or that we have to “work for somebody else in order to create something stable for our families”.
9. Who do you admire as a leader? Anyone that beats the odds in my eyes is a leader. I admire those who speak their truth and continue to enforce what they believe in to empower others.
10. What is your vision for your business? My Husband, David Muniz, and I, just opened our new business together called ELEVATE PERMANENT MAKEUP STUDIO LLC at 207 Niagara Street. This place is very special to us because it’s the same location my mother opened her shop10 years ago and it’s also my grandfather’s building. Our vision is to continue to service our clients with quality service and eventually expand our team. I will also start my permanent makeup courses this year to be able to help others get a head start in this career by sharing all my knowledge in hopes to help develop more entrepreneurs in our city.
11. What was the hardest part about starting your business? The hardest barrier when starting my business was starting. Sometimes we doubt ourselves and get scared when making a big move but once you start things start to fall into place.
INTERVIEW #14: Featuring TAYRIN TAPIA
There are some people who make you braver. Leaders do that, their abilities aren’t really about what they do- it’s what they inspire others to do. That’s the most important part, and Ms. Tayrin Tapia is one such Boriqua leader.
The first leaders of Borinquen (known as Puerto Rico) were called Caciques or Cacica if female leaders. In the time of the Taino (A direct translation of the word “Taíno” signified “men of the good and noble”), Chiefs were chosen from the Nitaínos and generally obtained their power from the maternal line. Our maternal ancestors, literally our ancient mothers, were revered. Yet, when the Spaniards came, Tainos became victims to sexual violence, rape, family separation, slavery, and developed sickness and diseases, introduced by the Europeans, killing our Indigenous people, making them extinct, according to many.
Survivors of the genocide? Erased on paper… The 1787 census in Puerto Rico lists 2,300 pure “Indians” in the population, but on the next census, in 1802, not a single “Indian” is listed”, as historians and advocates point out.
Meet Tayrin Tapia: Tayrin’s ancestors were Tainos, and they survived! They went on to have a descendant that would speak truth to power, speak to the legacy of sexual violence in our community. A mother, a businesswoman, an organizer, and an advocate. Most importantly, the first Puerto Rican woman I have ever met in my entire life that addressed an audience, talking about her personal life experience of sexual assault and exploitation.
Sin venguenza (without shame), it’s often used as a negative term in our dialect, but here it’s the appropriate term in a fairway. Tayrin breaks barriers. She speaks about past roadblocks where our male-dominated culture lies in front of us. She speaks without shame for herself and others who remain quiet. She speaks with the strength that comes from being unafraid; she changes the world for many.
I know, she changed my life, in one of the profound ways, simply by being unafraid. She started the first and to my knowledge, only organization created by a survivor of sexual assault this Latino community has ever experienced. She named it Dear Tayrin, putting her name on it, literally.
For that reason, she inspired me to advocate on behalf of human trafficking survivors. Right before I stand up every time to speak about human trafficking to community groups or talk about it in a meeting setting, Tayrin stands up with me in mind, and this is every time.
Let her speak for herself. Read the following interview, and learn about a woman who speaks truth to power:
What values were taught in your home? I was taught that faith, family, and community are at the top of our values list. I was taught that being an independent woman is okay and that it means you have strength.
. I was taught that being independent doesn’t mean you don’t need a partner but that instead, it means you can stand on your own two feet, but if a special person comes into your life to help you stand, achieve goals and dreams, well then that is a bonus.
Where were you born? I was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, moved to the Bronx, NY, at the age of 5, and then moved to Buffalo, NY at the age of 13. Even though I have moved out of Buffalo several times since then, I call Buffalo home.
What motivated you to become an advocate? My own story as a survivor of child sexual abuse; it motivated me to become an advocate for other victims of sexual abuse, now survivors. I wanted to be a voice for those who felt voiceless. I am also an advocate in bringing awareness to HIV/AIDS. I became passionate to be an advocate in this field due to my work at Evergreen Health Services. It really helped me open my eyes to the stigma surrounding this tabooed subject and I wanted to also be a means of support. I am also an advocate for our youth, focused on youth development and promoting positive mindsets.
What about your child’s experience, did that make you want to speak up? During my seventh grade, I had a conversation with a friend who had experienced sexual abuse. When I left school that day, I told my then stepmom about it and eventually said “hey, me too.” To my surprise, she had no clue which led me to believe, either my dad never told her because he didn’t want to, or he didn’t tell her because he didn’t know. That night I told my dad for the first time what had happened to me at the age of 5. It is when I first truly spoke my ugly truth.
Did you get any counseling after your parents found out? No. I don’t think my parents knew how to handle the situation at the time. Especially since it had been years before they found out everything that had transpired. I think they saw this bright kid, always full of energy, always smiling, with good grades, and didn’t think it affected me. However, internally it had; counseling could’ve possibly been a great way to release any internal struggles I was dealing with at the time. I don’t blame my parents in any way and do not think they were bad parents. They did the best they could.
If you could speak to your younger self today, what would you say?
I would tell my 5-year-old self, it’s okay your older self will protect you. I would tell my 7th-grade self, that I am proud of her for speaking up and telling her the truth and that she may have to be her own hero. And I would tell my 16-year-old self, that with trauma there comes healing and it’s coming.
When did you start working? I started working at the age of 11, babysitting for my own babysitter. Then at 12, I got my first job as a grocery bagger at Mets Supermarket in Bronx NY on Saturdays, getting paid whatever the customers paid in tips. I would make about $15 for a 5-hour shift. I got that job just by showing up on a Saturday (after seeing other kids do it) and said I’m here and ready to bag. Lol. At 13, I moved to Buffalo, and at 14, I got my first job delivering newspapers door to door for the Buffalo News. I found out about this job through a Buffalo News recruiter who came to the school and talked about youth opportunities and how to apply. I remember as a kid, whenever my mom would go to the bank, I would take a lot of the deposit and withdrawal slips. Eventually, I had enough to make my own little “cash” box at home. I would pretend I was a cashier or bank teller and have conversations with imaginary customers regarding their transactions. Guess I was always meant to be in business. lol
What advice would you give to other Latinas who want their voice to be heard in their community?
Always follow your heart, always question anything that doesn’t seem right or doesn’t make sense, and don’t be afraid of being the person who rebels to go against the grain. We need people like you to pave the way.
When was the moment you were inspired to take control of your future? I guess this question can apply to both my personal and professional life. When it comes to my personal life, I feel as though I finally took full control when I told the story of child sexual abuse to my father. That was the moment I took control. It became the turning point when I decided that my voice mattered. It’s when I realized that even though my ugly truth would be painful to hear, it was one that needed to be told for the healing to begin.
When it comes to my professional career, I have always been a “Jane of all trades.” I have succeeded in the healthcare, finance, and not-for-profit industry. In every single industry, I moved up to a management position. However, it wasn’t until the end of my 20s that the game changed. In May of 2012, I founded my own non-for-profit called Dear Tayrin, with the mission of raising awareness and education about sexual abuse, helping to empower victims.
It was something that came from within me, the need to help at least one person. And from there I hosted the first awareness event; and then the first annual fundraiser; and from there it progressed onto creating other events throughout the year that assisted in bringing healing for those struggling to deal with the aftermath. I continue to work in the finance business as a Director of Operations, but my passion lies in helping my community and being a voice for those who feel voiceless, for those who didn’t make it.
What is your theory on human potential? My theory is that everyone has the potential to be their best self. However, everyone has their own unique idea or mindset of what it means to be at their best. Therefore, one cannot say you are not doing your best because maybe that person truly feels that they are. We all have our own paths, our own blueprint, our own journey to reach our highest potential. Some of us show it through gifts and talents, whereas others may just show it by being engaged parents.
As for me, I believe I still have ways to go to reach my own “best” potential but I’m also the type of person that strives daily to reach new goals both personally and professionally. But it’s important for others to know that if you’re not that type of person, that’s okay too.
What was your experience like as a student? I started school in the Bronx, NY on 183rd Avenue, at the age of 6 and knew no English. I had just moved to New York City with my mom from Puerto Rico. I learned English in school and by talking to my cousins at home. Children soak up much at that age and I was eager, not only to learn but to understand what everyone else was saying.
From there, we moved to a better part of the Bronx in Bedford Park. My experience in elementary school was a good one. I had teachers that were on the committee to teach. The school itself was very diverse and inclusive. During 7th grade, I went to live with my father in Puerto Rico for half the year and that was a challenge. No longer knowing Spanish like before and going back to an all-Spanish school was difficult, but I was up for it. I moved back to New York City six months later but then in 9th grade, we moved back to PR for a full year. I once again faced language barrier issues but the teachers were accommodating and helpful. I have also always been resourceful, so when I felt as though I wasn’t being helped, I found it. High school was back in NY, proud graduate of Lafayette High School. The biggest hurdle in HS was navigating life as a teenager. Went to college for one year because I chose work before school. However, choosing work before school allowed me to get hands-on experience. It wasn’t until 2019 that I decided to go back to school full time to earn my Associates’s degree first. Sure enough, after spring, summer, fall, and spring semesters again, back-to-back, I graduated with my Associates of Science degree in Business, Economics, and Management. The online experience was a self-motivation challenge, but well worth it.
What advice could you give other single moms or single-parent households on navigating motherhood/parenthood while still aspiring to make dreams your reality? Well, first, it’s not easy and no one EVER said it is going to be easy. Once you have accepted that, it’s just a bit easier to manage things. Organization, time management, and making sure you are taking time for yourself, and your dreams are vital. I think as mothers or parents, we will put ourselves last and make LOTS of sacrifices to make sure our kids have what they need and want. Therefore, our dreams, needs, and wants go to the back burner; but having an unhappy mom or dad is not good for the home. It’s important for everyone that the mom/dad also have their own individual time and identity. It’s important that they too are in a happy place. When your kids see you reaching for goals or they see your work ethic in the pursuit of your dreams, it motivates and inspires them to put their best foot forward as well. They will mirror you in many ways and who doesn’t want their kids to mirror the best of them? Right?
So, making sure they see you taking time for yourself is important, if not the most important part, and communicating with your kids is a must.
Interview #13: Featuring JESENAIDA COLLAZO
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.“
There is a stillness about winter. The same stillness is inside of a church when you enter the sanctuary, alone. To me, it feels the same. Some of my most prized moments inside my church have been alone in the sanctuary – in the stillness, just praying.
I was taught how to pray. It’s a weird thing to think about, that someone teaches you how to talk to God, but they do. I was taught to pray by my grandmother whose Spanish prayers and coco candy made her feel to me (as a child) as if she was from a different time; as an adult, I learned she was. It’s been a year since I started writing in her honor, time marches on and I miss her more every day.
Though times change, the look of the church, the denominations, but through 1,000s of years – one common activity has NOT changed- praying. The basic idea that a human, in stillness, and deep mediation can extend their voice to the ears of the universe’s creator, has persisted, across languages and continents for all time.
Churches, a pinnacle of Christendom, came to Puerto Rico in 1532. The San José Church, the first Spanish church was built in Old San Juan and would hold the remains of Ponce De Leon, the town’s governor. Churches now cover Puerto Rico, of all sizes and denominations. Following Christ does not just stop at the church door; your obedience must extend past that, into the worldly world. As a young person today, that call for obedience requires more sacrifice and abstention than in past times.
Enter Jesenaida Collazo, the type of woman that Christ depends on. She has his joy in her eyes. The joy of being accepted and knowing that you are loved by your creator. Just looking in her eyes – yes just her eyes alone – say all that and more. Her spirit is strong like the binding of the oldest bible. A warm person, the type of Christian that is brave enough to be vulnerable in the eyes of others, a remarkable leader, a servant leader, they call them. A woman who is gifted to bring people together around their love for Christ, the leader of a Christian youth group, and more than a volunteer project, her vision led her to create her own organization.
The Founder of Prisoners of Hope, Jesenaida “Jessy”, is a youth pastor. So young, yet she herself leads her peers closer to Christ in practice. Her bravery to step into a leadership role in Christ reflects her confidence in him when the whole world seems unsure – Jessy isn’t.
