Champions of Change – Five Young Latinos Already Making a Difference


As the end of 2012 approaches, and we in Connecticut have witnessed such sorrow these last few days, is looking ahead to 2013 as a year when we can all increase our efforts to work together to affect change in so many arenas. While this year ends on such a tragic note, we would like to focus on the good and inspiring deeds of so many in our state that have taken place daily this past year, impacting us all in a positive way.
To recognize these deeds within the Latino community, we launch a series this week called “Champions of Change” that highlights people and organizations that have worked tirelessly to affect change for Latinos and non-Latinos in Connecticut. They have accomplished change through various means, some through their professional work, others by generously volunteering their time, working for change through policy implementation or by using the legal system.
Our “Champions of Change” were selected by our editorial team and represent many sectors that include: health, business, politics, media, art and law. We present them to you in five categories – Top Five, Five Young Latinos Already Making a Difference, Five Non-Profit Organizations, Five Latinos in Media & Arts and the Most Visible Latino. Today we highlight Connecticut’s Top Five Young Latino “Champions of Change”: Victor Diaz, Maribel LaLuz, Stephania Jiminez, Christopher Rosario, and Keila Ocasio Torez.

Victor Diaz

Department of Motor Vehicles’ Deputy Commissioner Victor Diaz has worked for change his entire life. His mother instilled in him a caring for family and community, the importance of education, and the need to create a “seat at the table” to correct injustices.
Following exemplary military service, he earned a BS from the University of Connecticut and an MBA from the University of New Haven. Diaz has worked on political campaigns since the age of 8 – first carrying signs – and helped to deliver the Waterbury vote for Governor Malloy in 2010. He was appointed Waterbury’s first Latino Deputy City Clerk.
Through a personally financed local radio program, Diaz discovered the problems facing the region’s minority communities were identical, so he built bridges to unite them. A testimony to Diaz’s ability to serve multiple minority communities is best illustrated by the fact that he serves as the Connecticut Representative on the Dominican American National Roundtable and is also the first Latino to be elected president of a regional chapter (Greater Waterbury) of the NAACP—a feat heralded by the national press.
He is active in the CT Junior Republic and mentors local Waterbury youth. Diaz is committed to his “passion of helping people, especially the disadvantaged who need a voice.”
You can be sure Victor Diaz will be working as a “Champion of Change” to forward that passion wherever and whenever he sees the need.

Maribel LaLuz

The native Connecticut Latina has an impressive career pedigree and since arriving in Hartford this past year has begun to make her mark and serves as a wonderful role model for many young Latinos. An accomplished senior multicultural marketing and public relations executive, LaLuz is currently director of communications and new media for highly watched and sought after Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra. The mayor met her at a national political event and recruited LaLuz, a veteran of numerous high level political communications positions.
Before returning home, La Luz previously served as director of communications for the political campaign of Clyde Williams of New York and vice president of communications for the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Manager, New Business for Alloy Media + Marketing. This background has prepared her for her role in Segarra’s office as the official spokesperson for the mayor office, chief speech writer and message developer.
LaLuz lives in downtown Hartford and is passionate about Hartford and its future. A member of a politically active family ( her dad Jose LaLuz, Jr. is a long-time union activist, her mother Isabel is a member of the statewide Connecticut Democratic Hispanic Caucus and her uncle is newly elected State Rep. Edwin Vargas), LaLuz views the road to change through political activism. Welcome home Maribel and becoming a “Champion of Change”!

Stephania Jimenez

Stephania Jimenez has in her six months at NBC Connecticut come to make an impact as the state’s only Latina as a television news reporter. Fluent in Spanish and English, Stephania embraces her heritage with eloquence that celebrates her Hispanic roots and makes her a role model for young Latinos.
Stephania joined the NBC Connecticut team in June 2012 as a general assignment reporter. Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Stephania is excited to be back home reporting in the Northeast. Prior to joining the NBC Connecticut News Team, Stephania was the main anchor at KTSM, the NBC-affiliate in El Paso, Texas. Before that, she spent more than four years as a writer/producer at Fox News Radio in New York City. She is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists whose mission it is to increase the number of Latinos in newsrooms so they can take part as decisions are being made about media coverage.
In her short time here, Stephania has worked on important stories like the registration of absentee landlords in New Britain; the tragic death of a teen pedestrian in a hit-and-run accident in Middletown; the cause of the natural gas explosion in Springfield, Mass.; and the impact of Hurricane Sandy on people and businesses across Connecticut.
Stephania received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Textual Studies from Syracuse University. When she’s not reporting, Stephania enjoys exercising, reading, catching up on national politics, and cooking.
Thanks for being a “Champion of Change” through your broadcasting work Stephania.

Christopher Rosario

Christopher Rosario has been working tirelessly since April 2012 to make Bridgeport a nicer looking city but that’s just one small example of his determination to make the city a better place to live.
Christopher was born and is a lifelong resident of Bridgeport where he lives with his wife and three children. He attended Bridgeport public schools and is the currently the Director of Anti-Blight under the Office of Neighborhood Revitalization. As the director of the Anti-Blight department, Christopher has launched many new initiatives to help fight this problem in Bridgeport. He has kicked off a “Clean & Lien” program as well as the “Help Fight Blight” initiative. Under these programs the City of Bridgeport has seen a vast improvement in quality of life issues in the community.
In addition to being the Director of Blight, Christopher is a key member of Mayor Bill Finch’s staff in Bridgeport.  Christopher has handled many constituent services for the Mayor and attends his weekly Brown Bag Lunch Open Office meeting at city hall and has worked with state and federal officials on many key projects. As the city’s youngest department head at 33 years old, Christopher hopes to set a good example for all of the up-and-coming Latinos in Bridgeport.
Christopher is a member of The Hispanic Heritage Committee, which celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month in the City of Bridgeport by coordinating activities, events and workshops that promote the rich culture and traditions of Latin American countries. Christopher is also active with the Greater Bridgeport Latino Network (GBLN) and is well known for his work as a Community activist working on the East Side of Bridgeport.
Thanks to Christopher Rosario for being a “Champion of Change” for making Bridgeport a better place to live.

Keila Torres Ocasio

Keila Torres Ocasio has developed a strong reputation for her work as a columnist and reporter for The Connecticut Post in Bridgeport. Fluent  in Spanish and English, she consistently demonstrates a high level of journalism skills and is a rare example in Connecticut of a Latino journalist working on a mainstream newspaper as a columnist.
Keila has done some hard-hitting work in her time with the Post, whether it’s tackling the issue of the ease of acquiring guns in Bridgeport or tackling the rough-and-tumble world that is that city’s political scene. Yet, she is also able to eloquently offer insights into the struggles of the Bridgeport’s neediest residents and even the struggles of affording pre-school as she did in a column this past summer. She used that column to help parents understand why pre-school can cost as much as college.
Keila, who grew up in Bridgeport and is a native of Puerto Rico, has worked for The Connecticut Post since shortly after graduating from the University of Connecticut in 2007 with a degree in journalism and a minor in women’s studies. She is also the recipient of a Monarch Award from Hearst Connecticut Newspapers for exceptional work, which demonstrates she is not just an outstanding Latina journalist but an outstanding reporter in general, which is why she is one of our “Champions of Change.”