Those Left Behind, By: Fabian Luciano

Justo Méndez Aramburu is a great man roughly shaped by the hardships throughout his life but always making the best of it. For he is a man that doesn’t believe in coincidences and everything happens for a reason, such as the loss of his best childhood friend “Estrellita” which has great significance on the work he does today. Justo has dedicated his life to service of those in need such as the homeless, drug addicts and dropouts, even though he would never refer to them as such. Justo doesn’t use the term dropout, he finds it demeaning “It is not their fault, they have been rejected by the educational system and deem them insufficient, and they just don’t adjust to the standard educational system”. That’s where “Nuestra Escuela” comes in, a school for those who have been left behind by the educational system, for several years he has been working in this project which now has three campuses in Caguas, Loíza, and Vieques. He is the director of the schools and his wife Ana Yris Guzman is the sub-director. Together they have been making Puerto Rico a better place one child at a time.

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This is Justo with Ana Yris in a conference in Germany.

  • Justo what makes “Nuestra Escuela” so especial and how does it work?

     Well unlike the normal educational program our teachers and courses work individually and varying in each student. The groups are small no more than 12 students per classroom and the periods are short. The student doesn’t go at the pace of the class; the class goes at the pace of the student. “Nuestra Escuela” has become a place shaped by students for students. I just provide the necessary tools for then to complete their goals.

 

     Just until about a decade ago “Nuestra Escuela” was not only for teens, but also for adults that never got to finish high school. Later on Justo narrowed his goal towards the rising youth of Puerto Rico with the ideal to make them into leaders.

  • What other services does “Nuestra Escuela” offer?

     The source of the problem isn’t only the schools that turn their backs and give up hope or just stop caring whether the student is learning or even attending school. Part of the problem lies in their homes or outside the school. Many of the students come from harsh, violent backgrounds and find difficult to stay in school due to the lack of interest or have found other means to live by. We offer workshops to mend the soul and begin a process of spiritual healing by forgiving and confronting that feeling that has caused them pain. Freeing them from those chains that bind them from moving forward.

 

  • How did you meet Ana Yris?

     I met Ana Yris in a workshop I was taking in the Dominican Republic. I saw her for the first time across the room and when the time came to find partners I rushed toward her. The first night I fell in love with her. The second night I proposed marriage to her and she accepted and the next day she came back to Puerto Rico with me. We got married on December 15 of 1994.

 

  • Tell me about Ana Mercedes? Ana Mercedes was my daughter she died in a car accident in September 10 of 1997. She wanted to go out with her friends even though I told her not to because I had a bad feeling but, eventually I coped and let her go. She was the only one that got severely injured, she stayed like that for a while the doctor’s asked my consent for the option to donate her organs, but I declined. Ana Mercedes just like Ana Yris was involved in the projects and workshops. So when she left I lost the will to keep giving them. Until one day the very friends that had been with her that night reminded me of Ana Mercedes and convinced me to once again to continue to give workshops. To honor her death we hold “Nuestra Escuela’s” graduation on September 10, every year.

 

  • What are you goals for the future?

     Right now we are currently representing “Nuestra Escuela” at an international level in the International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC). It has become very important in the school since not only me and staff members are involved but the students as well. Many of our students have gone to the conference to represent us and have as far as England, Canada and even Ireland. We even got the Conference to be held here in Puerto Rico in the town of Caguas. The goal is that through this conference to keep learning methods so we can impact student’s lives.

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Some of the student’s of “Nuestra Escuela” in a conference in Argentina.

     Justo to will keep impacting peoples lies through education and compassion and raise another generation to carry on this way of living to help others and making Puerto Rico a better place.

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You can overcome the obstacles through hard work

 11-17-12

Carlos Torres

Sec.066

     Walk in from the back door that leads to the kitchen and feel the heat feel the rush and most important feel the pressure. Pots are flying chefs are yelling there is complete chaos. It has mixed aromas and the extractor making loud noises. In the mist of all this chaos you take a     glance at the chefs and notice one with patience and passion.

     When the busgirl walks into the kitchen,

     He says “are you ok, you need some help?” with a smile.

     The busgirl, “I need help carrying this heavy tray”

    “Of course I’d love to help.” He says. He is the type of person you that you ask for a favor and even if he is busy he will take a moment to help.

     The man I am talking about is Luis Feliciano, kitchen manager at Ocean Front restaurant. He is skinny, 5feet 6inches tall, has an athletic type body and looks about 32 instead of his real age 42and his short hair somewhat grey and most important, kind of yellow from smoking but nevertheless touching smile.

