By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – A mix of potent emotions permeated inside the Newburgh Ramada Inn last Thursday evening as thirteen special, talented area youth were presented with scholarship honors.
Sheer happiness and pride radiated on the faces of the honorees and their families as their academic and community accomplishments were detailed at the 22nd Annual Hudson Valley Latino Scholarship Awards. Simultaneously, the image of the man, Edwin Ramirez Sr., who along with his wife Norma, created the unique Latino Scholarship Fund in 1999 that has so far recognized 164 recipients, was projected on a large screen in the front of the room. Ramirez Sr. shockingly lost his life earlier this year in an automobile accident. Possessing an uncanny ability to organize, interact with others and persevere, he left a legacy of not only the Scholarship Fund, but several local Latin Festivals as well as other community events, guided by his unwavering passion to empower the Latino community. And so, he, along with the 13 scholarship winners, was honored, including a special Congressional Proclamation (read by Joe Torres) from the office of Sean Patrick Maloney, during this very first Award Ceremony without his presence. His wife and son Eddie Jr. are committed to keeping the integral, Annual Scholarship event alive.
“One of my father’s biggest achievements was starting this scholarship fund, and I’m not going to allow it to stop happening,” said an emotional Ramirez Jr. “I will continue to uphold my father’s strong values as I do this as well as being a father and police officer.”
Those values of placing a priority on education, family and community service that Eddie Ramirez stood for is apparent in each of this year’s Scholarship winners. Whether it’s in the classroom, on the playing field, at a musical venue, or engaged in community service, the recipients display revered qualities of leadership as well as a powerful pride in their Latin roots. Each was presented with a Certificate of Achievement, monetary award as well as bouquet of flowers.
“Receiving this award made me feel very proud of my ethnicity, like I can make a real impact in my community,” said Richard Jaden Caballero a senior at Newburgh Free Academy with plans to attend Mercy College on a full academic-athletic scholarship in the fall with a major in Accounting.
Another 2021 Scholarship winner, Lara Vasquez, spoke of the challenges she faced as a Latina and how she fought to overcome them.
“I’ve always been a hard worker, who sets goals higher and higher,” said the Roy C. Ketcham senior, who will be in the Marist College Honors Program, majoring in Chemistry and Pre-Med in the fall. “This Scholarship means a great deal to me because it recognizes Latinos, who are too often overlooked in the community.” She added, “It also resonates with my own life experiences because before I entered high school, I was not allowed to take honors for some reason; however, I advocated for myself to do so, and have now taken 10 AP Courses in high school.”
The night’s guest speaker, Ann Marie Martinez, offered words of congratulations, laden with pride, as she elaborated upon her own journey as a Latina and the many challenges she faced and conquered.
“Education is your absolute ticket; it’s your pathway, and your ethnicity is your strength,” affirmed Martinez. “Listen to the advice and wisdom of your parents and elders, and always know the importance of embracing your family, culture and identity.”
As the night’s celebration concluded, Norma Ramirez, “typically the shy one,” offered some of the closing remarks, carrying on the tradition of her late husband. In addition to thanking the multiple, loyal sponsors: Hudson Valley Credit Union, Mr. and Mrs. Lorca from Hornitos Bakery, Mr. Gregorio Quinn, Karen Kaplan Tax and Accounting Services as well as the many others who donated in her husband’s memory, she also provided some advice to the evening’s winners.
“Pay it forward, and continue to do good for others,” Norma urged the 13 young people. “No matter what, put the blinders on, and stick to your goals in life.”
In addition to Caballero and Vasquez, other recipients and their high schools included; Isabella Blauvelt-Mercado (Washingtonville), Emily Brochu (Arlington), Marcela Dominguez (Roy C. Ketcham), Christian M. Flores (Middletown), Serina Garmendiz (Pine Bush), Olivia Hansen (Cornwall), Blaise Ylianna Hewlett (Washingtonville), Daisy C. Matus (Webutuck), Brianna Paola Sanchez (Goshen), Danielle Raymundo Santiago (Poughkeepsie), and Valentina Vargas (Roy C. Ketcham).