Her quote: Hebrews 11:1 — “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Read my interview with Jesenaida Collado, and learn more about her, her faith, and her future.
1: Where were you born and what values were taught in your home? I was born and raised here in Buffalo NY. I was always taught to cherish family, to always help someone, and to be grateful always for what I have. God has always been impactful in my life as my family, and I are Christians.
2: What was your experience as a student like? My experience as a student was an interesting one. Hitting puberty at an early age, having acne, being overweight, and not being able to afford what was “in” at the time were always difficult as those were things I was bullied for. Despite all of that there were teachers who truly cared and made going to school more enjoyable. Those teachers are the ones who really pushed me to become more!
3: What was your first job? I started working when I was 15 years old through the Summer Youth Program, which helped me work my first and favorite all-year-round job at Little Caesars!
4: What was the moment you decided to take control of your future? The moment I was inspired to take control of my future was the moment I gave my life to Christ. Accepting Christ gave my life true meaning and purpose and made everything I did, and do, intentional.
5: What advice do you have for people who want to be heard in the community? The advice I have for people who want to be heard in their community is to first be involved! Get active! Volunteer, attend meetings and seminars- make an impact. Make your voice heard. If you go to the gym once you won’t see any results, but if you go to the gym consistently, you will see results. My pastor used this example and it’s so true!; the same thing goes for making a difference. Don’t do something once, continue doing it and you will see the fruits of your labor.
6: What is your theory on human potential? First, I believe everyone has potential. Everyone’s potential is different – A person may be able to draw and impact people through their art, but may not be a good speaker, whereas the other person may impact people with their voice and not their art. Everyone has something valuable and useful in them; it’s up to them to tap into it and cultivate it!
7: What is a quote that is important to you? Hebrews 11:1.“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
8: What was the first time you realized you were a faith leader and What is the biggest shift you have been in your ministry? I don’t remember the exact age, but I remember in high school speaking to my close friends about Jesus and how wonderful it was to have him in my life The biggest shift I’ve seen in my ministry is how much I’ve grown with God. While trying to guide and teach others, God has been teaching me. It’s good to have a goal, but the journey to reach it is where we learn the most. Learning from others around, us, absorbing different opinions, and allowing God to keep that fire — that passion burning is something truly amazing.
9: What inspires you? The world and everyone in it inspire me. To see people from different paths of life, different ages trusting and giving a testimony about how God made a way when there was no way, is so inspiring. The couple who thought their marriage was over, and are now in love and flourishing, the children who are sick but find comfort in their parents like we find comfort in God, the birds, and animals who fly and live trusting that God will take care of them, the very fact that during all these difficult times, children of God have risen up to help others and pray for the world. All these things ARE INSPIRING!
Interview #12: Featuring LIZBETH HENRIQUEZ
El nombre de una mujer; she inspired me to learn that less is more, and more is less, and no one cares about your excuses. She lives simply, streamlined, efficient, yet feminine, drenched in muted colors and too chic for your fashion-forward lens. Very euro- the very Bronx like a chameleon with the heart of a lion.
I met her in the West Side of Course, on grant Street (where real gangsters have been meeting real gangsters) since my grandfather’s butcher store was open. She was teaching English to refugees and new Americans, fitting for someone- who I would learn taught herself English at age 7. She told me she was a political science major and that did it. I knew we were going to become instant friends. She reminded me of myself frankly.
Why? Because political science is defined as the branch of knowledge that deals with systems of government, the analysis of political activity and behavior. And any Latina who consciously chooses to study political science in my mind is a genius.
Liz and I both were done an injustice in our studies though, not taught about the history of women and or common folk. I always say I was taught the victors curriculum- the one where -it was told to us; all our Taino ancestors were killed, and that colonization brought “progress” to our islands.
That’s not the true history. Liz being Dominican and me Puerto Rican – taught through the lens of separation, of our islands and our peoples. We weren’t told the Taino lived in both lands and creation stories said we emerged from caves in a sacred mountain on Hispaniola. Or that genetic studies show in Puerto Rico, that a high proportion of people have “Amerindian mtDNA.” Thus, the Taino survived. And their ideas and lives were expressed in art- left out of our textbook.
History teaches us to separate ourselves, but unity is our strength as evidenced by the labor and women’s rights movements and activists like Luisa Capetillo. Who changed the course of politics across the Caribbean just by wearing pants in public! She went on to publish one of the first feminist thesis in Puerto Rico. Liz and I are political scientists who have a serious responsibility to learn and re-write our own histories of power. The new curriculum is based on the revolutionary idea: we survived thus we are the victors.
And what do they say- “To the Victor Go the Spoils”.
I’m just glad I don’t have to go at this alone. Lucky Liz matches her glamor with her grit. Her quote “Be fearless about it.” Read her interview and you’ll see why she is.
Where were you raised, and what were the values taught in your home? I was born in the Dominican Republic and raised there for the first 7 years of my life. Then came Washington Heights. Those are my child(hoods) but the Bronx and Buffalo also raised me! My parents did not play about me and my sisters, we were to be respectful first and foremost; Bendiciones (blessing) every time we said hi to our elders, and Con permiso (permission) if we needed to speak, were expected. We were also taught that family was love. My family means the world to us and growing up we always made sure to keep that present. I am very close with both my father and mother sides. Lastly, hard work. Growing up low income in DR. I understood at a very young age that nothing came easy and hard work was the only way I was going to get what I wanted in life. Since I can remember my father has been waking up at 3AM to head to work. He continues to inspire my dedication and ambition.
What was your experience as a student? I love being a student. I loved going to school and learning. Growing up in the New York public schools was an experience of its own. My teachers cared for me and my learning. In primary school, especially, as a multi-language learner, I learned very fast and excelled tremendously. High school and college saw a different student in me. I started to notice all the holes in my education and that impacted my performance. I shifted from focusing on my academics and more on the social and extracurricular activities that supported the learning I was doing in classes. This meant joining clubs, becoming a leader in my spaces, and applying my knowledge to my every day.
When did you start working and what was your first or favorite job? I started working at like 9 babysitting my family’s kids. My first real job was at American Eagle when I was 18. My favorite job was working with Buffalo String Works. It was my first time stepping into the “real world” after graduating college. I was working with youth, community, and development in education; amidst covid-19. The most challenging and awarding experience I’ve ever had.
What was the moment that you were inspired to take control of your future? At the age of 7, it was my third or fourth day in my new school in New York. I didn’t know a speaker of English. I came to school late and missed morning pick-up, so my grandfather dropped me off in the main office. They gave me a pass and told me to go to my classroom. I didn’t remember where it was and got lost. A teacher saw me wandering around and asked me something in English, I truly cannot remember. I said to her “No entiendo” and she replied “Como que tu no me entiendes? Tu tienes que saber Ingles.” she took me to the main office and then to my class. I went home that day and cried my eyes out. I knew right then and there that I had to learn English if I wanted to make it. I had to do this on my own and fast. And I did.
What advice do you have for other Latinx people who want their voices to be heard in their community?
Be fearless about it. Get to know your community and seek the people, platforms, and resources that will support you. There are more people that want to listen than those who don’t.
is your theory on human potential? It takes a village. If we’re able to come together humanly our potential as individuals have no limits.
What is your opinion on the fact that Latinx women are the most underpaid? As an underpaid Latina, I think is bullshit. Lol, don’t include this. I truly believe that there’s a need to be more conversation and more allies. The system is built to keep us suppressed; we shouldn’t be fighting this alone. As women are it important for us to understand that there is power in our strength. Our knowledge and impact are important.
INTERVIEW # 11: Featuring LIZZY RIVERA
I don’t like the world of disability. No one asked but still. I am a person with different abilities and as a child they were undiagnosed. That fact affected my learning journey immensely. Some of my siblings have different abilities (the term I prefer) and face varying health challenges, mine being the absolute least. My family is a family of overcomers, but my learning journey was not an easy one.
As a child I struggled to learn on paper, I could hear anything you said, but if you gave it to me on paper, you lost me. I remember feeling bright, but not being able to transfer that intelligence to paper. I will never forget what it feels like to sit in a class of your peers and be nervous to be called on. It’s terrifying, and I lived that terror every day in elementary school. It gives you shivers all the way to your boots. And lately being a kid is hard enough.
Some Adults like Lizzy Rivera get it. Lizzy is an advocate for families whose members have different abilities, the human embodiment of compassion. She is existing in a state of empathy and her journey and path reflect an infinite determination to succeed. When I met her, I felt so relieved, so grateful that she had chosen to fight for children in our community. She leads a path she walked, being a mother, whose children were educated in public schools.
Born in Puerto Rico and educated across oceans, her sense of feminism is rooted in her mother’s lessons. She committed to helping improve systems and lifelong learning (always a sign of intelligence in my opinion). She’s currently enrolled in a School Psychology program to obtain initial certification, after graduating Summa Cum Laude from SUNY Empire State College with a B.A. in Psychology – as a full-time mom.
As a people, Latinos are resilient and self-reliant. Sometimes those resiliencies lead us to overlook the times we need help or be hesitant to ask for it. Lizzy’s quote:
“A person also needs intrinsic or extrinsic motivation to work towards those goals. This is where the community comes into play to remove systematic barriers of ableism, sexism, colorism, and xenophobia that discourage individuals from creating goals and prevents them from seeing themselves in positions that they can achieve to reach their full potential.”
Lizzy Rivera is an advocate fighting ableism and if you read her interview, you will learn how and why. Ableism is defined as discrimination in favor of able-bodied people. According to the Dept of Education In 2018, 32% of the children diagnosed with a disability in New York State identified as Hispanic and or Latino.
Where were you raised, and what were the values taught in your home? My story started in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, with family roots from Barranquitas, PR.
Where were you raised, and what were the values taught in your home? My story started in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, with family roots from Barranquitas, PR. Since my family was from el campo, we had strong family ties and conservative values. My mother, Neida Fonseca, raised me to be independent, resilient, and accept change as it comes. Education was important, and she had high expectations of my brother and sister to graduate college, something she always dreamed of doing.
What was your experience as a student? The journey from Puerto Rico to Buffalo happened right before my Quinceanera. My brother was sent the previous year to stay with my aunt Gladys Santiago to see if he liked the school system, and since he had a good experience, we came to Buffalo. I was not in full agreement with the move since this was before the time of cell phones. I knew I would lose the connection with friends, novios (lol), and most importantly, my extended family. My family was afraid of “las nuevas juntillas” (negative peer influence) and thought it would be best to advocate for high school placement in a monolingual school with ENL support (Bennett High). It was unheard, to take ENL services outside a Bilingual school. Grover Cleveland High was the only option if you needed support in English for your classes.
R&B, Reggae, and HipHop became my teachers of acculturation into the new environment. I also had a best friend named Fatima from Mali that served as a guide. She had gone through the same experience years earlier when she arrived in Buffalo. I had amazing teachers and others like the English teacher that told me, “Don’t take the Regents, you will not pass.” Well, don’t tell a Latina she can’t do something; she may just prove you wrong! I was in the top 20 of my graduating class with a Regents diploma of almost 300 students at the time attending Bennett High.
At the time, Bennett High offered an International Program that was progressive, offering multiple languages like Spanish, French, Italian, Latin, and Chinese. The Latinx population was very small, and to make our little Borinquen, we created a Multicultural Club that highlighted the school’s cultural diversity. During one of the multicultural assemblies, our group danced to “el baile de perrito” that none of us ever forgot. Also, I would sneak go after school to Grover to meet my cousin and dance for their salsa band. These experiences served as a basis for my passion for working with people from multicultural and linguistic backgrounds.
When did you start working and what was your first or favorite job? I started working in Buffalo as a cashier on the old Tops on Niagara Street. Many around my age group have fond memories of this supermarket as it was the unofficial hangout for many in the Westside of Buffalo. I currently work for the Buffalo Public Schools in the Special Education Department as a Spanish-speaking Community Education Leader and for the Parent Network of WNY as a family support specialist for parents that have children with disabilities. Both jobs have provided the opportunity to assist families with multicultural backgrounds experiencing difficulties and barriers.
