The 'Champions Of Change' Of 2015


Throughout the year, reports on numerous topics that includes politics, health, business, education and human interest stories related to the state’s nearly 500,000 Latino residents.  They serve as our source for our annual ‘Champions Of Change’ list, as well as other folks we hear about through our social media sites and in our communities.
It is always difficult to narrow down the list, as there are so many Latinos and non-Latinos working to make a real difference in improving the lives of all of the state’s Hispanic residents. Honorable mentions  must go to all our elected officials serving on  government councils and boards across the state, those serving on appointed and non-profit boards and of course those who as individuals  make a difference and are agents of change in their own quiet way.
With that, we are pleased to report’s 2015 ‘Champions of Change’.  They are Frank Medina, Dr. Jose B. Gonzalez, Alma Maya, Aurora Figueroa and two dynamic sisters, Camila and Carolina Bortoletto.   Congratulations and a sincere Gracias! for your selfless and tireless efforts  in working for the advancement of all Latinos.

Frank Medina

He grew up in Bridgeport, so we Latinos in Connecticut can claim him.  Born in Puerto Rico, Frank Medina is a retired U.S. Army captain and West Point graduate who led the nationwide grassroots effort to ensure that the soldiers of the segregated 65th infantry regiment, who nicknamed themselves the  ‘Borinqueneers’ in the face of discrimination because of their background, would not be forgotten in history.  
Media with the members of the 65th who could attend the White House ceremony awarding the ‘Borinqueneers’ the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.
He and the efforts of thousands of other advocates who joined in the campaign led to the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor awarded to the ‘Borinqueneers’ in 2014.   Medina, who now lives in Orlando, Florida  has not stopped there however, continuing to volunteer his time to further memorialize the dedicated soldiers of the 65th.  This year he has been helping design the Gold Medal itself,  as well as pursuing a book and movie to continue to tell the story of the heroism of these soldiers.
Frank Medina, thank you for your efforts to continue to bring  to broader audiences an important chapter in Puerto Rican history that had to be told.

Camila and Carolina Botoletto

The two Botoletto sisters have been a force in working for the educational rights of undocumented students. Photo credit:
After graduating from college, Camila and Carolina Bortoletto co-founded CT Students for a DREAM to help other undocumented students. Working with similar groups nationwide, they were successful in having President Obama grant deferred action to children brought to this country at an early age and in Connecticut they helped lead the fight to win in-state tuition for undocumented students in the state.
This year, CT Students 4 a DREAM offered its first scholarship to undocumented students.  All the while, Carolina faced serious health issues and was hospitalized for some time and Camila kept working for both of them.
The rights of undocumented students is an issue close to their hearts, as when they graduated form college they found they could not get jobs because of their status.  Both pledge to keep working to equal the playing field for all students who work hard and want to get ahead.
Congratulations to both and wishing you many years of success.

Alma Maya

Alma Maya
Those who have known Alma Maya for years, know she is her own person.   She has spent decades working for justice on countless  issues and has been an advocate for the betterment of the Latino community, not only in Bridgeport, but also around  the state.
In the political arena especially, she has indeed demonstrated her independent thinking, as opposed to what is best politically.  In the past she supported the independent candidacy of then Senator Lowell Weicker and, most recently, she chose to run – not on the slate with Bridgeport’s  incumbent mayor – but rather with now Mayor Joe Ganim.   She lost the Democratic party’s endorsement to retain her position as Town Clerk and went on to lose in the general election, so why did we select her, you might wonder, as one of this year’s ‘Champions of Change’?
Alma represents the type of leadership so many long for in the political arena.  Many might argue that doing what is politically expedient keeps you in the game, but may not always be what’s best for the constituents.  It’s important to have the Alma’s  (her name means soul) of the world in the political mix in order to have diverse voices.
This is a well deserved recognition of your values and we are betting you are not done yet!

Dr. Jose B. Gonzalez

Since 2005, Dr. Jose B. Gonzalez has been assembling  a national ‘Top Ten Latino authors to Watch” (and read) list.  The first of its kind in the nation, each year it features fiction, autobiographies, biographies and poetry.
Gonzalez is a professor of literature at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, and started the list  to help promote Latino authors and literature.  The time-consuming process is a labor of love for Gonzalez, a native of El Salvador.
He is another bright example of Latino perseverance and dedication to promoting the Latino community’s achievements.   Gonzalez grew up in housing projects, did not speak English, went onto become a noted poet and a professor with a Ph.D. in English.
Thank you for using your skills to help advance the country’s Latino community.

Aurora Figueroa

Aurora Figueroa in front of her New Britain home.
Aurora Figueroa may not be a name many Latinos in the state may know, but if you are one of the many touched by her kindness, you will cheer that she has been added to this list of notable Latinos in our state.   She goes about her independent volunteerism quietly, serving as a one-woman grassroots community social worker.
The New Britain resident spends her days visiting the Latino elderly, the ill and those who need a friend.   She brings food, supplies they might need,  information on social services, and fundraises for someone needing financial help caused by a disease or for funeral expenses.  She is glad to come every evening after someone’s death for the ‘rosarios’.  And of course she is also happy to offer freely her good ole’ Puerto Rican wise advice.
Many communities have an ‘Aurora’  who never seem to fail to be available  just when they are needed.  Aurora, like so many of them  are an important part of the fabric of the state’s Latino community and are wonderful ‘Champions of Change”.   Felicidades  y gracias Aurora.