     Feliciano started off as a janitor with no high school diploma or cooking experience. As the time passed by he became the handyman of the restaurant. He gained the experience necessary to cook fulltime by observing and asking other chefs that have been through the kitchen. After years of practice and gained experience he now cooks with great passion and dedication. The transition from handyman to chef was, “I remember the day like it was yesterday”, one day the head chef quit and since then he had been helping out in the kitchen for a while he was given the opportunity to be the sous chef. Now he enjoys his job very much and is always dedicated to accomplish what he wants. 

       Even though he looks happy all the time he has had a bad experience growing up, “I grew up in a broken home where I saw my father beat my mother very often”, Feliciano said. The obstacles that he faced while he was growing up were difficult yet he still greets and smiles at everyone with kindness. When kicked out of his home he applied and got a job in Ocean Front.

       He has three kids, two girls and a boy with three different women. “I wanted to be an example for my kids… anything is possible “he said. He regrets not having the family with at least one of the mothers of his children. The woman that he loved abused him; he once locked himself in the bathroom because my wife wanted to stab him, when “I called the cops they laughed.” Even though all this happened he still keeps in touch and helps her around the house.

       His coworker, sous chef Bracero who has worked with him for over two years, stated “Anyone else put in his exact situation would give up but he persevered and did it with a smile”

Feliciano is always helping others inside and outside of work. Cristina Salas, busgirl said “I have seen him mentor the student-chefs who come here and he has had a big impact on their lives”.

       He treats people so good that often young adults who have no one refer to him as their father. Luis Morreno, waiter said, “He is the father figure I never had” they spend a lot of their days off fixing cars and selling them. Moreno was making bad decisions and had no direction in his life, “I thank him for fixing my future’, but Feliciano like always is dedicated to help others.

Feliciano genuinely cares for helping others, “I would have loved for someone to help me… that’s why I enjoy helping” he emphasizes that helping with a smile does a lot more than just helping. You can tell the difference that his smile makes in the restaurant.

Feliciano veryfing the orders with a smile

 

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Not an Ordinary Hero by Alberic Rentas Muller

December 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm12 (Personality Feature Stories)

One Sunday morning, Brian wakes up in a life full of choices and opportunities to succeed in life, be a professional and be a prominent man with little to care for until his high school graduation, but that suddenly changes as he confronts the biggest challenge of his life. In life you have to give to receive or as many of you say “give water to an early seed to see her fruits in the early spring”. And in this special case no phrase suits better a life of a man.

Brian Jonathan Martinez Rodriguez was born on New York in Queens on the fall of 1992; he’s over 6 feet tall and weighs about 200 pounds. He quickly moved to Puerto Rico with his mother, Rosa Rodriguez, suddenly after his parent’s divorce. As a child he grew up in Guanica P.R. in a “barrio” called Mari Antonia. He was always a happy kid growing up very social and friendly with everyone, setting an example for the other kids in the school at a young age. That sector of Guanica is known for the bad reputation of the town’s drugs sectors and deaths scenes, all the bad news of the town always comes from that sector in a way that they gain respect from the outsiders of the town. But because of his self-sufficiency he was always looking forward of meeting new friends and quickly became friends with the locals of the atrocious neighborhood.

One Monday afternoon I was with Brian at his house when suddenly he invited some friends of his over and he started offering me some drugs, I looked at him and said

“Are you crazy? What’s a matter with you, are you insane or something man come on! I never imagine that you would turn on to be this way.”(Looking at Brian full of disappointment)

            He looked at me like and said, “Man you don’t look at me like that when you don’t know what I’m going throw every day! It’s like life is not fair to me man.”

            I saw him crying as if he was lost in a world with no escape, “Brian you know me your whole life man, you know you can trust me.” I said, after that he explained to me that he was going to be a father without even graduating from high school and that his mother threw him out of the house for family reasons. Soon after that he dropped out of school and he lost himself completely.

            I, as his best friend, kept in touch with him for a while and life turned around for him upside down like some angel was guiding him all the way. Some of us like to think that we have a purpose in life, and Brian’s life is a true example. 

            On January 4 in the old San Juan was held an electronic fest concert of the drum and base music icon “Skrillex”, it was a one in a lifetime experience. Two weeks before the concert I received an unknown phone call with a strange zip code destination, I answer it and it was Brian. I was so surprised and after some extended hours we did some catch up of our lives, we talked and before we hang up the phones he invited me to that one in a life time experience, the “Skrillex” concert.  

            When we arrived at the Third Millennium Park in San Juan we quickly took of where we were at a time 2 years ago “Wao!, Man you look so different. Is good to see you man, like old times. So how life’s treating you my friend?” I said to him. “Well you never know that just being honest to yourself and to the people you care about was just what I needed to put myself back to the way I was ” he said, “And having a little angel with you makes it a lot easier” he said smiling referring to his daughter  Danielle.