What was the moment that you were inspired to take control of your future? The moment that inspired me to take control of my future was, unfortunately, the experience of going through difficulties with my children. Early in life, I became a mother of four, with two of my children having special needs ‐ one son with Central Processing Auditory Disorder (CPAD) and another one with mild Autism. As a Latina mother of children with disabilities, life became considerably difficult. I was a single mother due to domestic violence, and my children had behavioral difficulties in school. I was often called to pick up my children from school or to stay with them in the classroom.
In the subsequent years, I struggled to secure services and navigate through the educational system on behalf of my children. Then, I sought and became employed by the Special Education Department of the Buffalo Public School (BPS). I began to work as a paraprofessional for children with disabilities and later as a Community Education Leader in the Special Education Department. After my boys graduated from high school, I thought that now was my chance to sign up for school and receive a degree to continue helping in my community.
I applied for college at SUNY Empire State. A school that allowed me the flexibility of an online schedule, to be a full-time mother, employee, and college student. Hard work paid off, and I earned an Associate in Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology as Summa Cum Laude. Afterward, I took a leap of faith and applied for a graduate degree in the Department of Counseling, School, and Educational Psychology (CEP) at the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB).
I am currently enrolled in the School Psychology program to obtain initial certification and build my credentials as a practitioner and a scientist in the field. It is important for me to work with children and families who have linguistic and multicultural backgrounds. Furthermore, my goal is to serve children at risk of being identified with a disability due to academic or behavioral concerns. Providing appropriate interventions in school could reduce the high number of minority children that are currently being over-identified with an educational classification.
Most of my schooling I have done between my late thirties and early forties. You may think, why are you doing this now? Because the present moment is the best time to build the future, you want to see yourself excelling. I do not consider myself “super smart” or “special”, I am your regular Latina who came from Puerto Rico to the West Side of Buffalo. In my life, I have been through difficult situations like domestic violence, acculturation, and struggles to learn about my children’s disabilities. Still, the problems only temporarily stopped me from the future I wanted to provide for my family.
What advice do you have for other Latinx people who want their voices to be heard in their community? The best way to have your voices heard in your community is to be involved and engaged. For example, if you are having problems with your children in school or are not sure what a recent diagnosis means towards your child’s future, reach out to individuals in your community that can provide answers to those questions. Your child’s school has a school psychologist, social worker, and special education teachers that are willing to assist parents. Also, outside agencies like the Parent Network of WNY offer free educational training for parents in various Special Education topics and a support group in Spanish that I lead every month. For more systematic changes in Special Education services within the Buffalo Public Schools, the parent group to reach out to is SEPAC. They need LatinX parent representation to advocate for our children and specialized needs. Reach out, get involved and raise your Voz!
What is your theory on human potential? My theory on human potential is that everyone can learn and achieve personal goals if they are supported with services and a community that caters to their needs. This is especially true when students with disabilities are given the specialized instruction, they need in the classroom to accommodate differences in abilities or learning. A person also needs intrinsic or extrinsic motivation to work towards those goals. This is where the community comes into play to remove systematic barriers of ableism, sexism, colorism, and xenophobia that discourage individuals from creating goals and prevent them from seeing themselves in positions that they can achieve to reach their full potential. What is your opinion on the fact that Latinx women are the most underpaid demographic in the United States? The fact that Latinx are the most underpaid demographic in the United States is a sad reflection of the complexities of systematic sexism and xenophobia that exist within our society. Often, our madres y hermanas, must work twice as hard to get a job or position and are expected to make double the effort. Also, cultural expectations of keeping the family running and familial duties prevent Latinas from taking risks applying for higher jobs or leaving home for better education or job opportunities. Education and organization offer the chance for Latinx women to fight those systematic oppressions that exist. Let’s work together to highlight the plights of Latinx Latinx women that promote transformational changes within our communities.
INTERVIEW # 10: Featuring MIGDALIA VIAS
My roots are from the Lower East Side.
The Lower East Side of Manhattan always existed in my mind as a mythical place I belonged to. When I think of who I would have been if we stayed in Manhattan, I think of Titi Migdalia Vias.
She is Manhattan, well postured, poised, educated, and sleek. She gives the right type of love that helps you find your gifts and break generational curses. Appropriate, beautifully dressed, and present – fully always watching —- Pendente – watching because we are from the Lower East Side. And we are not going out like that.
We are from the projects– Papi is proud of that. Titi is too, the childhood love of my uncle, My Titi is the lower east side embodied in a cardigan and a murk.
She’s a fighter. Period. Migdalia Vias fought for every opportunity she ever had. Coming out swinging – slight, and quiet but a champion. Her weapon of choice? Hard work.
There are 174,000 units of public housing presently in NYC. Each one of them is occupied by families whose aspirations, like Migdalia’s, are born at such a steep economic disadvantage (in relationship to the capitalistic incline), it is almost impossible to scale. But she did.
Though born in poverty, Migdalia’s early life was marked by the love of her seven brothers and sisters. As a child, she worked at a grocery store, during school and after. She got herself a job in third grade, enough said.
Quadruple shifts that about sums it up. She worked singles, doubles, triples, teaching, mothering, cleaning, cooking, scrubbing, reading, and learning. First, taking care of the home and her motherly responsibilities, then in the world of “work”, and then usually in the evening another job, at night – she worked on her own aspirations. Earning a 4.0, (perfection), was her goal in her master’s program.
She signed herself up for opportunity with the risk that she would fail, but with the faith that she would not. She is a gifted and blessed woman – full of the spirit of our Lord and the determination that comes with loving Christ in a world of sin.
Her favorite quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Greatest is not in where we stand, but in what direction we are moving. We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it but sail we must and not drift nor lie at anchor.”
Harvard’s Center for the Developing Child states children can build a “biological resistance to adversity.” Faith, love, culture, desire, resilience — all these things formed the child that got herself a job and was collecting a paycheck long before they even figured she could. The Lower East Side raised my titi Migdalia Vias, and she was raised right…
What values were taught in your home? My family taught us to always show respect. My mother was born in Albonito, Puerto Rico, where she was taught how important respect was. She always taught us to respect others, and more than anything, to respect ourselves. She taught us to never disrespect our values and our elders. It was always important to my mother that our last name will stand for people who respected and honored their human values.
What motivated you to become an educator? In part, it was my background that motivated me. My parents got divorced when I was 5 and then things were different for all of us. Seeing my family and community struggle with poverty, I knew there had to be something more, more than the projects and poverty. As a young female, there wasn’t anybody who talked to us about attending the correct schools (junior high school and high school). I didn’t even know that college existed. I learned that my way out of the life that I had was through education. I had several teachers, specifically in 8th and 9th grade who impacted me. The most impactful was a Mexican female instructor who came from a very poor family. I’ll never forget when she told me I could be anything I wanted to be; I was shocked to hear that because no one ever told me that. This teacher, she really taught me things that I was never exposed to, like going to better schools than the ones I was in, which were tough schools. She also taught me not to be afraid of other people with money, or because I was from the projects. She taught me I could do just as much or more. For example, when I went to register for school, I was already married and had children as well; I had the responsibilities of a household and a mother, and I had two jobs. I worked during the day teaching and then at night I taught parents how to communicate with teenagers. Sometimes, I wouldn’t get home until 9:30 pm at night, to start with homework and household responsibilities. I remember, just to register, I went three times and left. Three times I was so embarrassed that I went, and I didn’t ask for papers or anything to do with registration. I then thought “If I don’t do this now, I won’t do it at all.” I finally showed up again, and all I said was, “I want to go to this College.” I remember there were so many papers to fill out, and I didn’t know what to do. I took the papers to a friend, and she helped me fill them out. Another person I remember who motivated said, “You are going to make it, you are going to be a success story of the Lower East Side.” I took the papers back and I had to meet with one of the advisors. She asked me what classes did I want to take, but because I didn’t know, she decided for me. They were horrible but I passed! After that, I knew that I was going to do it – complete my degree in Early Childhood. I took 15- 18 credit hours per semester to make it go faster. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education/ Literature I went to work for the catholic school system and continued my love for education.
- When did you start working? My first job was in third grade. We were poor, we were on public assistance, and received food stamps. I always wanted to do for myself. I worked in Miguel’s grocery store, my best friend’s family store. I used to make $40 dollars a week working during the school day (lunch time) and evening (after school). I would have dinner there and I worked until 11:00pm, then I would go home. My mother had so much responsibility, she had less to do because I could do for myself, and I was proud of that. I had my own money.
- What advice would you give to other Latinas who want their voice to be heard in their community? You must believe that you have everything and tools you need to stand and speak. I want them to know that they have a valuable voice to share, that there is so much to say from their perspective and experience, and that they need to know your worth. Just because you don’t speak proper English, just because you don’t have the material things that others have, to remember that they have something very valuable. We have experience that very few have. We have a strong Latin heritage from our parents, grandparents, and ancestors who never gave up. We are who we are because they believed in themselves, specifically to come to this country without knowing what was going to happen to them. So, we – as Latinas- need to stand up and speak up!
- What was the moment you were inspired to take control of your future? The moment I became a mother –I wanted my daughter to know that the sky was the limit. This was the time that I knew that would give her that example but not by what I said, but by what I did. Everyone has potential, whether you are at the top, the middle or wherever you are, everyone has something to bring to the table. Potential isn’t just expressed by academics; what about your experience? What about what you bring to the table? I would say, you show potential in actions. You show potential in what you are doing for someone else. In what you do to make this a better world. That can’t be measured by just books it must be measured by actions.
INTERVIEW # 9: Featuring JUMIRNA ALCOBER RAMIREZ
A child of Washington Heights and ambition, Jumirna Alcober Ramirez has accomplished more than many. She earned a master’s degree at 23 years old, organized her community around the state, conducted academic presentations, wrote papers, organized & joined demonstrations, and gave interviews, and “Jumie”, as her close friends call her is just getting started.
She earned her bachelor’s degree at Buffalo State. As a student leader, and later, as President of Adelante Estudientes Latino (AEL), she was the center of a universe — both locally and statewide. “Go ask Jumie?” was often muttered amongst the students. Jumirna and others did well in holding up the legacy of on-campus civil rights advocacy and leadership, which began during my father’s era, and earlier by other AEL members. The Latino student voice is so important in Higher Ed, where today the percentage of Latino professors hovers around 4% percent. From its inception, the Civil Rights Movement was fueled by young leaders like Jumie.
She went on to attend Medaille College, where she earned her master’s degree in Organizational Leadership in only a year. Only a sliver of the national Latina population will go where Jumirma has gone, gain knowledge, and bring it back to their communities.
After graduate school, she became further involved in community activism, bringing issues and ideas to the forefront in a substantial way, and using her lived experience to make the messaging of those ideas relevant and spur action. She campaigns, participates, and shows up for her people; that is one of the reasons she is just so breathtaking; she is fully present. She is on the cutting edge of progress – spending the summer working on a local political campaign – Uptown for Angela, when nationally only 1% of public officials in America are Latino. More specifically in New York, Latinos make up about 19% of the population, and only 9% of all New York state lawmakers are Latino.
I have a feeling Jumie and her colleagues may do something about that. Her leadership transcends her neighborhood, her borough, her city, her region. She is truly statewide. With a national and international network that extends well past Washington Heights, Jumie brings Washington Heights with her, specifically its energy – even to Buffalo.
In her interview, she says: “People remember how you made them feel, so treat others how you want to be treated, even when they don’t deserve your kindness.”
Learning about Jumirna and her journey will give you an opportunity to get a good glimpse of the future. The future’s leadership in this country belongs to Jumirna, and to women like her.
