NEWBURGH - Congressman Patrick Maloney was fresh off of spending time with President Obama at the 9/11 Memorial Museum Dedication. The emotion and intensity of those days were still with him when he stepped to the podium at Newburgh’s Ramada Inn Friday night.
He spoke of the selfless, inspiring acts of so many, and the good of humanity that trumped the evil during that time. And so, it could not have been more appropriate for him to be on hand when Verenice Castellanos, one of the eight recipients of this years’ Latino Scholarship Program, was awarded her certificate. Bearing the insignia, "in the name of Ricardo Quinn," as well as the image of the 9-11 fallen EMT worker, the award saluted the dauntless efforts of the "fallen hero." The First Annual Richard Quinn Scholarship is yet another testimony to the breadth of a program whose impact continues to grow.
Eight Hudson Valley Latino high school students were bestowed scholarships for their impressive feats, both inside and outside of the classroom. For the 15th year R & M Promotions has been awarding monies to deserving youth; this year marked a milestone: surpassing the 100 recipient mark. Eddie Ramirez, along with his wife Norma, have been spearheading efforts to recognize the achievements and leadership of Latino youth, throughout that 15 year tenure.
"This is a banner year," Ramirez smiled. "We need each of you as a Latino/Latina; you are special, and we need you to continue higher education, and you should be proud doing so, as you are our future leaders."
Once again, the pool of candidates was overflowing. The 42 applicants, Ramirez noted, had to be whittled down to eight. In addition to Castellanos, another recipient was Raul Morales of Washingtonville High School. Headed to Binghamtom to major in accounting in the fall, Morales focused his Scholarship Essay on his afterschool work with special education students.
"This award speaks volumes because it recognizes the culture which is very important to me, where I come from and what I’m very proud of," said Morales, Vice President of his schools’ National Honor Society. "My work with the special education program, Best Buddies, helped them both mentally and physically, and it really gave me an appreciation for health."
Health is also a pivotal concern to Sergio Nazaire of New Paltz High School. Set to major in Biomedical Engineering at Yale, he aspires to becoming a doctor. "Hispanics are very underrepresented in things having to do with higher education," said the two-sport Varsity athlete Nazaire. "Since this scholarship aims at increasing the number of Latinos in fields requiring higher education, it feels good knowing they want me to be a part of the change."
It’s that hope for change that dominated the words of Guest speaker, Greg Orio, whose brother, Ricardo Quinn, lost his life while attempting to save other ones.’ Seeking out the faces of the group of eight amongst the crowd, Orio urged them to carry on some of the same altruistic traits embedded in his brother’s legacy.
"You are all blossoming now; your job is also to help someone else blossom," affirmed Orio. "Even if it’s just a word of encouragement, offer that one rung up that is so often needed, and it will make a difference."
It was evident, Castellanos, holding her certificate and proudly viewing the image of Quinn, was infused with that pioneer spirit as well as responsibility.
"Getting this award motivates me even more to pursue my career in nursing. said Castellanos. "I want to become a leader and help other students in health care, especially since Ricardo was a part of that special field."
Other recipients for the 2014 Latino High School Scholarship Program included; Maya Ramos (Warwick High School), Brittany Perez (Wallkill High School), Nicole Duran (Pine Bush High School), William Puswald (Beacon High School) and Robert Simmons (Arlington High School).