            “Danielle is the best thing that could ever happen to me” he said with the happiest expression in his face. Danielle is about 2 years old; she wakes up and wants her father to sing to her all the mornings after work. “She’s my little princess; she’s the only one who could make me laugh in a tough day” he said looking at her with that unique one of a kind father look.

            Thanks to some life experiences we change for the good or bad of our life’s, they can make you tougher, stronger and wiser, and in special cases heroes. Brian is currently working in New York as a billboards design engineer; he quit his addiction of life threatening habits a long time ago and stud up for his family and his own child Danielle. At a young age Brian was put to task to bring a life to the world, with little knowledge of them (newborns), and to provide her the necessary resources that a newborn demands, he persevered. He is at the happiest moment of his life and with no regrets he looks a few years back giving thanks to the day that he became a father the day that he became truly a man. Now he is providing Danielle with all of those resources and more but “It was never easy” he exclaimed smiling.    

 

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Not an Ordinary Hero by Alberic Rentas Müller

December 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm12 (Uncategorized)

              One Sunday morning, Brian wakes up in a life full of choices and opportunities to succeed in life, be a professional and be a prominent man with little to care for until his high school graduation, but that suddenly changes as he confronts the biggest challenge of his life. In life you have to give to receive or as many of you say “give water to an early seed to see her fruits in the early spring”. And in this special case no phrase suits better a life of a man.

         Brian Jonathan Martinez Rodriguez was born on New York in Queens on the fall of 1992; he’s over 6 feet tall and weighs about 200 pounds. He quickly moved to Puerto Rico with his mother, Rosa Rodriguez, suddenly after his parent’s divorce. As a child he grew up in Guanica P.R. in a “barrio” called Mari Antonia. He was always a happy kid growing up very social and friendly with everyone, setting an example for the other kids in the school at a young age. That sector of Guanica is known for the bad reputation of the town’s drugs sectors and deaths scenes, all the bad news of the town always comes from that sector in a way that they gain respect from the outsiders of the town. But because of his self-sufficiency he was always looking forward of meeting new friends and quickly became friends with the locals of the atrocious neighborhood.

          One Monday afternoon I was with Brian at his house when suddenly he invited some friends of his over and he started offering me some drugs, I looked at him and said

“Are you crazy? What’s a matter with you, are you insane or something man come on! I never imagine that you would turn on to be this way.”(Looking at Brian full of disappointment)

            He looked at me like and said, “Man you don’t look at me like that when you don’t know what I’m going throw every day! It’s like life is not fair to me man.”

            I saw him crying as if he was lost in a world with no escape, “Brian you know me your whole life man, you know you can trust me.” I said, after that he explained to me that he was going to be a father without even graduating from high school and that his mother threw him out of the house for family reasons. Soon after that he dropped out of school and he lost himself completely.

            I, as his best friend, kept in touch with him for a while and life turned around for him upside down like some angel was guiding him all the way. Some of us like to think that we have a purpose in life, and Brian’s life is a true example. 

            On January 4 in the old San Juan was held an electronic fest concert of the drum and base music icon “Skrillex”, it was a one in a lifetime experience. Two weeks before the concert I received an unknown phone call with a strange zip code destination, I answer it and it was Brian. I was so surprised and after some extended hours we did some catch up of our lives, we talked and before we hang up the phones he invited me to that one in a life time experience, the “Skrillex” concert.  

            When we arrived at the Third Millennium Park in San Juan we quickly took of where we were at a time 2 years ago “Wao!, Man you look so different. Is good to see you man, like old times. So how life’s treating you my friend?” I said to him. “Well you never know that just being honest to yourself and to the people you care about was just what I needed to put myself back to the way I was ” he said, “And having a little angel with you makes it a lot easier” he said smiling referring to his daughter  Danielle.

            “Danielle is the best thing that could ever happen to me” he said with the happiest expression in his face. Danielle is about 2 years old; she wakes up and wants her father to sing to her all the mornings after work. “She’s my little princess; she’s the only one who could make me laugh in a tough day” he said looking at her with that unique one of a kind father look.

