By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – Whether it’s providing a voice to the voiceless, arduously fighting for the silent minority, providing critical bridges to the community for those facing challenges navigating its intricacies, or simply lending a listening ear and open heart, Carol Mineo and Inaudy Gil have positively transformed the countless lives whose paths they have crossed, making their journeys one filled with greater ease, comfort, acceptance and love.
For all of those reasons and so many more, these two women were honored Saturday night at Latinos Unidos of the Hudson Valley’s 17th Annual Hispanic Heritage Cultural Celebration, held at Newburgh’s Powelton Club. An organization laser-focused on being “committed to quality of life issues affecting Latinos in the Hudson Valley,” Latinos Unidos strives to attain fairness, dignity and respect for all, while prioritizing cultural diversity through forging priceless community bridges. Some of their work includes: holding direly important adult English classes, links to the Newburgh Enlarged City School District (NECSD)- helping adults –parents of which 55 percent in the District are Spanish speaking,- navigate the sometimes daunting details of the educational system, and recently providing food security through pantry contributions to four different locales, all with the goal of building stronger communities.
Directly aligned with the priority of that critical mission was one of the night’s honorees, Mineo, who was one of two De Hoy Awardees. A tireless worker and advocate for Bilingual Education and English Language Programs for immigrant children in the Hudson Valley, Mineo worked over 30 years for the NECSD in a broad spectrum of roles, including; teacher and administrator, guided by an unwavering commitment to honor and build upon the cherished native language and culture students possess and bring to this country.
“So many people have been incredibly important to me toward helping the silent minority-the Hispanic students I have worked for over the years,” said a touched Mineo, who started off her remarks, specifically delineating the names of all those supporters she has been blessed to be surrounded with during her work tenure. “We must vote, not only locally but nationally; this is a very critical time when we can’t find bilingual and foreign language teachers, and the time will come when the funds won’t be there.” Reflecting further, the woman with advocacy for immigrants-students and their parents- at the epicenter of her heart, added, “So, please, please vote, so our children can continue to have the programs that are so important to having the things they need.”
Mineo shared the night’s celebration with another female, Gil, who is equally dedicated to pouring every ounce of her being into advocacy for groups less fortunate- able. Born in the Dominican-Republic, Gil has resided in the United States since 2003. After teaching English classes at SUNY Orange for 10 years, she immediately embarked upon a journey to develop mutual respect amongst all groups of people in the area. Spearheading such areas as; social justice, diversity and inclusion as well as gender issues, Gil now leads the Orange County Human Rights Commission, responsibilities that far transcend “work.”
“The work I do, I don’t do alone; it is very rewarding, and I have never done it for a paycheck; it’s always about the people I surround myself with- the ones who help me take care of my kids, home, and other things- allowing me to do what I do, and this award is for all of those involved,” said Gil, whose arduous efforts are aimed at wiping out racism, sexism, homophobia and gender inequality. “Let’s remember, while we are having a wonderful meal and time here tonight, there are thousands of moms, dads, and children who are living in fear, uncertain and not knowing if they will make it through the night; we are privileged and cannot forget that,” Reflecting further, Gil added, “So when we see the people we love tonight, hug them a little tighter, because not everyone will be able to get that.”
Also recognized was Ana Hilda Ramon (in Memoriam), Co-Founder of Latinos Unidos of the Hudson Valley, who passed away last month. Ramon, who was a retired, long-term bilingual school teacher, “spearheaded and lobbied” NECSD to create and implement their present bi-lingual program for Spanish speakers, one rooted in: equality, acceptance, collaboration and humanity. The honor was accepted by her son.
“My mother was always about getting the parents in the Latino community to get involved in their children’s education,” said the very proud- and very (pleasantly) surprised by the unexpected recognition- son, Peter Ramon. “When children don’t have attention, support and guidance, it’s really tough; my mother fought hard for them and was a really tough cookie; everything she did in her work was about caring for the kids.”