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Scholarships, networking with lawmakers make for memorable conference
ALBANY—Five Hudson Valley students were awarded $3,650 in scholarships at the annual Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute conference in Albany March 10-12.
The scholarship winners were among the 48-student delegation sent by the Hudson Valley RBE-RN (Regional Bilingual Education Resource Network). Activities at the prestigious conference, in its 28th year, included debating bills, interacting with Latino/a leaders, and meeting members of the state Assembly.
PR/HYLI, as it’s known, seeks to develop leadership skills in Latino/Hispanic Youth, create opportunities for them to interact with positive role models, create meaningful partnerships for them and help them develop knowledge of the legislative process.
Participating students debated upcoming bills relevant to themselves and their communities in a mock assembly. Topics included police brutality, equal pay, sanctuary states, and funding scholarships for children of immigrants. They debated from the Assembly floor, sitting at legislators’ desks and assuming their roles.
Besides its work with PR/HYLI, the Hudson Valley RBE-RN, in partnership with Southern Westchester BOCES, provides support and technical assistance to educators of English Language Learners in 144 public school districts and other institutions who serve them.
The Hudson Valley delegation, the second-largest statewide, after New York City’s, was larger by 4 students than the 2017 delegation. The three-day conference drew more than 200 students statewide.
This year, students also interacted with Taína Asili. Taina is a Puerto Rican activist, singer, songwriter and bandleader combining powerful vocals with an energetic fusion of Afro-Latin, reggae and rock. Through Taina’s and other facilitator guidance, students created songs, visuals, interpretive dance, and performances to express their culture and spirit.
One participant called it an experience she won’t soon forget.
"My experience at this year’s PRHYLI was nothing less than life-changing,” said Madeline Thezan, junior at Spackenkill High School. “It gave me the opportunity to be independent while finding my voice through the arts and education. I recommend this program to anyone who is willing and is passionate to learn how to truly make positive change in this beautiful world we live in."
Students were selected in a rigorous application process and a series of training sessions kindly hosted by Rockland Community College. The sessions, led by Delegation Leaders Gregory Bailey and José Meléndez, Ph.D, helped to enhance students’ leadership, advocacy, public speaking and essay-writing skills.
The training session on essay writing consisted of students writing scholarship application essays. Topics included the power of artistic expression and ways it can be used to advance personal, social, and political concerns and aspirations of members of the Hispanic/Latino community. Thirty-eight students were awarded scholarships by the Hispanic Caucus of the New York State Assembly. Hudson Valley winners included East Ramapo’s Hannah Mesones, Newburgh’s Genesis Gonzalez Miranda, Kaylee Hernandez, and Yamileth Ruiz, and North Rockland’s Irving Sanchez.
The 2018 Hudson Valley PR/HYLI Albany Delegation districts and members:
● Arlington: Christian Arnfield (Majority Leader Specialty Role), Megan Morales
● Bedford: Tiffany Batista-Concepcion, Ricardo Quispe Gutierrez
● Brewster: Nubia Curipoma, Belkis Guzman, Yassmin Peralta
● Carmel: Bethany Rolón
● East Ramapo: Hannah Mesones, Keilany Soriano
● Ellenville: Vanelys Malavé, Andrew Valencia
● Goshen: Vanessa Keeley, Nathali Palma, Hannah Peña
● Highland: Vera Ruiz, Daniel Vega (Closing Remarks Specialty Role)
● New Paltz: Carlos Rodriguez Murcia
● New Rochelle: Carlos Cabera, Guadalupe Ceja, Cecilia Perez, Juan Tobon
● Newburgh CSD: Genesis Gonzalez Miranda, Kaylee Hernández, Yamileth Ruiz, Anita Sanchez Garcia
● Newburgh Prep: Amy Benitez, Vanessa Canseco, Timothy Soto
● North Rockland: Diana Blanco, Charity Dikson, Nicole Roman (Assistant Speaker Speciality Role), Irving Sanchez
● Ossining: Kevin Arpi, Laisha Brito, Arturo Chuni, Jason Cumbe, Paula Espinoza, Romina Gamarra, Lesly Martinez (Outstanding Delegate), Jessica Palacio, Jonathan Urgiles, Keven Victoria, Jorge Zhiminaicela
● Spackenkill: Madeleine Thezan
● Yonkers: Melany Canizares, Emily Dunk, Deisy Daniela Portilla Villamarin,
The HV RBE-RN extends thanks to Dennis Callinan and his staff at Rockland Community College. The success of the training session series was made possible by his coordination and hospitality.
Special thanks goes to the chaperones Gregory Bailey, Kathleen Lowell, José Meléndez of the HV RBE-RN; Nalda Chery of Bedford; Katharine Gonzalez of Goshen; Mario Coronado of Port Chester; and Sandy Thezan of Spackenkill.
The Angelo Del Toro Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute is a collaboration with the state Assembly/Senate Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force in conjunction with the annual SOMOS El Futuro conference, Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages, the New York State City Board of Education, and other agencies, as appropriate.
Its goals, beyond student empowerment, include:
● The development of leadership skills in Latino/Hispanic Youth;
● The creation of opportunities for Latino/Hispanic students to interact with positive role models such as Puerto Rican/Latino elected officials, educators, and business leaders;
● The creation of partnerships and conversations among educators, business leaders and students, and
● The development of an in-depth knowledge of the state legislative process.
The Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute consists of 3 main phases: legislative and advocacy training; participation in the three-day institute; and extension and refinement of leadership skills in students’ home communities.
Learn more at http://www.prhyli.org/.