            Thanks to some life experiences we change for the good or bad of our life’s, they can make you tougher, stronger and wiser, and in special cases heroes. Brian is currently working in New York as a billboards design engineer; he quit his addiction of life threatening habits a long time ago and stud up for his family and his own child Danielle. At a young age Brian was put to task to bring a life to the world, with little knowledge of them (newborns), and to provide her the necessary resources that a newborn demands, he persevered. He is at the happiest moment of his life and with no regrets he looks a few years back giving thanks to the day that he became a father the day that he became truly a man. Now he is providing Danielle with all of those resources and more but “It was never easy” he exclaimed smiling

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“El Dulcero”: Harold Omil

December 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm12 (Personality Feature Stories, Uncategorized)

By: Arleen Echevarría

It was another Tuesday morning at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM), Student Center. It was Universal hour and everybody seemed to be in such a rush to meet up. I had been sitting at the same place, same table, same time each Tuesday and Thursday of every semester for six years straight. Students come and go and yet I’m still here doing the same thing, trying to finish my English bachelor degree.

As I look around to see if I see any old faces my vision falls on Harold Omil, known as “El Dulcero” at the UPRM.

Harold Omil is a young Mayagüezano. He is in his 9th year at the UPRM, fulfilling his bachelor’s degree in History.

“Hola! Muy Buenos dias! Le interesaría cooperar?”, said Harold as he showed some students who were sitting at the table his side purse which was full of skittles, snickers, m&m’s and many other chocolates.

“No, no gracias mano!”, answered the student as he goes on with his table conversation.

“Ok, que Dios te bendiga!”, said Harold!

I think to myself, Wow! He’s still here!

I had seen Harold even before I was a freshman in 2006. He had always been doing the same thing. Selling sweets! I remembered I had seen Harold at so many activities: Colegio’s Open House activities, different conferences given by professors, and even participating at the “Hermandad Colegial De Avivamiento” (HCA) gatherings.

As I continued staring at Harold, he continued passing around the tables trying to sell candy. He had arrived at a table that finally bought him a pack of skittles for $1.00.

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The banner Harold Omil prepared for the final gathering dinner of the “Jovenes Cristianos del Parque” at Salón Tarzan at the UPR Mayaguez, December 7, 2012.

“Gracias! Que Dios te bendiga!”, he said to the girl who hands him the dollar bill.

As Harold moved on to the next table beside him, he appeared to look more secure that he would be able to sell another candy bar.

“Hola! Muy Buenos dias! Desean cooperar?”, said Harold with a smile on his face.

“Pffff! Hahaha…no mano, no tengo chavos.”, said the baseball jock who apparently found humor in Harold selling candy.

“Ok, Dios te bendiga!”, said Harold as he continued ignoring the fact that the jock had tried to humiliate him.

That’s one of the things I admire most about Harold. He always wishes blessings upon people, whether they buy candy or not.

Something I have always seen Harold doing is dealing with bullies. He never seems to pay them any attention, nor does he acknowledge their judgments on his intentions in selling candy. Instead he wishes blessings upon them. As Harold once told me, “Ninguno de ellos conoce mis necesidades, ni saben lo que hago con el dinero q me gano.”

Harold has been selling candy at the Colegio to pay for his enrollment fees. He doesn’t receive any student federal grants like many other students who study at the Colegio, nor does he have wealthy parents who are willing to pay for his degree.

“What some people might not know about Harold is that half of what he makes by selling candy, he donates to the HCA”, said Jennifer Santiago member of the HCA. Jennifer and Harold have been friends for over 5 years. Jennifer says that she admires Harold’s faith in God.

“Definitivamente Harold a mi me hizo cambiar de perspectiva. Yo me acuerdo una vez que Harold se puso hablarme de Dios y yo le dije que yo era ateo…el me dijo algo que a mí nunca se me ha olvidado. Me dijo que nosotros los seres humanos tenemos la necesidad de creer en algo. Así sea Dios o lo que fuera pero que había que creer y vivir con esperanzas de que tenemos un propósito mas allá. El escogió creer en Dios. Desde ese entonces yo empecé a visitar la HCA… Harold me inspiro a creer en Dios y ser mejor ser humano”, said Ronnie Carrasquillo.

My personal story with Harold goes back to the time I was trying to take out a bottle of water from the vending machine at the Student Center. I had the exact change needed. When I went to place the last quarter in the machine, it accidently slipped and was nowhere to be found around the floor.

“Se te perdio lo peseta?”, asked Harold as he came closer.

“Ayyyy, siiii chico. Se me perdio la peseta y era la ultima que me quedaba.”, I had replied to him as he was staring around the floor looking for my lost quarter.

I began looking at the floor again, but still no quarter.

When I look back at Harold he has a quarter in his hand, “Cogelo para que te compres lo que ibas a sacar.”

I couldn’t believe that the man who was selling candy for his own needs had such a big heart to be willing to lose part of his profits for me.

