essex county commissioners celebrate hispanic heritage month

Essex County Commissioners Hispanic Heritage Month virtual ceremony. Honorees Dr. Jose Aviles and Martha Felix (on left), the Honorable Carlos Gonzalez and Miguel E. Rodriguez (on right). Commissioners Patricia Sebold, President Wayne L. Richardson, Robert Mercado (middle).

(Newark, NJ) – On Wednesday, September 29, 2021, the Essex County Board of County Commissioners held its 2021 Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration via Zoom teleconference. The ceremony, which returned after a 1-year hiatus due to COVID-19, is held yearly to celebrate the accomplishments of Hispanic men and women everywhere –  highlighting those who have made unique contributions to Essex County.

Commissioner President Wayne L. Richardson opened the program with greetings to the honorees and viewing audience. He expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to celebrate the county’s diversity, while acknowledging the significance of Hispanic heritage and culture. “Our honorees are a reflection of the outstanding people of Hispanic descent who have done great things in Essex County.” President Richardson stated. “We know that because of your contributions, we are all better as a community. Thank you for all that you do.”

District 1 Commissioner Robert Mercado also offered greetings to start the ceremony and stated, “As a Latino, I am certainly proud to celebrate today. The Latino community is defined by its rich culture, our history, our pride, music, food, and of course our diversity.” He continued, “Today, the Board honors four Latinos who have worked hard, are successful and have been a beacon in their community. We salute you.”

This year, the Board recognized four outstanding residents for their service to the community: The Honorable Carlos Gonzalez – Newark Councilman At-Large; Martha Felix of Bloomfield – Director of Therapeutic Recreation of Spring Hills Acute Care; Miguel E. Rodriguez of Newark – President of the Hispanic American Foundation of Essex County; and Dr. Jose Aviles – Principal of Barringer High School.

The Honorable Carlos Gonzalez has served on the Newark City Council for 15 years. Commissioner Patricia Sebold introduced Councilman Gonzalez and applauded his leadership on the Council, as well as his successful business endeavors including his time as an accounting auditor and the establishment of a successful law firm in Newark which has served the community since 1996.

Martha Felix was acknowledged by Commissioner Vice President Carlos M. Pomares. She is the Director of Therapeutic Recreation at Spring Hills Acute Care in Livingston, NJ. She has been working in the field of Therapeutic Recreation for over 25 years providing activities that help with patients’ psychological, social and physical wellbeing. She was a Committee Member for the Department of Health for 3 years, Chairwoman for the Beautification Committee – where she helped plan and implement many projects to enhance the beauty of Bloomfield, NJ, and served on the Democratic County Committee for over 12 years.

Miguel E. Rodriguez, introduced by Commissioner President Richardson, currently serves as President of the Hispanic-American Foundation of Essex County. He is in charge of economic development, community resources, multi-cultural marketing, executive management and diversity. He is also a founding member of some of the most successful community organizations within the Hispanic community of Newark including; FOCUS, La Casa de Don Pedro, CIMA International Awards, and the Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce of Essex County. He has been a resident of the City of Newark since 1960 and has earned the distinguished title of “Don Mike”, due to his dedication and commitment to the Hispanic Community and contributions to the community at large.

Dr. Jose Aviles, introduced by Commissioner Mercado, is the respected Principal of Barringer High School. Upon becoming Principal, he was determined to influence students to excel. During his tenure at Barringer, test scores, attendance and graduation rates have increased while suspensions and dropout rates decreased. In addition to serving students as an educator for over twenty years, he is a mentor for Big Brothers and Big Sisters and is constantly searching for new ways to touch the hearts of those he serves. “Seeing (my students) faces each day, I understand the enormity of my job.” Dr. Aviles stated. “We know the obstacles they face, but my goal is to let them know I love each and every one of them.”

Further highlights of the program included opening and closing prayers from Rev. Leslie A. Ramos, Sr. Pastor of La Hermosa Christian Church in Newark, and musical selections performed by Jasmine Ramos, Adam Cruz, and Gabriel De Los Santos.

Looking for more information on the Essex County Board of Commissioners? The Essex County Commissioners Mobile App is now available for download on the Apple and Google Play Stores.

For Additional Information – Contact:
Kyalo Mulumba, Public Information Officer
Essex County Board of County Commissioners
973-621-4452 (phone) 973-621-5695 (fax)
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Board of County Commissioners,
County of Essex
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Newark, New Jersey 07102