- Where you raise and what values were taught to you? I was raised in Azua, Dominican Republic and Washington Heights, NYC. Growing up and still relevant today, my family instilled within me and my sister to value education, especially in the United States. Your knowledge, experience, and credentials are things people cannot take away from you. Dedication, productivity, and commitment to responsibilities were also values that were taught to me. These values have helped me maintain optimism throughout challenging times and build me into a better leader. To this day, these values are still highly embedded in me. I try to bring these values into the teams I lead and create a culture where everyone can grow together.
What was your experience as a student? As a first-generation Afro-Latina, my experience as a student was unique. Many times, I felt like my identity was confusing to many people and I did not know where I would be embraced the most. I also did not see myself represented in roles of leadership or many roles in general. When I was younger, I was embarrassed to ask questions because I felt I would delay everyone else in the room. As I matured and realized how much of an effect not asking questions was having on me, I then decided to change. I became more vocal and expressive. Through the guidance and support I received from the mentors I have had throughout my time in school, I learned the importance of using my voice. Once I became aware of the power of my voice and the power I held as a student, I started to use that to advocate for underrepresented students across the board.
- When did you start working/what was your first job? My first job was assisting my parents clean a local pre-school. I would wipe down shelves, tables, toys, and things of that sort. I did not like it because there were these big glass windows around the business that people can see directly through, so I was embarrassed that someone I know may see me. I did not want people to know that’s how my family made money. I did not want people to see me and my family “struggle”. It was a learning experience at the end of everything. Through this maintenance job, my sister who also cleaned with us, later got hired as a teacher then promoted to lead teacher. There she found her interest in early education and children’s development.
- What is your theory on human potential? I don’t necessarily have a theory on human potential. I see potential as something people build within themselves. I cannot say who has the potential to do what, because I feel it comes from internal drive. However, as an external factor I try my best to uplift people and help individuals find and or embrace their unique qualities, goals, and interests. I use my identity to help inspire others.
- What advice do you have to educators today? My advice to educators today would be to evaluate your whys. Across the country I feel educators are undervalued, especially those who are genuine and prioritize the wellness of the students/learners. Education is not as easy as it may seem, a lot goes into play. Now with modernization and technological advancements, educators have strategies to maximize the usage of that as well. Educators should know the value they bring and the impact they have on lives directly. When you (educators) need a break, please take one. Hold your fellow peers accountable. Create opportunities for students who are usually neglected. Lead by example and help decrease biases in your workplace.
- What was the movement you were inspired to take control of your future? When my parents were incarcerated, I realized I have to change and take control of my life. Statistics show that young people who have incarcerated parents are likely to become incarcerated themselves. That data was so prevalent in my mind and it made me afraid to take the wrong path. I started to think more about what I wanted for the future, how I wanted to feel, how I wanted to live. Throughout the time they were away, I took a good look at myself and my surroundings. What should I be doing now to make sure I am okay later? Who can I turn to when I am down? Where should I be investing my time? Answering those questions helped me make better decisions and motivated me to keep pushing. Reflecting on who I am today, I believe this experience was a highlight in my life. It helped me learn so much about who I am and what my role is in making this world a better place.
- What advice do you have to other Latinx voices who want to be heard in their community? My advice would be, be prepared to have people try to dim your light and learn how to refuel after burnout. Advocating on behalf of one’s community has never been easy. However, sometimes we have an internal calling we must listen to. Sometimes people don’t like new ideas or embrace creativity. Sometimes people will dismiss you, ignore you, disrespect you, but it’s all about learning to be better than how people make you feel. Sometimes even your own people may not believe in you, but you must find the power to keep on going and stay committed to your goals. Whether it’s becoming an entrepreneur, buying your first car, running for office, or starting a family, things will not come easy. Take the time to appreciate yourself and regroup. Be honest with yourself. Be committed to your mission and true to your values. Be a student first and be receptive to feedback and advice. Learn from others and be consistent.
INTERVIEW # 8: Featuring MAKAYLA SANTIAGO
Every culture has a word for it, “moxie” in Sicilian, “chutzpah” in Hebrew, “brava” in Spanish and those are all the ways I know how to say it. It is the spirit when someone got when they are a “shining star”, when little light shines so bright, even they themselves are blinded. Some people got it.
My mother told me- “you got it.” I was a westsider, I was Sicilian, and I was her daughter, and most importantly, because I came from a long line of hard-working Sicilian women. That is right, as Puerto Rican as I am (wepa), my mother’s- mothers have forever been Sicilian. Relentless- my maternal DNA is because- that is how you describe Sicilian mothers. When my ancestry DNA report was delivered- it was true I was more Sicilian than any other ethnicity present in my DNA; so, I accepted my fate. Smiling- I knew it meant one thing- I am unbreakable. Because I come from a long line of hard-working Sicilian women, and they told me so.
When I got to know Makayla Santiago, I got the impression that she, herself, was from a long line of hard-working women; and that takes generations. I respected her immediately. I could tell she hustles. She is a shining bright star from the Bronx, and she can succeed in any environment – the mark of a strong woman. She has mastered the dense city and the flowing open spaces of rural life. Makayla’s love is art and storytelling, and in Puerto Rico that has dual functions.
Our artists have kept our history, there was no other choice in the beginning with the lack of books. The first library was established in Puerto Rico in 1523 by the Spanish in El Morro. Private families and or religious groups held small collections during the early colonization of San Juan, but they kept literally getting destroyed – in attacks. The first documented library (supported by the government) was established in 1874- when the first and true public library was opened in Mayaguez, 381 years after Puerto Rico was “discovered.”
For 381 years, artists and shining stars like Makayla have told the stories of a place. Good thing Makayla is from a long line of strong women; she and others have a lot of storytelling to do, something which is both a blessing and a responsibility.
Makayla’s a storyteller. In her interview, she says, “Take action and find connections.” She and her line of strong women are sure to inspire. Her grandmother is someone that she attributes much of her success, and that is the real beauty.
Read Makayla’s interview and read the story of a storyteller who casts light in dark spaces with her art.
1. Where were you raised? What values were you taught? I am a proud Nuyorican from Highbridge in the Bronx and shout it out at any opportunity I can. I love being a Latina/Hispanic woman. There is so much beauty and life in our culture, food, families, and values. I was raised surrounded by strong women who shaped me to be the person I am today, but the most important thing was,
“Educate yourself. They can take everything away from you, but you will always have your education.”
My mother and grandma did everything in their power to make sure I had a good education. My grandmother would walk me to and from my elementary and middle schools. I attended a catholic school from 3rd grade to 12th. Tuition was covered in different ways. My grandmother worked as a lunchroom monitor to cover a portion of my tuition, my pediatrician covered a portion, and my mother paid the rest. If it were not for the help we received, we would not have been able to afford it. When it came time to go to high school, my 8th-grade school principal helped work towards a scholarship program in which an anonymous doctor paid for my tuition. I was incredibly lucky and blessed to have so many people guiding me towards my education.
The second most important value I was taught was to simply “Work hard. Everything you do, do it with your heart.” And that is what I did. It led me to a dream job and starting a podcast. I knew I wanted to be a voice for the voiceless and now I am.
2. What was your experience as a student? High School: I was busy chasing boys. If I knew what I know now, then. I would not have given them a time of day. I was on the student council, was a cheerleader, played on the softball team, and maintained good grades, but the drama overshadowed my passion for learning. No one in high school really saw my potential… except for my English teacher Ms. Wilbekin… we all always have that one teacher, but I felt like there was nothing in the Bronx for me. That is why I chose the farthest college from my doorstep, with state tuition. I needed to break free and understand myself as an individual.
College: At first, I thought I knew what I wanted to be. I started out with a dream of being a Music Therapist. I wanted to use music to change the world. I quickly learned that it was not the path for me and began to explore other career paths. I changed my major a whole 9 times and finally settled on becoming a dual major, Business Administration with a concentration in the Music Industry and Arts Administration with a concentration in Public Relations and a dual minor in Communications & Leadership Studies. Yes, that is a mouthful, and it took me 5 years to finish, but I did it. To build my resume, I had a couple of part-time jobs in the arts, held internships at Warner Music and Universal Music in NYC, and sat on executive boards for multiple organizations in the college. To say I was busy would be an understatement. BUT I LOVED IT.
Grad School: I loved my grad program and I remember the day I received the email to learn of my acceptance like it was yesterday. I was the second LatinX/Hispanic identifying woman to graduate from my program. I really wanted my thesis to revolve around studying Hispanic women in the workplace. I was discouraged to do this because of the lack of studies I could pull from, and I would not have been able to secure the amount of female-identifying Hispanic women I need to have a valid study. This was also an especially important moment in my life. I realized that I needed to be part of that change, no matter what my next step would be. I was especially inspired by my supervisor at the time. I was able to attend Canisius College because she took a chance on me and hired me as a graduate assistant which helped me pay for school. Associate Vice President of Advancement at Canisius College, LatinX, and expert in the art of fundraising, I chose to follow her path, which led me to where I am today.
3. When did you start working and what was your first/favorite job? Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet- Experience: My first job after college was working at the Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet in Jamestown, NY. I loved it because I had the opportunity to be a part of every step of management. My mentor there let me try everything and anything I wanted, within reason. I wrote press releases, planned events, controlled social media, helped backstage, and they even gave me a small part in performances. This was the place that jump-started my career and passion for working in arts administration.
Mark Morris Dance Group- Culture
The first time I experienced the feeling of true belonging was working at the Mark Morris Dance Group in Brooklyn, NY. Being back home, living in the Bronx, and surrounded by colleagues from all over the United States and the globe. Being in Brooklyn, one of the most diverse places on Earth, fueled my passion. This is where the idea of Chatty Carmens was started, alongside my incredible Social Media Manager, Joleen Richards. It was also the first place I had ever worked where there was more than one woman of color in an executive role.
4. What was the moment you were inspired to take control of your future? I was unhappy for a while as a fundraiser. I knew I was not doing the right thing while I was in grad school, but I thought maybe it was because I was in Buffalo and not at home in the Bronx. But then I felt the same way while working in Brooklyn, and again when I returned to Buffalo to live with my now, husband. I felt like something was off, and in my heart, I knew I was not in the right profession. I became a fundraiser because I thought it was the highest paying department in the nonprofit sector, there was a direct path to becoming an executive director, and it was an opportunity to help nonprofits keep their doors open. When I was let go from my position in downtown Buffalo at the start of the pandemic, I was divested. I was angry at the world, and I felt like I was not enough. Through my tears and self-doubt, I had to remind myself that:
- There was literally a pandemic happening around us!
- My heart was not in it, and I needed to rethink my path.
- I am a BOSS who has done a lot in my 28 years of life.
- Everything is going to be ok.
I had to remind myself, what my WHY was at the beginning of my career journey. Why did I think fundraising was it?
I wanted to help people and give others the opportunity to do their craft. So, I decided to start the Chatty Carmens Podcast, with a simple vision, that female-identifying change-makers of color deserve a platform to share their stories, and I was going to be someone to provide it. During the process of creating, I realized my heart was in marketing and communications. Marketing amazing work, finding ways to communicate the magic to the masses. I feel lucky to have found it in the creation of Chatty Carmens and my new full-time position at Chautauqua Institution as the Arts Marketing Specialist.
5. What advice do you have for other LatinX voices who want to be heard in their communities? Act and find connections. Every move I have made in my life has been through building relationships with those around me and, and learn how to speak highly about yourself. But if you talk a big game, you must be able to back it up. Educate yourself on whatever you are passionate about. For some that means going to college and getting an education, for others, it means getting the rights training and certifications. Always strive to be the best version of yourself, and do not compare yourself to others.
6. What is your theory on human potential? Everyone has potential, they just need the right tools and opportunities. Historically, the problem has been that the tools and opportunities have not been accessible to underprivileged communities.
7. What is your opinion of the fact that Latinx women are the most underpaid demographic in the United States? I feel this in so many ways, and I see it. Give more LatinX women more power! Give creators opportunities. Hire more LatinX women. There is no reason that we are not being put into higher-paid positions except for bias on behalf of hirers. The talent is there. After working in entry-level jobs for a few years, and feeling I could take the next step, I was discouraged by a recruiter and advised to take another entry-level position and keep trying to work my way up. How many women are given the same advice and listen? I did not listen, and I did not settle.