It may seem silly to think this way but I consider Harold Omil “El Dulcero” to be my hero. Not because he helped me out at the vending machine one day, but because he is a person who evokes faith and hope in others. Harold Omil is a person who has maintained integrity, desires of perseverance, and determination in finishing his bachelor’s degree.  He is worthy of being acknowledged as an incredible human being who goes past his struggles, maintaining his values.

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Harold Omil, a great example of an active student participating in Colegio’s Open House at Coliseo Mangual UPR Mayagüez, December 4, 2012.

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A Hero’s Vacation

December 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm12 (Personality Feature Stories)

By: Angélica Ortiz Blanco

It is almost noon on a hot summer day.As the cousins are spending their vacation at their grandparent’s house, one of them decides to go pick mangoes at the backyard.

They run as fast as they can as the wind plays with their hair and the sound of their laughter complements with the singing of the birds.

“Let’s climb the tree!” says one of the girls looking at the higher mango.

“No, it’s too tall and dangerous,” responds the taller girl as she begins to jump to reach for the fruit.

“I can’t even reach them, they are too high!” yells the third girl as she slips and fall in a well, in which an outhouse is under construction.

“Help me, I’m going to die in here, I can’t swim” screams the scared girl that also suffers of asthma, as her cousins struggle and try to pull her out of the water.

“Don’t panic! Take my hand and pull!” says one of the worried girls as they finally rescue her.

This traumatic event was just one of many adventures Edna Rivera lived as a child when she used to spend her summer vacation at Fajardo, Puerto Rico. Miss Rivera, as she is known at Luis Negrón López high school, is a United States history teacher who likes to spend her summer vacation doing missionary work in different countries.

Edna is a 5 feet 5 inches tall, brunette woman with dark eyes and black straight hair. Her sweet and low toned voice surely can calm even the angriest of youngsters.

“Who does not live to serve is not good to live” she emphasizes. “Our abundance meets the needs of the less fortunate, we need to share what God has given to us” says with happiness. “The reward is seeing the smiles on their faces and how grateful they are.”

Edna has been doing missionary work around the world all of her life. Natural from Naguabo, Puerto Rico, she moved to the west and began studies on medical technology at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez campus. How did she end up being a teacher?

A compilation of her work as a missionary around the world.

A compilation of her work as a missionary around the world.

“I always liked the service area, I wanted to be a nurse but when I failed math course it frustrated me, so I started studying history and found a way to serve others in the education field” she says with a twinkle in her eyes.

Edna works five days a week as a teacher; she gets up early in the morning and gets ready for the day ahead. She finds her strength in God and although she has tribulations, you will always see her calm. “I can’t imagine my life without God in it” she explains. “I was born and raised in a christian environment…my life would be meaningless without serving God.”

When vacations arrive, unlike others, Edna does not go to the beach or to a fancy hotel, she just travels. But her trips are not for pleasure; even on vacations she spends her time helping and fulfilling the needs of people around the world.

“It’s a unique, beautiful and enriching experience…God puts everything in order because I liked it (missionary work) but I never imagined I could be where I am right now” she confides. “I got interested on missionary work because I attended a missionary congress where they explained what their job was about and I enrolled with an organization called “Operación Movilización”…My first trip was to Spain, I worked as a social worker at a port in Málaga, with the Muslims.”

“She is a very devoted woman of prayer” says Evalyn Lugo, one of Edna’s co-workers. “She faithfully believes in defending her faith and beliefs in every time and place” adds the woman who is an English teacher.

Edna’s interest on serving, helping, and spreading God’s word, has given her many opportunities in life. “She’s not limited to her territory, her spirituality has led her to different parts of the world…God rewards those who devote their lives to help others” adds Lugo.

Every summer Edna Rivera packs her stuff and departs to remote territories to work with unknown people. Her only reward is to be able to see their happy faces, yet every year she’s eager for more. “Every trip is different, the work we realize it’s different in every place…in Haití we built a dining, in Panamá we taught the Indians how to write and read”.

The happy Haitians kids having a nice meal at the dining room.

The happy Haitians kids having a nice meal at the dining room.

And after many years of doing missionary work, Edna doesn’t get tired of it. “When I was young I felt a calling from God…after I retire I want to reach my goal to do missionary work in Indonesia to finally respond to that calling” she says smiling at the thought of it.

Miss Rivera, to so many students, goes home from work each day at 3 p.m. Her role as a teacher ends, but her role as a God’s servant goes on. Each morning, young men and women come to her to find an encouraging word and a smile, at the same time that they get an exceptional education.

“It was funny having her as a teacher” said Ilene Rivera, Edna’s niece. “She would review the test in the morning and I never realized it was the questions from it…she is very professional and even I’m her family I had to work hard for my grade because inside the class room everyone was a student for her.”

