Every year since 2012, CTLatinoNews.com has identified a group of Latinos whose volunteerism and advocacy work for the betterment of state’s Hispanics is exemplary and should be highlighted. They are indeed ‘Champions of Change’.
This year our ‘Champions’ include an education advocate, a tireless volunteer for veterans, an advocate for the rights of the undocumented and a young New Haven man who is determined to use the arts to provide all with a broader spectrum of what is a Latino. We congratulate them all and also thank the thousands of other Latinos across the state who everyday give of themselves to improve the lives of all of the state’s residents.
We are happy to announce our ‘Champions of Change’ for 2016 are: Juan L. Cruz, Millie Arceniegas, Juan Carlos Soto and Carolina Bortelloto. A heartfelt thank you to all!
Juan L. Cruz
Juan, who retired this past year after 22 years of government and military service, has dedicated countless volunteer hours in assisting and increasing the profile of Latino veterans. He is the current president of the Hispanic-American Veterans of Connecticut Inc. also known as HAVOCT INC and was one of the founders of the organization which was created ten years ago.
Juan has been instrumental in assisting veterans in need and providing guidance and material in order to improve the life of the service members and their family. Juan is currently working in two major areas – Veterans Peer Support Group and the Art Therapy Program for veterans with the University of Saint Joseph and serves on the program committee. Juan has also volunteered as part of the funeral assignments for countless veterans across Connecticut.
Juan has received multiple commendations and awards as a result of his volunteerism on behalf of veterans and CTLatinoNews.com takes pride in naming him one of the ‘Champions Of Change” for the Latino community of CT for 2016.
Milly Arciniegas serves as the Executive Director of the Hartford Parent University. After serving in the United States Navy for four years, she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Information Science / Business Administration and she served as Vice President of Technology for a private financial business for over ten years. But it was during those 10 years that Millie also worked on a volunteered basis with parents, teachers, administrators, district staff and the superintendents to increase parent engagement throughout Hartford Public Schools, which led to the now Hartford’s Parent University.
She served President of the Hartford Parent Organization Council (a coalition of 45 PTO’s throughout Hartford Public Schools) where she and other active parents provided training/technical assistance to PTO parent leaders and parents throughout Hartford Public Schools and advocated for all children to receive a quality education regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds or where they lived.
Working with a dedicated team of Hartford parents and other education advocates beside her, they secured resources and funding to be able to expand their work with Hartford parents, community organizations, school leaders and educators to develop the Hartford Parent University, a model that is grounded in research and provides culturally relevant courses to parents.
We thank Milly for her commitment to the advancement of Hartford’s children through education. Adelante!
Carolina may be one of the most recognizable activists for undocumented students in Connecticut. She is a founder of CT Students for a Dream, a youth-led statewide network dedicated to fighting for the rights of undocumented youth and families. They have fought successfully for in-state tuition for undocumented students, and are now working on a ‘College Access Program’ to enable these students to go onto higher education.
She and the group are also currently offering community meetings to teach and advise the undocumented on how to protect themselves in light of the recent presidential election and the anti-immigrant rhetoric that preceded it.
A native of Brazil, Carolina and her work are a beacon to the many young undocumented students who just want an education. Thank you and congratulations!
Juan Carlos Soto
Born in Puerto Rico, Carlos moved to the United States as his family searched for better opportunities.
While he works as a Youth and Community Organizer at Junta for Progressive Action in New Haven, he also works tirelessly to utilize the arts to share a broader representation of Latinos.
He serves on the board of Puerto Ricans United, which sponsors several annual cultural events including the Fiestas Patronales on the New Haven green.
As a volunteer, Juan Carlos handles all the art direction for the festival. He does this because he says when people see Latino culture they fall love in it, they will see we are more than the limited and mostly negative portrayal of what is shared on TV.
He also wants to inspire Latino youth to see themselves in those “different shades of being a Latino” and provide them with different place to look to see who they are.
Juan Carlos, thank you for your leadership and creative approach.