Interview 7: Featuring EVELYN ROSARIO
Papi was a teamster, proud of it too. Nothing wrong with being blue collars, far as I was raised. Better than being no collar, if you know what I mean. Growing up – I thought the union had superpowers, because my father was the strongest, and he told me – union was stronger than him.
Unions, something folks fought for, my Irish ancestors specifically. They show up is all. Union means different things to different folks really, part of the beauty. But for me at least, the best thing about being a Union girl, is I get to be part of something bigger than myself and my own ambitions. By joining the union, I made a promise that I am going to show for folks that I do not even know but call family. Especially when the going gets tough and that makes me proud — my mother raised me tough and proud.
Being raised a union girl means you take care of your part when it counts. Properly, mom always beeped when she saw her union brothers or sisters taking up signs, making their line, singing the songs, holding space. She always slowed down, beeping, waving her hand- to make sure they saw us. To make sure they knew we were with them –even in the car. When she was able, she gave her time, to her union sisters, when they ran out of sick time and that helped their families. That stuck out to me as a kid. Union was something to remember.
The Union means peace of mind to me, but to Evelyn Rosario, a Ph.D. Candidate, it meant a chance at fulfilling a lifelong dream of achievement. Ms. Evelyn Rosario used her union benefits from UUP to pursue an education while working full-time and raising her daughter. Ms. Evelyn Rosario is indomitable-like a union in fact. She is steadfast and parable, the woman that you aspire to be. Semester by semester, working toward achieving her Ph.D. while shepherding our students into and through SUNY Buffalo State. The guiding light for many down the path of higher ed.
Ms. Evelyn Rosario – made Latina herstory in higher education as a student, a staff member, and a campus member, defying the odds- always postured and well poised. Ms. Rosario is currently a Ph.D. candidate and one of the most interesting people you will ever get to know.
She says, “Becoming an agent of change and a role model for others to emulate is something that I value greatly.”
Read our column to learn more about my union sister that will not stop striving. And when you can – beep let the #union know, you are with them, even from the car.
Interview with Evelyn Rosario, M.A., Ph.D. candidate
Evelyn Rosario, M.A. PhD Candidate
1. Where were you raised and what were the types of values that were taught in your home: I was born and raised in Yabucoa, PR (southeast coast). My parents were very family-oriented and good neighbors. We shared some of the fruits and food that grew up and cultivated in our land. We were very closed as a family with our grandparents and extended family. We had strong religious faith and try to live by principles. Hard work and work ethics, decency, and a sense of community. They were strong values to motivate us in doing well, for ourselves, our neighbors, and our community. Respect, critical thinking, being factual, trustworthy, and telling the truth no matter the consequences. We strived to become positive role models. We looked forward to help the less privileged students.
2. What motivated you to become an educator? I was quite impressed with my teachers from first grade to higher education, many of whom left a positive and permanent impression to this date. I was in Junior in college when I decided to explore education as a minor, and once I started taking courses, I loved it. Another factor was my counselors in school. I used to visit the guidance counselor in school and the interaction we had made me develop an interest in becoming one following their model the one in my first two years in higher education.
3. What was your experience like as a student? I loved the experience. I learned to interact with people who had different ideas, political orientations, problem-solving, and conflict resolutions. As a student whose financial background was less than enough, I learned to be happy within my limitations. I was a dedicated and devoted student overall. [ I entered college with a 3.52 average and a full scholarship to undergraduate studies at UPR (Humacao/Rio Piedras)]. College was for me a big adjustment since I lived in boardinghouses away from home.
4. Did you like school/learning? I loved school and learning. Although my focus was academic and religious, and not much social, I had a good relationship with friends and people overall. 4. How did your experience as a student inform your leadership style as an educator? Understanding that I am responsible and accountable for my own behavior and expectations. As a student, I learned to have work ethics and fairness and to render quality service; taking initiative and emulating positive traits of the leaders I learned from.
5. When did you start your work as an educator and what was your role? I completed my bachelor’s degree when I was 20. I started working as a Guidance Counselor in the Office of the School Superintendent – I had four Junior High Schools under my care. I assessed the referrals from the guidance counselor and the principals. I made referrals to the social worker and collaborated with the health counselor for presentations at schools. Later, I worked as a Psycho-social Technician for Mental Health and had a caseload that included children and adolescents, adults and geriatric, including prisoners. After married, I moved to Buffalo and started a career as an EOP Academic/Counselor at Buffalo State.
6. What was your favorite/most informative role? All my work experience was valuable. I learned about human dynamics and human complexity, issues, and concerns. I feel that I had a greater impact on higher education.
7. What advice do you have for educators today? Respect diversity and cultural differences are key elements. Being sensitive and empathetic to difference, developing listening and observational skills, showing genuine interest in others, and facilitating the opportunity for others to share their stories are crucial. Becoming an agent of change and a role model for others to emulate, something that I value greatly.
8. What is your theory on human potential? I believe that external and internal factors including traumatic experiences could interfere in human development, but with a support system in place, including financial assistance, people have opportunities nowadays that were not necessary there in the 30s’, 40s, and 50s. Everyone has the potential to develop themselves in any area if structure and support are in place, and when this does not exist, educators should reach out to discover and explore that potential by means of the classroom, social workers, counseling centers, accessibility services, financial means, etc. Not everyone is interested in college but in a trade or a non-academic career; guiding them to do what they like and are motivated to develop is important in encouraging them to excel.
9. What is the single most important value/thing to keep in mind when working with students? To recognize and respect everyone as a different entity; who has the potential to be developed; that is not like others, although he or she may share similar interests and vocations, etc.
10. What is the most important thing a student taught you? Each student contributed to my learning and growth and reinforced the fact that I do not know it all. Nevertheless, the interaction between the two was extraordinary and a standardized win-win situation.
Interview 6: Featuring BEATRIZ FLORES
Elvira Velasquez stands elegant with a deep stare, in her 90’s but with an essence of youthfulness about her. The story was that she was a looker, and the whole town of Camuy knew it. I have one photo of her, to prove my linkage to the blackness that Puerto Ricans like to negate. Hand on her hip, she lived between centuries, colonizers, (last names), husbands, masters, and empires. I asked in fear- what would be of me if I did not have this picture? To make the pieces of my soul who yearn for Africa – whole. Elvira, born a slave and died a free woman who knew bomba. — Y tu abuela, ¿dónde está?
African slaves were introduced in 1513 and institutional slavery would not be abolished until 1873. Slaves had to remain on their Master’s property for three years to work off their freedom. Even the free were not free in Puerto Rico. Restricted movement, chains weighing down their bodies, forced labor, control, dominance, submission, deprivation, anguish, all limiting conditions of slavery. From bits of spirit, they wove together culture in response to those limiting phenomena, a knot to bind all tribes and peoples together, no matter what their mother tongue.
That knot, a culture, and a lifestyle called Bomba. A celebration of the most absolute kind, one, that in its mere existence, is a miracle. The abundance of 500 years of dance, represented here in Buffalo by one face.
INTERVIEW WITH BEATRIZ FLORES
Beatriz Flores is the Founder and Director of El Batey-Puerto Rican Center of Music and Dance. I met her first- when I heard her drummers- well before I saw her face, I knew she was beautiful. Curiously peering into her performance space, I could tell she was in charge. Time froze to be rebuilt around her body’s movements. She stopped- with a flash of her perfect smile to greet me. After talking to Betty, you feel seen- you feel acknowledged- full of hope and promise. That is what Betty does; she is one of those people who fill up your spiritual cup of Cafesito. Rightly so, one of those people – people love to know.
The face of “Betty” Flores as she is known to her adoring fans, has ushered in a new period of appreciation for OUR traditional arts and folklore across the entire city and we are grateful.
Betty Flores remains humble in her interview she says:
“As an individual being teachable cultivates humility.”
Betty’s job? To remind us, that even though we do not know the steps, we know the way because bomba runs deep in our souls, and here in Buffalo, Bomba lives at el Batey…
1. What motivated you to become an educator?
I teach an over 400-year-old oral tradition called Bomba. It has the power of lived experiences that hold incredible wisdom. The power in the stories of the people who came before us. We are the descendants of that history. This centuries-old tradition holds our history within it. A history that encompasses all that we are and defines us as a people. This type of education gives kids the knowledge to understand and be proud of who they are.
I honestly believe that without our culture and traditions we cease to exist as a people. Being part of the Puerto Rican diaspora intensifies that belief, so the natural response is to do what we call in Puerto Rico, “hacer patria”, to be in service of Puerto Rico and of our people by preserving our traditions and culture. Yo hago patria aunque esté en la luna, that is my main driver.
2. What was your experience like as a student?
I went to school in Puerto Rico, my memories of being a student there were great! I recall teachers were like an extension of your family, discipline entangled with love and encouragement. I was a quiet student on the honor roll and had all As except for Spanish class! Go figure! Now contrast that to my experience in the states as a teenager, the school felt like an institution where kids had no voice, there were no teachers I connected with, coupled that with the shock of the racial divide, and the violence that it breeds. It was not fun. My experience as a Puerto Rican student in Puerto Rico allowed me to thrive academically as opposed to here where I was met with a harsh institutionalized culture that left me feeling completely disconnected. I did not do well as a student and ended up dropping out.
3. Did you like school/learning?
Yes, both in my work and in my personal life constant learning is part of what sustains and guides me. I think having a student’s heart is the key for me as an educator. As an individual being teachable cultivates humility.
4. How did your experience as a student inform your leadership style as an educator?
It is the reason why I am very intentional about building relationships, bonds, and trust with my students. Pouring love, light, and hope into them without exception. In our classes respect is mutual. And support is not conditional. Allowing them to have a voice, to make mistakes, to have choices, to learn at their own pace is critical. Students blossom under that type of environment. Those are life principles they will learn to apply in their own path.
5. When did you start your work as an educator and what was your role?
I am not an academic educator in the traditional sense. I began my work as a dance instructor, and this led me to discover Puerto Rico’s oldest cultural expression; Bomba. My role was and still is that of a student of the tradition. I went ahead and founded the first Puerto Rican center dedicated to our music and traditions 4 years ago called El Batey. The mission is to empower and honor our people through our music, history, and traditions. It is all about community building from the root! Our roots.
6. What was your favorite/most informative role?
I absolutely love teaching the youth, to see them grow into actual cultural practitioners, dancers, drummers, ambassadors of los nuestro. Our music and traditions are not something that was or is easily accessible to our youth here in Buffalo, NY. And unless you come from a musical family you most likely will not grow up knowing our traditional music and folklore… All our classes range from adults to preschoolers, but our focus is the youth, programming for this very same reason.
7. What advice do you have for educators today?
Is not about having the right class rules and rigid teaching environments to prevent behavior issues. Is about having the right relationships. Students want to know that they matter, that are cared for, and are seen. Creating an environment of community where we all are invested in each other is the goal. Being strictly tied to curriculum, policies, and procedures, is what sacrifices human connection.
8. What is your theory on human potential?
That is limitless, truly. But on an individual level, it is not attainable without an immense amount of support, resources, and interconnectedness. This is especially true for historically marginalized communities. Individualism and “hard work” alone are not enough. It is important to reach our potential.
9. What is the single most important value/thing to keep in mind when working with students?
I think it is important to meet them where they are, rather than have certain expectations. Identify their needs, their strengths, what makes them happy, what motivates them, and work from there; that only comes from getting to really know them.
10. What is the most important thing a student taught you?
To be honest and to be fearless.
Interview 5: Featuring EVELYN PIZARRO
This month I will be introducing Evelyn Pizarro, an educator who worked and retired from the Buffalo Public School system.