Miss Rivera teaching the Yanomamo Indians from Venezuela.

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The life of a passionate lawyer By: Guanina Cotto Nieves

December 16, 2012 at 12:00 am12 (Personality Feature Stories)

It’s a beautiful, early Monday morning and Sylvia is ready to leave her house to go to work. She wakes up, attends her elder mother, does laundry and makes sure everything in the house is under control before leaving.

 

She’s a woman who never stops doing her duties yet she never seems in a hurry, when you talk with Sylvia her peaceful appearance is contagious and she always wears a smile on her face.

 

Sylvia, 65, lawyer and director of Legal Services – A law firm which purpose is to attend those who don’t have the budget to pay for these services— is a woman with many life daring and encouraging stories.

 

“I never sleep more than 6 hours a day, my job is very sacrificed and I get involved so much I can’t stay for just the working hours”

 

Sylvia is a tall, elegant woman, wears simple attire for her day-to-day, styles her hair loose and wears minimum makeup. Her charismatic personality is just one of her accessories.

 

She has a beautiful family that has grown strong; her husband, Eric Ortega is a biology professor at Interamerican University Aguadilla Campus. All three of her sons and daughters have looked forward to a life filled with education and knowledge, definitely a characteristic that both parents pass on to their sons and daughters.

 

“She has been an excellent mother with the three of us, and now also an excellent grandmother” said Dayana, Sylvia’s middle daughter who has recently brought a new member to the family, a three months old baby girl.

 

“I am now grandma of three, so in my real free time I’m still very busy, that said it’s still a beautifully busy time.”

 

Long talks with Sylvia are very entertaining, she loves to inspire those around her on how helping others can make one feel so complete.

 

Her everyday work is to help the less fortunate and she feels satisfied and complete with her job. “I always wanted to study something in which I could help many people and being a lawyer can’t be any better of a job for me” she smiles and carries on telling her stories.

 

“One day my husband didn’t call to let me know he was going to be home late so I decided to play the game back on him by hiding my car, myself and the kids when he came home.” … “He got hysterical because I didn’t answer, the lights were off and the keys were locked up inside.” said Sylvia, laughing and remembering the moment.

 

“She’s been always a very brave and determined woman, that’s why I fell in love with her” added Eric Ortega.

 

“I have worked on all types of cases, it’s hard because most of them can really break your heart. That’s why I have to be very strong to help them.” Sylvia’s has worked on family problems, disabled people’s rights to public services.

 

“I once helped a homeless person who was living in subhuman conditions on a terrain that belonged to his family, but after many years the terrain was sold and he had no family left. I wanted to contact the new owner of the property but he never answered his phone so I started to find the funds so I could rebuild this person a decent little house to live on the same place…”

 

Later on the owner sewed them for building without permissions but in court he felt ashamed after realizing there was nothing wrong with helping the homeless person. He gave up the case and offered himself to pay the person water and light services.”

 

Besides the cases that have been successful, she has also had cases that the result wasn’t exactly under her control. One case in specific was of a woman that was abused by her father since she was a little girl, with 7 children and an abusive husband. Sylvia took her to a therapist that helped her to be a better mom. Even though she was considering the change, the day of the meeting in court she told Sylvia that she was going to give up her 7 children and start off a new life.

 

Sylvia has been helping people and working on this law firm since 1979 and since then her job position has been naturally rising to now be the Director of the law firm.

 

Some people may ask her why isn’t she a judge? Although it’s a higher position, Sylvia, very humble, says she feels like she has always been on the right place at the right time.

Sylvia enjoys spending her free time with her grandchildren, in this picture with her youngest grandaughter, Mila Soleil.

Sylvia enjoys spending her free time with her grandchildren, in this picture with her youngest grandaughter, Mila Soleil.

Lawyer and Director of Legal Services, Sylvia Enid Pérez.

Lawyer and Director of Legal Services, Sylvia Enid Pérez.

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With the blink of an eye

December 16, 2012 at 12:00 am12 (Personality Feature Stories)

By: Alejandra Vazquez

“it is a terrible thing to see and have no vision” as I read these words used by Helen Keller it was inevitable to think about Shalmarie and her truly unbelievable story.

Shalmarie is “a person that inspires faith and hope” said Catalina Pagan, a former class member of her.

Shalma, her nick name among friends, experienced one of the hardest events she was going to face in her life when she was only a small child

On the afternoon of November 10, 2006 Shalmarie left school with a family friend that was taking her home.  As they were driving back to the house their car suddenly impacted a truck, she was in the back seat of the car without the seat belt on.  In those microseconds of the impact life as she knew it was about to change drastically the course of her entire life.

