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Spanish American Committee celebrates 45 years of service
By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

Cleveland: The Spanish American Committee (SAC) celebrated forty-five years of service on Nov. 18, 2011. As the agency began its New Era, staff, board members, clients and supporters took time out to reflect and honor the contributions of many whose legacy is intertwined with success and challenges of the organization.

Efrain Colón, president of the Board of Directors, said it was the vision and hard work of people like: Moises Maldonado, Juan Rios, Herminio Carasquillo, Al Summers, José Berrios, Minerva Fuentes, Miguel Caraballo, Cesi Castro, George Torres, José Rodríguez, Aurea River, and Juanita Serrano, who formed the committee to voice the needs, concerns, and dreams of the community.

“We will continue to serve as a gateway to success with the support of those who trust us to serve with integrity,” said Ramonita Vargas, Executive Director, who has served with the agency for 27 years.

Established in 1966, SAC is the oldest and largest Latino human services organization in Ohio and serves more than 5,500 families annually with a $2.1 million budget.  SAC impacts economic and social development in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and the State of Ohio with five-cove program areas: family support, employment training and education, housing services, early childhood enrichment center, and consumer affairs.

These programs deal with basic life skills from job readiness, GED attainment, bilingual assistance and interpretation, fraud prevention, financial literacy, and domestic violence.

Keynote speaker Natividad Pagán, Executive Director of Multilingual Multicultural Education of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, is the first Latina appointed principal in the Cleveland Schools.  She credits SAC for making a huge difference in her life and planning the trajectory of success for many leaders in the community. “This is the agency that propelled all of us into a life of service, allowed us opportunities to spread our wings,” said Pagán.

SAC also provided a reflection of the community at large through its success and problems.  She said the founders embraced the idea and forged a big dream founded on the principle that they did not want the new generations to suffer the hardships and prejudices they had suffered.

Pagán described SAC as a harbor, a connector, where people came to express their concerns, learn and connect. She confessed despising the word ‘Committee’ in the agency’s name, but through continued reflection realized the essence of the word in Spanish translates to ‘A group of people coming together to resolve’.

She said the staff works miracles with the limited resources available—“There is a strong will to do the best; you are always on a mission.” This devotion to service has created numerous programs that have branched out as individual organizations, she said.

She urged SAC to continue service with the strong focus on the mission, and seek new ways to engage the community, create new initiatives, always be positive and, “continue to be careful stewards of grants.”

SAC honored staff, directors, and supporting agency. Among them was Fulgencia Ramos, who has worked with the Committee since before the charter was signed. “Every day Ms. Ramos comes in with a smile, and leaves with a smile,” said Vargas, and thanked her for her service and support through the years.

“I feel I have accomplished what I had set out to do- help people,” said Ramos. As a single mother she raised three children and helped them embark on successful careers. For her, the most satisfying part of the job is watching young people graduate high school, college. “They come back and tell me, ‘Thank you!’”

Her daughter, Yoli Pochatek, said her mother’s devotion was a constant source of inspiration for her and siblings. The two reminisce together and marvel at the changes that have occurred through the years.  “I learned the importance of listening from her; she said sometimes all a person needs is someone to listen.”

Bill Harkins, CEO of AMCLO Group Incorporated, was honored for supporting the education programs: “I support the agency for its commitment to helping people and I can see its effects in the two young men that work for me,” he said.

US Congressman Dennis Kucinich presented SAC leadership with a Proclamation on behalf of Congress, and thanked them for their continued service.

For more information on the Spanish American Committee please visit: http://www.spanishamerican.org/


Spanish American Committee staff celebrating 45 years

Yoli and Dennis Pochatek with Fulgencia Ramos and Romonita Vargas

Luis Gomez, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Romonita Vargas and Efrain Colon

Efrain Colón, President of the Board

Bill Harknis, CEO of AMCLO Group Incorporated

Romonita Vargas and Flor Gomez

Natividad Pagán, Executive Director of Multilingual Multicultural Education of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District

Natividad Pagán

Copyright © 1989 to 2011 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/22/11 13:09:34 -0800.





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