Evelyn Pizzaro is a Puerto Rican integrationist. She integrated the white schools of the Sicilian West Side in the 1960s. Evelyn’s parents achieved social mobility and bought a house. One of the three Latino families in the West Side. Buying a house allowed Evelyn the privilege and the responsibility of being one of the first Latina children to attend BPS 03. At the time attending, all the white schools were understood to be a privilege because all white schools were better. While Evelyn’s parents were integrating the West Side, Puerto Ricans were fighting hard to access “better” for their children all over the country.
For the folks who like definitions, social mobility is defined as a change in social status relative to one’s current social location within a given society. In the West Side commonly referred to as “the come up.”
Mendez v. Westminster was filed in 1946 in California because Felicitas, a mother from Juncos Puerto Rico, was on the come up too. She refused to accept the fact that her 9yr old daughter Sylvia was denied access to their local white school. Felicitas was not backing down and took that case to the Supreme Court. Evelyn’s parents were not backing down either- part of the first 2000 Puerto Ricans to settle in Buffalo they both worked two jobs. Literally and physically working night and day to earn enough money to buy a house in a good neighborhood so Evelyn could go to school.
Latino sacrifices to access education have not always been well understood and or well documented. For that reason, history won’t tell you the Mendez case came before Brown v. Board of Education and that Sylvia was ½ Puerto Rican or that the case led to the integration of California schools. History will not tell you about Evelyn Pizzaro who integrated a school and returned as its Principal.
So simply we must rewrite history. In honor of the women like Sylvia and Evelyn. Who as girls were isolated, and not wanted inside their own school buildings and in response grew into women who out-worked and out achieved their peers? Evelyn’s grit remains today, she says in her interview:
“I was known as a toughie in the neighborhood. I wasn’t one that was intimated very quickly and that stayed with me as a student.”
Help us rewrite history and read Evelyn’s interview on my blog. Learn the true story of a trailblazer that fought for Latinas before she even knew it- every time she stepped into the classroom.
INTERVIEW WITH EVELYN PIZARRO
1. What was your experience like as a student?
I went to Buffalo public schools I graduated from BPS # 03 at Porter and Niagara – around 15 or so years later I came back and became the principal. You finished at school 03 and then you would go to Grover Cleveland High School. Back then there were neighborhood schools, so you went to school where you lived. At the time I went to school the West Side was a mostly Italian neighborhood and only a handful of Puerto Ricans lived there. My family lived around the block from the school. What was special about my family was that we were accepted by the Italians and we owned the house that we lived in.
2. Did you like school or learning?
I was the first Latino principal in the City of Buffalo because of my parents. “First of all, in my house, you never failed”. If you failed, you were going to get your ass kicked. My parents made it known that “You better come home with passing grades.” If any of the six of us failed any classes, you would have to spend the whole afternoon at the table. And then if not, you were reading out loud so my mother could hear you. My parents understood education was important. My parents came from Puerto Rico and they met in New York City. I was born in New York City, but my family moved to Buffalo when I was a baby. In those days, most Puerto Ricans only went to school until 08th grade because children were also working in the fields. During my parent’s time, If you got a high school diploma you were lucky. So, when my parents came to Buffalo, NY they worked hard. First, my father was working in the fields. Then our neighbor down the street got him a job driving a garbage truck in the morning. And then he got a job at the steel plant. He had a garbage truck in the morning and a steel plant job in the evening. Then we had enough money to buy a house. My mother worked at the cannery and sewed at home at night. There were only 3 Hispanics in the whole neighborhood when we bought our house. Little by little more people started to realize – if you can buy a house and you use your money to invest in your house you can make money.
3. What were your experiences like as a student and how did they inform your leadership?
I was considered a tough cookie. I did not take any abuse from anyone. When my friends had a problem with the Italians. I would go to them and take care of that problem. I would say “Why are you calling her a spick?” Or telling her that “we should be on the farm?” Then I would say “you give her a hard time again- I am going to kick your ass!” I was known as a toughie in the neighborhood. I was not one that was intimated very quickly and that stayed with me as a student. I studied here in Buffalo in the West Side. I went to D’Youville college in the West Side because they had bilingual courses. I then went to SUNY Buffalo State and earned a master’s degree in Elementary Education and one for early childhood too. During that time Jose and I worked at the college. We were responsible for recruiting students to college and for talking about college. When I went to graduate school Jose was at home with our two children watching them. I wanted to get a PhD., but I had to raise children.
4. When did you start your work as an educator and what was your role?
I was a teacher first I was working at BPS #12, there was a school that had a bilingual program #BPS 33- and I worked there as a teacher also. Being a teacher, I really enjoyed, it, you must teach the kids how to work hard and how to play hard. I would tell them “do your homework, and If you do not know something, ask someone for help. Do not wait until it is too late to figure it out. “We always had verity schools and bands to showcase culture. As a teacher, I was the kind of teacher that was with fair kids. I did not go out of my way to do things the way I wanted them. Some teachers are hard on the kids and go out of their way to make their kids miserable. At that time teaching there were mostly American teachers, and we had some ethnic groups – we had some Asian kids coming to buffalo – most of them lived on Grant Street. At times I witnessed some of the American teachers would treat the Asian kids unfairly because they did not know how to do things. I would tell them. “Just because your English is not 100% that doesn’t mean you’re stupid.” I would talk to the teachers and tell them the children were bright when they were making fun of kids because they had an accent. I was always saying “that child can speak in two languages.” “How many can you speak?” To get my point across. As a teacher I knew -You must treat children fairly. I was not going to treat them badly just because they did not meet a “so-called standard” that people said they had to meet. First, you could take the state exams and local exams in English and Spanish. Then they decided they would all be English and that made things harder for students.
5. What was your favorite and most informative role?
Principal – I became principal of P.S. 03 and I was the first Latina principal in the history of the city of Buffalo. Like I said most of the Puerto Ricans/Latinos who came here- came here with an 8th-grade education so when I was principal of BPS# 03 I ran a class for the parents. There was an annex on Normal and Rhode Island and right behind there was an extension of the building. My students’ parents were there taking classes. One of the most amazing things was when I saw my parents graduate with their GED. We graduated 8 parents – from BPS #03. To have the children see their parents achieve it showed the kids that if my parents had to do all that to catch up – I better get my diploma now. The Mayor at the time, Mayor Masiello – he would come and shake their hands when they graduated with their GED. We always had important people from the neighborhood and Mayor Masiello came all the way to our graduation. As principal, I always brought Latin bands to show our culture and to teach the children our culture is important. I always thought that bringing special guests teaches the children how to behave.
6. What Advice do you have for Educators today?
First, you are coming into a society and culture that is very mixed especially if you are going to work on the Westside. Educators today should be ready to embrace all the cultures and languages and the people and how they were raised and what have you.
I always fought for my kids. Sometimes I would need desks because there were too many kids and I went straight to the service center with my truck and got my desks.
You must work. You cannot be afraid of work. As a Principal, I would stay up countless hours after working a long day to apply for state grants and Mary taught me. Mary was my mentor and extremely helpful. People are afraid of paperwork but if you know how to apply you can have everything you want for your classroom. We had classes, in the late 1970s my parents had computers – we applied for them for the state – we had a little computer lab for the parents. I always fought for my kids because they went through a lot, especially in those days. I worried for them when they were at home. One time I was the principal at school 03 and I had to send a student home and I was really scared for him. I decided to send another student over to his house to do a welfare check shortly after school ended. I was so scared that the kid was beat-up that I sent another kid to the house to check if the kid was ok. I figured if the parents would allow the boy to be seen- he did not get beat up bad. But if the parents would not let the boy be seen or out of the room – then he got beat up. I remember I was waiting in my car for the report. I did not go home to my own kids because I was so scared that my student was going to get beat up bad by his parents. Our girls lived hard lives too, sometimes more than they could handle. I remember one time we had a girl that was in sixth grade who thought she was pregnant. Sometimes I would worry so bad I would go directly to the house. One time I nearly had to follow the kid home. I came just in time. I could hear the kid upstairs getting beat up by his father and screaming. I ran right up to their door- alone- screaming. “I know what’s going on and I’m not going to leave here until it stops, and the first thing I am going to do Monday morning is to check that kid from head to toe,” I remember staring at the stairs, waiting, just sitting in that hallway in the upper west side because I cared about my kids.
7. What is your theory on human potential?
People do not realize the potential they do have. Growing up I was not thinking that I would be a teacher or something like that. That is why I had to leave home early. I wanted to take courses and my parents wanted me to get married right after high school. And I said no I wanted to go to college and take classes. So, I left. I even participated in a beauty contest and won!
8. What is the most important thing a student taught you?
You must be fair with kids and you have balance in your interaction with them; you can’t play a game that his kid is better than that kid because this kid speaks English or because this kid did better on the state exam- kids know when you do that.
Interview 4: Featuring HEIDI ROMER
Education is supposed to be an equalizer. But in the beginning and increasingly now, it is a polarizer. What school you go to, if you have the internet or not, and what zip code you live in indisputably- matters in terms of educational access, and in society’s understanding of your perceived ability to “succeed.”
Accessing education has always been a challenge for us – part of how institutional racism is expressed in this country. For the folks who like definitions- Institutional racism is a form of racism that is embedded as the normal practice within society.
Most often – girls were the first to be denied any education.
Writing from Puerto Rico, I close my eyes and think of my abuela. She only had a third-grade education, but she was one of the wisest people I will ever know. She taught me “education” is more than whatever “lessons” I would learn in “school”.
Two years before abuela was born in 1921, the United States reported only 41% of the nearly half a million school-age children in Puerto Rico were “enrolled in school”. In 1945, the year Puerto Rican troops were returning from World War II, only 50% of their sisters and brothers were accessing primary education. Now, ask yourself, where did the other children learn? Who were their teachers if they were not “enrolled” in school?
The answer? Their “educators” were leaders in their own community.
Heidi Romer is a community educator, she teaches/advocates for health equity. Additionally, in doing so – she drives progress, speaks for the voiceless, the vulnerable, and those needing care. Heidi’s bright eyes look excited because she believes in possibilities. Heidi has conquered impossibility. As a strong Puerto Rican woman, she says:
“Be bold, be brave, be humble. Pursue your dreams, Ask the right questions. Fight for what you want. Be your own cheerleader, advocate, and pastor. Find a way or make one. Love yourself. Love your neighbor and lift up those around you.”
March is Women’s History Month, and Heidi, like the rest of the women who inspire me, embodies the idea that living is giving. Her entire life is an example.
Values are taught outside and inside of the classroom, and Heidi’s commitment to communicating hers is why you should read her interview on my blog. Our message? Always be open to learning in spaces – outside of the classroom- those lessons are equally as important now, as they were for the women who came before us.
INTERVIEW WITH HEIDI ROMER
I attended classes all day and remember running to class because the school was overcrowded and if you were late, you most likely had to sit on the floor. I also attended night school three times a week and worked on three take-home courses on the weekends called concurrent options. I graduated in January and gave birth to my first son in March. I attempted to attend Bronx Community College but realized I needed to work sooner than later. I went to an open house at the Katharine Gibbs School and asked the counselor, “What is the shortest program, offering guaranteed job placement and making the most money?” I immediately enrolled in the Legal Executive Assistant program and a few months later I was making more money than most of my friends. I hated working in a law firm.
What was your experience as a student?
My student experiences are a bit of a blur. I attended many schools throughout my life. I traveled between New York City and South Florida until 9th grade. Looking back, I can say I was not academically challenged, and subjects came easily to me. My favorite subject was History, and my concentration was Performing Arts. I thought I was going to be an actress. I am laughing out loud just thinking about it. In 10th-grade I was a victim of a hit-and-run accident. I am dating myself with what I’m about to tell you, but all I can remember is returning the movie rental Boomerang to Blockbuster Video- – -yes, that was a thing and eating McDonald’s French fries. I was in the ICU for two weeks, spent one month in the hospital, had surgery to repair a broken fibula and ankle, and missed a semester of school. I spent my junior year making up classes. Shortly after I was pregnant with my son. My only goal at the time was to graduate high school early. “I will either find a way or make one”-Hannibal.