She does not remember the accident itself but she explained, “the only thing I can remember is the people yelling at me that everything was going to be ok”.

She arrived at the Centro Medico Hospital to endure a 12 hour long surgery were a group of multidisciplinary medical team worked simultaneously on her.  Shalmarie was only 13 when she was facing a battle between life and death on the surgical table.

Shalma won the battle between life and death against all medical odds.  Unfortunately the damage to her eye site was to severe and made it impossible for the doctors to do anything to help.  She eventually lost her eye site completely.

Her road towards recovery was one really long but relatively steady.  Shalma explain that she faced one question that, as she explained, defined the rest of her life, “what’s going to happen with me now?”

After a few months absent from school Shalma returned to finish the school year with her fellow classmate.  Little did she know, she was not the only one that changed during the recovery process. “It was a big but necessary change for all of us” said Neste referring to the returned of Shalmarie to the school.

Shalmarie’s story was one that transcended hospital walls.  Her story changed life as everyone knew it, “it showed people that when you fall it’s possible to get back up” said Neste.

Her new way of life imposed some great difficulties but as Shalma explained, she is “ready to face life head on no matter my incapacities”.

She faced a difficult decision in staying as an alumni in a high school that in no way was prepared for a visually impaired student such as Shalmarie.  In the other hand Shalmarie was not the only one being challenged, students had to adjust to their new member and teachers had to find innovating ways to teach her.  These were a difficult changed for everyone in the school.

“It was definitely challenging for all the members of the school” said Maria Lamboglia, her ethic teacher of Academia San Jose.

“She roamed the halls as if she could see, she participated in all the school activity as if nothing had changed…she was the same as all of us” said Neste explaining the typical school day with Shalmarie.

She did not only participate actively in her school she is also a member of the National Federation for the Blind, “they helped me grow into my incapacities” said Shalmarie.  She has also participated in numerous campaigns for the traffic association in which she gives conferences about her story and how it could all be changed by wearing a seat belt.

“For me is a way of showing people the importance of safety…its one of my ways of giving back to the community” said Shalmarie as she talked about her job as a spokes person for the transit association in Puerto Rico.

Shalmarie graduated with high honors from high school and is now a sophomore student with a bachelor’s degree on history in the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus.

“I never doubted that I would finish studying even though my incapacities would make it extremely hard” said Shalmarie as she spooked about her plans for the future.  “In fact knowing that it would be hard gives me more motivation to do it”.

“God gives us many blessings and we should focus on being the best we can day by day because tomorrow is never guaranteed” were the words used by Lamboglia when asked to describe the learning from Shalmaries experience.

Even though Shalmarie is in the spring of her life, her story has transcended age and gender all over Puerto Rico.  She serves as a role model to many; to which her story has touched their life in one giving day.  “She may have lost her sight but she never lost her mission in life” said Pagan.

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The legacy of Kris Kringle Miguel Hernández Román

December 16, 2012 at 12:00 am12 (Personality Feature Stories)

The legacy of Kris Kringle

By

Miguel Hernández Román

      “The path of the Lord lead me elsewhere at first” said Dr. Rivera, As Dr. Emanuel Rivera González felt that empty feeling inside when most of us don’t feel satisfied with our professional and eventually personal life, because working as an inventory specialist might not be the “cup of tea” for those who want to do more for the other ones who cant and even want to.

I went on to study medicine with Jesus as my north “manifested M.D. Rivera.

I went on to study medicine with Jesus as my north “manifested M.D. Rivera.

But learning for the future doesn’t affect the past as there is an old saying “First we change ourselves then we change the world”, the world is so complicated than even the will of a single man can change it entirely because most humans fear change. A drug addict can be your best witness in this case because for Emanuel Rivera“It’s hard to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped” said M.D. Rivera.

Most of us have with a million things to do in our daily jobs or schools always tend to look in one way and that’s our way because pressure and pride always get to us before making a stop to think if the person next to me needed help and we ignored because we had better things to do. Dr. Rivera González can never have this dilemma because his getting new cases and updating old cases and at the end of the day he can say “I helped others and I’m proud of it”, concluded Rivera.

Dr. Rivera and his collaborators in a health fair searching for people who need and want help.

Dr. Rivera and his collaborators in a health fair searching for people who need and want help.

“A clear path of thinking is the right way to live as the addiction to drugs is not in this category I can give you faith of this but is still a phenomenon far from understanding but I signed to try to do it and cure it along with other diseases, as this is the negative slope of self steam of the people that dint value themselves”, expressed Rivera.