I had my second son when I was 20 years old. After 9-11, I moved to Buffalo, NY, and obtained my degree from SUNY Erie Community College and thought I could be a CEO with AAS. I am laughing out loud again just thinking about it. It took me ten years to complete my bachelor’s degree. Every time my life changed my priorities changed. Survival of the fittest and cannot stop will not stop sums up what my experiences as a student were like.
Did you like school or learning?
I did not like going to school or being in a structured environment at all. In New York City, schools are built like a fortress. In Florida, schools are built like mini college campuses. In New York City, you must get yourself to school and that meant buses and trains. In Florida, gym class was held outside in the blazing sun and heat. These were real issues for me at the time. I am laughing out loud again.
I love to learn and experience, and explore. I am a lifelong learner and understand “I know that I know nothing”-Socrates.
How did your experience as a student inform your leadership style as an educator?
Traveling between the Bronx and Miami throughout my childhood did have its benefits. My father is German, and my mother is Puerto Rican. I am a first-generation American. My best friend at the time was Vietnamese. My babysitter was Italian. I was always exposed to diversity, cultures, food, traditions, languages, and religions. It is all I know, and I am so grateful to have grown up in such a dynamic environment.
Although I faced many challenges in high school and as a young adult I kept going and kept moving. I had to, what was the alternative? It is because of these experiences that I can relate to many people who face adversity and uncertainty. I meant what I said — I will help you, guide you, fight for you and remind you of your gifts, your excellence, and your worth.
When did you start your work as an educator and what was your role?
I began working in the community about ten years ago. I was employed at a manufacturing company in Buffalo, New York as the Executive Assistant to the CEO and transitioned into a community leadership position. It was during this time I realized there was a tremendous opportunity to do something that hasn’t been attempted before that could positively impact the lives of employees in the community. I became the expert who brought the experts together to help create momentum and change in an underinvested neighborhood. A multi-sector coalition, new housing development, regional recognition, and an international design award were direct results of this project.
What was your favorite and most informative role?
I do not believe I have a favorite role however, there is a group I have been a part of for several years in Buffalo, New York. The Healthy Corner Store Initiative is comprised of the most dedicated and inspiring community champions I know. The mission is “We address disparities in food access by creating a culture of health through the engagement of residents in a healthy lifestyle in partnership with neighborhood stores.” Think in terms of food access + food justice =health equity.
I must believe in the work. The mission needs to align with a right and just cause. At this point in my life, I will only spend my time and energy on projects where passion and purpose intersect. The Impact has to be real; progress has to be amplified, intentional, and meaningful.
What advice do you have for educators today?
-Do not forget, those closest to the issues or problems have the answers and solutions.
-Approach every interaction as an opportunity to learn, help or heal
-Seek to understand first
-Lead with love
-A kind word, gesture or conversation can change someone’s trajectory
-Ask the right questions
-Help empower those around you
-Be intentional, not transactional
What is your theory on human potential?
I believe everyone could fully reach their potential. I also believe it is hard as hell to reach that potential without a support system, guidance, tools, and love.
I read an article about the inequality of “choice sets”. Many Latinos do not have the luxury to choose between two equally great options. Often, the “choice sets” are between a rock and hard place.
It is our responsibility to create opportunities for those who do not have opportunities. It is our responsibility to reach out and help those around us. Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor said it best, “Not everyone can just pull themselves up by the bootstraps-unless you do something to knock it down or help that person up, they will never have a chance”. I am one of those people who never had a chance. And by the grace of God, a few, knocked down the barriers for me.
What is the single most important value to keep in mind when working with students?
We need to be the resource for the student. To ensure their voices are heard and matter. I meant what I said- -I will help you, guide you, fight for you and remind you of your gifts, your excellence, and your worth.
What is the most important thing a student taught you?
Last summer, I had the opportunity to work with two interns from Say Yes to Education Buffalo. What a breath of fresh air. These young ladies were humble, confident, happy, and optimistic. When the internship came to an end one student would resume classes and the other student explained that she had a plan. I asked her, “What do you want to do?” Let me help you. She declared, “I’m going to work for the FBI”. She said it to the universe.
Can you believe she called me in around late January to tell me she got a job working for the FBI in Buffalo, New York? This young, beautiful soul reminded me that “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”- Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Interview 3: Featuring: REBECCA HANNON
INTRODUCTION: Faith leads us through the dark. It is the single thing that unites us and motivates us to hope-or that one’s hope is not in vain. Gloria Dios. I can hear it, with the flashes of smiles and smells of my childhood. God, it seems, was always part of my memory. But how? Faith is deeply engrained into many Latinos’ lives that we often do not ask ourselves, how? How did our faith get there?
In my community, your faith is taught to you. First by your parents, second by your extended family. In my case, huddled together on the pew, waiting for the service to get going, so we did not notice how cold it was inside the church, despite our pants under our long skirts. Abuela always said “You are never alone; you walk with God” (“Tu Nunca estás sola; tu caminas con Dios.”). Never forgetting this fact, when I discovered I was pregnant, I decided to walk toward him. Different than walking alongside him. I knew I needed help.
Because I knew Faith was the product of strong leadership. How proud I was, as a child, that my Tia was our Sunday school teacher- a leader so vibrant and principled as she preached to us. In my memory I saw strong Latina women- keep the faith. I mean literally hold it up, that and a church full of men and make the rice. And if you ever went to Pentecostal church- you know what I mean.
That is why, when I met Rebecca Hannon – she made sense to me. Young and despite that she’s an unwavering spiritual faith—that I could literally feel when I met her. In her interview, Rebecca talks about her vision.
“I have a dream to see every family who lives in Buffalo reach their full potential. I believe that this can begin through the conduit of faith-centered education. As a result, I ventured out in 2018 and opened Strong Academy, a private school located on 14th street, right in the heart of my beloved community in the Westside of Buffalo.”
Rebeca is a creator – for faith-based education-because we need it and she will tell you, it is a part of her leadership. Read her interview, support her school, learn about her dream in faith, and if you cannot simply move closer to the source of your faith, because lessons come to us in all places, and that’s what Rebecca would want.
Interview with REBECCA HONNON
“Imagine a world-class Christian elementary school on the West Side of Buffalo…What types of leaders would emerge if children in Buffalo were afforded the opportunity to build their lives on the foundation of Jesus Christ? What kind of entrepreneurs, pilots, doctors, lawyers, politicians, religious leaders, advocates for humanity, celebrities, and other world-changers would rise up? Could we see the next president come from our neighborhoods?” — Rebecca Hannon
- What motivated you to become an educator?
What was your experience like as a student?
The short answer is that it is in my blood! My grandmother was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She came to Buffalo not knowing any English. She faced many adversities as she adapted to a new language and culture all while raising her two daughters, my mother, and my aunt. Despite the difficulties, she preserved and taught her daughters to do the same! When I was a little girl, I had the greatest honor of watching my grandmother and my mother walk across the stage at their graduation from Buffalo State College with their degrees in education. They paved the way for me to dream big. I am now a 3rd generation educator!
2. What was your experience like as a student?
I had such a wonderful privileged of learning Spanish as my first language. I attended Head Start on Niagara street starting at age 3. From there I attended a Bilingual Buffalo Public School where I learned English. The staff there was so loving and encouraging. I remember the first assignment I completed in English as a 1st grader. My teacher was so proud of me that she went down to the principal’s office and showed it off! I was so moved by this teacher’s support of me that it inspired a lifelong love for learning in me. From there I attended a small private Christian school until 4th grade and then went back to Buffalo Public schools all the way through High School. I am a proud Hutch Tech Alumni!
3. Did you like school/learning?
Yes! All throughout my school career I encountered numerous educators who loved their profession and loved their students. These educators made it easy to love school and love learning. By the time I reached High School, I was so involved in extracurricular activities that I was often in school as early as 7:00am and would stay as late as 5pm on some days. To say I loved school and learning is probably an understatement!
4. How did your experience as a student inform your leadership style as an educator?
I was always most impacted by the dedication of the educators who were in my life. Their examples inspired me to always be the type of educator who truly took the time to get to know each of my students and their families and to love them like my own. I take my job so seriously because I know that it is a job that will shape the future of each of my students and the world that they build.
5. When did you start your work as an educator and what was your role?
I began teaching in a small Nursery school as a teacher’s assistant. It was a fun role and was a great way to ease into the field of education.
6. What was your favorite/most informative role?
My favorite role as an educator was serving as an afterschool Reading tutor with the 21st Century program in Kenton. Getting to help students in areas where they struggle the most is so rewarding. It reminds me that no one is beyond help if there is someone in the world willing to step up to help!
7. What advice do you have for educators today?
Do not give up! Working with kids can be so challenging. Everyone has an individual personality and their own set of trials and struggles. However, everyone also has a purpose that they were created to fulfill. There is a reward of staying the course despite daily challenges. That reward is seeing the kids we work with fulfilled the purpose that they were created for. Not everyone has this opportunity because they do not have someone willing to stick with them through thick or thin. Educators have the unique opportunity to do that for their students if they do not give up!
8. What is your theory on human potential?
Humans have endless potential with the right love and support. Often the home life of many children is not set up to provide the type of nurture needed for these children to succeed and reach their full potential. However, when they come to school it is like they have another chance at life! If educators can bravely provide the love and support needed to nurture their students, there is a particularly good chance that their students will reach the potential that’s inside of them!
9. What is the single most important value/thing to keep in mind when working with students?
Something I say in my mind often is: “One day this kid could be my president”. At first, that may seem crazy, but the reason I do this is that I want to elevate my students in my mind to a place of honor and respect that they deserve. If every educator mentally pictured a beautiful future for their students, then the chances of each of their students realizing a beautiful future would increase exponentially. If we treat and teach our students like presidents, scientists, engineers, educators… One day, they will go on to fill these very roles.
10. What is the most important thing a student taught you?
Working with children teaches you to stop comparing. Every human develops at a different rate and the end goal for every human is distinctly different than the person next to them. Students are individuals and should be treated and taught as such. We cannot compare one student’s development to another and expect good results. We must nurture individualistic growth!
Interview 2: Featuring: ICHIERY RIVERA
INTRODUCTION: When I was growing up, we were poor, but we were rich in human capital. What do I mean by human capital? Well, according to Investpedia, human capital can be classified as the economic value of a person’s experience. This includes assets like education, training, intelligence, skills, health, and other things employers value such as loyalty and punctuality. The people who raised me did not have much formal education but boy, did they have high human capital. They were bright and had skills that life taught them rather than a textbook.
They had lessons to teach and I absorbed them. And in those rare moments when I was “out of the house” and alone to decide what kind of person I was- I thought of those lessons. What I learned literally helped me survive urban poverty and the side effects of being Puerto Rican and under-resourced – if you know what I mean. It took a village for me- comprised mostly of my cousins and father’s six brothers and sisters. Sprinkle some neighbors on top, between my porch and the corner store, that was my entire life. But that foundation bred, resilience in me and in countless other children.
Your family builds the first wall for your village. Your community builds the outer wall for your village, and if you are lucky, people like Ms. Ichiery Rivera of Say Yes Buffalo add to the journey. People like her are bridge builders. Those who connect our children to resources within the school setting that are designed to change the trajectory of a life. Impossible to leave out, advocates like Ms. Rivera are an essential part of urban education.
Ms. Rivera has a laugh that resonates down the halls of even the busiest high school hallway- I have had the privilege of hearing it myself. Her mission is to fight for every student. Her advocacy is an ode to her father whose commitment to community was well known to Puerto Ricans in Rochester, New York — her hometown. Her vibrant energy and storytelling connect people. Ms. Rivera shows up for work highly present, motivated, and authentic; leading by example and rising early in the morning while texting students to get ready for the day.
Ms. Rivera of Say Yes Buffalo has motivated and comforted students on their toughest days and hugged them as they sailed across the stage on graduation days.
Interview with ICHIERY RIVERA
In this interview, she will tell us why she has dedicated her energies to children and what her journey through education has taught her:
1. What motivated you to work with youth?
I have always been motivated since a young age to work with youth. My mom had in-home daycare when I was very little. So, in my first job, I was like 5 and it was my responsibility to fan the babies when they would cry. I would get paid 50 cents. Lol After that I was hooked and absolute the joy in taking care of another little human. I spent the rest of my childhood growing my experience in the field so that I could pinpoint what I wanted to do in the future. I babysat, worked in daycares, summer programs, etc.
2. What was your experience like as a student?
As a student, I struggled academically often. Math was my enemy, spelling was a villain, and grammar was the devil himself. And attending catholic school my whole life- I was sure I knew what the devil was. In high school, science crept tear, the rest of my academic confidence down. After struggling in math 1 and science 1 realized my hopes of being a NICU nurse were never going to happen. So, like Elsa I let it go. I was always very adamant that I did not want to teach. I did not want to be a social worker either. I knew him I wanted to encourage and support youth through the ups and downs of life.
The beginning of my life I often describe as straight out of a sitcom. 2 parents who fell in love in High School. Got married at 19 and left PR for Rochester NY. They busted their butt working to get everything that they had. They built a family out of pure love. That love was the foundation of that family and life they created. My Father went from a 19-year-old newlywed to a man with 2 kids, a public investigator with the public defender’s office, and a big social activist in the Latino community. Which in turn led me on a path to be conscious of social justice issues and added another layer of youth activism to my path.
But at the age of 13, my foundation was shaking to the core. My Father my rock my everything the light of our community died. Like any sitcom story, there was a shift in the whole dynamic of the show and the main character left behind. My life is changed although our life was never extravagant it was stable. It’s hard to feel stable when half of your heart is missing.
3. Did you like school/learning?
As I said before I struggled in school. It was later discovered that I could have benefited from ESL education, but it was not offered at any of my schools. Due to speaking two languages and the way my brain processed everything. I was unable to be a strong speller in any language but being bilingual allowed me to be able to use my decoding skills and have a high level of reading comprehension. Once I figured that being bilingual made me stronger in other areas during my junior year of high school. I was able to figure out my learning style and be a much more successful student. So, when I hit college, I LOVED school. Let alone going to school for Child and Youth services studying a topic I was passionate about made it a great experience It was also the 1st I left home. Leaving Rochester and going to school at Medaille College gave me an opportunity to breathe, leaving behind the shadow of my father’s death. I was able to see the world through a new lens a brighter one at that.
4. How did your experience as a student form your leadership style as a youth advocate?
Hugely I went to a very prestigious private school from 7-12grade. I was one of 3 Latinas in my graduating class of 110 students. There was no other student/teacher or even admin who understood me and all that came with me and my identity. Being Latina growing up in the hood, I was raised in a single-parent, home-based out of tragedy. My mother was very strong, but I lost my father, who much of our community knew and loved, at a young age. I was impacted tremendously because of my father’s death. Losing him motivated me to want to be a person that students could relate to and count on. I hoped that they could respect me and know that I would support them from a very nurturing, genuine, and sincere place. The crazy part after working with students is when it hit me, how much I was lacking in my high school experience. I was lacking support and someone to relate to. As a young person, It’s really hard to find yourself when you don’t have people encouraging you and you have no role models who have achieved the goal that you dream of. I am fortunate that my family felt that if I wanted something it was their job to help create a way for me to achieve it. So, I made it to where I am now, understanding that if you want something YOU have to do the work. YOU have to want it. YOU have to push yourself. But in the end, it’s on you.
5, When did you start your work in the education field, and what was your role?
I worked in high school in a daycare as a floater. My mother worked in the daycare too so I would go after school and work during school breaks. I loved it and just continued to solidify the gift I had been given to able to connect with children.
6. What was your favorite/most informative role?
My most Informative role was when I was the ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS of a chain of daycare centers. I accomplished so many things I never would ever have imagined. Working with one of my closest friends and teaming up to turn a gym into daycare, a bar into daycare, and an ex technical school into daycare was mind-blowing. But it was so gratifying to help build something from the ground up and make spaces for families and their children. But my favorite is my current role at Say Yes Buffalo as the Near Peer Mentoring supervisor. 1st the organization is a place like I have never worked in before. The level of mutual respect that everyone has for each other is mind-blowing. The passion, which each of us carries into our positions, to support and encourage students- from birth to beyond college is transformative. I get to fulfill my wish to be a part of a full support system that serves thousands of students. But at Say Yes Buffalo -the fact that I can honestly say the work that I do, I do not do it alone. Because so many of my colleagues carry that same desire and wish every day into work and it’s humbling. I feel like my personal values are aligned with my roles at Say Yes Buffalo and that makes “work” not feel like “work”. Being able to support students and connect them with individuals who also want to connect, being able to create relationships and support them is more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. I am so blessed.
7. What advice do you have for educators today?
The biggest thing I tell anyone who works with youth in any capacity is to be genuine. I tell my mentors and mentees I work with: “I don’t do Fake”, and I do not want to see it in this program. Just because you cannot relate to someone’s experience does not mean you cannot be supportive. I say that because in my own educational experience I was surrounded by people who could not relate but still tried. Their effort meant more to me than anything. Those efforts gave me hope in humanity. I also tell Mentees and Mentors- if you can relate to a situation then share your story. We often hide in our own progress and forget what got us to the point of success. The fact that we made it and that we do have a story to share, is what will inspire the next generation to go even further than us.
8. What is your theory on human potential?
Everyone has the capability to tap into their own potential just must do the work. There is a lot of self-reflection involved in that. You must be willing to grow as a person even when it hurts, and it is uncomfortable to move forward. There is so much that youth today face, so many obstacles and trauma even. But you must deal with those things to move forward. If you do not, they will creep up. Later and get in the way of you reaching your goals.
9. What is the single most important value/thing to keep in mind when working with students?
That if you want to create an environment, where kids can learn and grow, then you as a person have to wake up every day and try your best, to create a world that can reciprocate that to them. There are certain things that each generation has continued to repeat and if we do not continue to break cycles and make strides for our communities, we have no business putting expectations on our youth. In the end, when working with youth you must realize it all starts with you. You must value and appreciate the opportunity you have been given to make a life-lasting impression on a child life. Make It Count!
10. What is the most important thing a student taught you?
That I am enough. My work, my students have provided me with so much self-worth and fulfillment. That they have given me and my life so much more meaning. I could not imagine my life without them.
ICHIERY RIVERA, Educator
Interview 1 Featuring WILDA RAMOS
December 2020 Issue
INTRODUCTION: The reason I chose to do my work in education, as a child, I was caught between two languages. I knew I was smart but would spend the better part of my early life trying to figure out how to express that fact. Public school did not know what to do with me- indicating to my parents at one time that my difficulty in expressing myself and slow reading meant I was “behind”. Not a new problem though, a girl who speaks two languages but who sometimes, will not speak at all.
Both my paternal and maternal grandmothers were English as second language students, one speaking Sicilian at home and the other Spanish. Buffalo Public Schools educated my maternal grandmother, a bi-lingual first-generation Sicilian American, in the 1930s. She a Sicilian speaking child, I am sure knowing the great pause that comes about you – when your picking between two languages. Though we never talked about it. Dual language a theme in my heritage and academic interests. When I started my professional journey inside Buffalo Public Schools, I looked for people. People, who knew that kids like me, were smart and we were worth fighting for. Then I met Wilda Ramos. She was just what I was looking for and that’s why her story is our first LatinaHerstory. Wilda’s interview documents her distinct Latina educational leadership inside a system with a rich history of supporting bi-lingual, and multilingual children, in her voice.
Interview with Wilda Ramos
Wilda Ramos, Language Assessment Coordinator — Buffalo Public Schools
- What motivated you to become an educator?
I had good educators that inspired me to become an educator and believe that I was going to be successful in life, starting with my parents, who inspired me to get educated and to contribute to society. As an adult, when I moved to Buffalo, all my friends were educators. As I was working at the University at Buffalo as a Spanish-speaking clerk-typist, my supervisor at the time, Dr. Lillian Malavé asked me to help with the registration committee at the New York State Association for Bilingual Education (NYSABE) Conference (I have attended the NYSABE conference since then). At that conference, I was able to experience the educational environment and what educators do to become better teachers and leaders. Participants worked together to discuss new practices, policies, and different strategies to teach English language learners how to maintain and value their first language and also learn English. This motivated me to become an educator.
2. What was your experience like as a student?
Education was a priority with my household growing up. We were nine siblings and eight of us achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher education. I moved to Buffalo, NY when I was 21 years old from Puerto Rico, I already had a 9-month old baby. I had completed an Associate Degree in Secretarial Sciences from the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico but did not speak or understand English at an academic/professional level, for that reason, I couldn’t work outside the house. I was not able to communicate with people that spoke only English, for that reason, I decided to go back to college. I attended Erie Community College for the purpose of learning English but decided to continue my studies at the University at Buffalo shortly thereafter. I finished my Bachelor’s Degree in Arts. After that, I received a scholarship based on academic achievement that covered my tuition, fees, and books, which included a monthly stipend of $400 to finish my Masters in Elementary Education with a minor in Bilingual Education. I was able to experience learning English as Second-Language and went through the same experiences that students go through when they enter US schools without the English language base (supposedly) in mainstream US households.
3. Did you like school/learning?
I loved going to school and learning new things. I also enjoyed the social part of being in school.
4. How did your educational experience form your own educational leadership?
I was fortunate to have great leaders in my life starting with my mother and my father. My parents were my first educators. They taught me responsibility, and love for learning, and perseverance. The experience as a graduate student at the University at Buffalo, and leaders like Dr. Lillian Malavé and other leaders from the New York State Association for Bilingual Education paved my way to be an educational leader. I have been a member of NYSABE since 1989 and was elected to the Delegate Assembly and the Executive Board. In 2007-2008, I became the New York State President of the organization. All these experiences have helped me develop educational leadership.
5. When did you enter public education, what was the year, what was the role?
I attended public education all my life from Kindergarten to grade 12. I was a clerk typist from 1989 to 1995 -first at the University at Buffalo for a year. After that, I worked as a clerk-typist with the Buffalo Public Schools. In 1996, I started working as a teacher. I worked as a support teacher for 11 years and worked as a Language Assessment Coordinator during Summers since 2004 and full-time from 2015 until now.
6. What was your last role?
Language Assessment Coordinator
7. What was your favorite/most informative role?
Each one of my roles has impacted my life. My favorite was being a teacher because of the impact you can have on students. My most informative role is the one I’m doing now as a Language Assessment Coordinator. I’m able to assess students to help determine the best educational programs for them. Also, I give orientations to parents about the different programs the Buffalo Public Schools offer and provide information pertaining to their rights as parents so they can make informed educational decisions for the child.
8. What advice do you have to educators facing the challenges they have today?
Do not give up! We are living very difficult times and it is very challenging to teach/learn remotely, but you still have a lot of influence on your students and they will appreciate your efforts later on in life.
9. What is your theory on human potential?
My theory on human potential is that each child has potential and it is our job as teachers to help that potential flourish.
10. What is the single most important value/thing to keep in mind while working for children?
Teachers can make or break students. We can make them believe that they can succeed or we can break them by telling them that they have no potential or cannot succeed in life. Make a positive impact in your student’s life. Have empathy and love your students; children can tell if you are sincere. Show the love you have for your students and your profession.
Wilda Ramos is a resident of Buffalo, NY. This is her 30th year with the Buffalo Public Schools. She has three adult children – ages 34, 32, and 21 who are all bilingual, bi-literate, and bi-cultural. She may be reached at email@example.com and/or at 716-422-0097.
TALIA’S VIDEO CORNER: Wilda Ramos’ interview documents her distinct Latina educational leadership, inside a system with a rich history of supporting bi-lingual, and multilingual children, in her own voice.
Watch Interview with Wilda Ramos: December 2020
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Great job! So informative and insightful.
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