For being a superhero there is no need for superpowers more than that for being an unknown hero there is no need to be professional just the will to help as some of the Dr. Rivera’s collaborators are electronic technicians, electricians , teachers and anyone with devotion to serve others.

“We need to start in home, there was once a farmer who got mad because he need to pick up all the dropped wheat by the others farmers but as soon he realize that the one behind him was picking up his dropped wheat he understand everything completely. Kids and teenagers need to understand that there will always be people with lots and fewer resources and we should have devotion to help the ones with fewer resources, a conscious world makes a better world” said M.D. Rivera.

But there has to be support as every team has cheerleaders especially for the most valuable player, there is no exception with Rivera’s family whose 120 percent support has been breaking the statistics.

The only thing that keeps a hero alive is legacy that’s why Rivera found out that the most satisfactory moment of his life was when he became a dad and teaching them the values that he had learned through his life.

This is an unknown visionary hero who even not closed friends call him “one of the nicest and kindest guys I’ve ever met”, expressed Vice-president of the University Health Sciences (UHSA) Lyzette Roman Carasquillo. Needless to say that it was Roman who referred me to Rivera as a candidate for this story.

Kris Kringle  few can relate to the name as he is mostly known as a man who brought peace and joy to those who needed. But society’s image has torched this apart by creating an image of a “magician” whose only excuse is to come once a year to fulfill selfish requirements. Just like the excuse of studying medicine because it pays well when clearly when clearly the true doctor is a professional with devotion to serve others by bringing them peace and joy.

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Chori’s Cafe

December 16, 2012 at 12:00 am12 (Personality Feature Stories)

By Harry C. González Rivera

Around 11:00 p.m. a white van with yellow and blue stripes arrives to Martinez Nadal Street at Mayagüez, parking between the Exygon Health and Fitness Gym and Los Próceres Park. The van is an old ice cream truck looking van with a power generator on the front, a Gas tank on the back, with paint that is faded and it clearly has some bumps and rust is clearly starting to show up. In the inside it are some 90’s theme counter-tops and irons fences on the windows, and on its side big logos with the name Chori’s Cafe.

Out of the van comes a guy in his mid-30’s and starts to unpack a grill, some plastic tables and bunch of chairs, under a street light that seems to turn on and off every five minutes or so. He turns on the small generator that he uses as a power source for his van, it’s so small it hardly makes any loud sounds and it’s easy to talk right beside it, he then goes inside the van to prepare some goods before people arrive.

Around 12:30 a.m. people start to arrive to the van to eat, but out of every five persons or so one stick around for a while to talk with Chori, mostly there are small talks, always been polite and friendly.

How a typical night looks like at Chori’s Cafe.

Chori treats everyone nicely as if every customer was a close friend that came to talk about their pains, joys and life problems. If anyone uses fool language, he politely asks them to watch their languages because all kinds of person’s young and old people come to his van.

Rubén Vázquez, Chori’s real name, has worked in his van making sandwiches for the last 14 years in Mayagüez. He was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico, 38 years ago. He grew up between Caguas and the state of Florida where he received his High School Diploma.

“Where did my nickname came from? A Cuban friend back in Orlando gave it to me. Florida used to mock me calling me “Chori-so Prieto” and the nickname sticked, people started calling me Chori … I got used to it … nowhere days if people call me Rubén I usually don’t response to it.” said Chori as he served a kabob to a customer.

For the last 14 years he seen a lot of people come and go to his van, mostly students since his van is located really close to the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus. He has even seen students collapse in front of his van because of alcohol poisoning and has had to help them on his own either because they came alone to the van or their friends are so drunk that they believe it just a joke and just laugh at person that collapsed instead of helping them.

“ The most powerful thing I have seen in this 14 years is seen people who are really in need … specially students that come from a really poor family background, overcoming their obstacles and graduate with better accomplishment that those come from wealthy family” says Chori as he prepares a sandwich for one of his customers.

Chori’s works 5 days a week from around 11:30a.m till 5:00 a.m. depending on the night. Although he rethinks for a second, admits some days he does take the day off, if he is too tired or simply feel the day does not a have a good vibe.

Depending on the day Chori’s night shift ends, he goes back to his house to get some sleep and wakeup between 12:00p.m. and 2:00p.m. to help his wife with her cake making business and also do his daily shores or appointments. He does not have kids, instead has two dogs, a Cockle Spaniels couple that he treats as if they were his kids. He repeats the same routine every day at 11:30p.m. and waits for his customers to arrive and treat them with the same friendly attitude and kindness only found on people that do their job with passion no matter how much sweet or how little it pays them.

 

Rubén Vázquez in front of his Van.

Rubén Vázquez in front of his Van.

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