Cervantes Society kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month in Brooklyn courts
The Cervantes Society of the Courts of the State of New York kicked off a celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month with a ceremony at the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term in Downtown Brooklyn on Wednesday.
National Hispanic Heritage Month spans from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 and the courts celebrate with a variety of activities. Tuesday’s event featured Hon. Francois Rivera as the master of ceremonies and Hector Batista, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City was the keynote speaker.
The performance opened with the Pledge of Allegiance recited by Court Officer Edwin Colon and the invocation read by Court Sergeant Michael Garcia. Other speakers included Hon. Lawrence Knipel, administrative judge for the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term; and Lissette Morales, health and welfare officer for the Cervantes Society.
Students from P.S. 151 in Bushwick, where Major Luz Bryan, president of the Cervantes Society, attended as a kid, performed the national anthem and later came back for two other musical performances.
“Welcome to the 21st annual Opening Ceremony of the Cervantes Society,” said Justice Lawrence Knipel, administrative judge for the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term. “Thank you to Justice Rivera, who is always a great master of ceremonies. Thank you to Major Bryan, who is the heart and soul of the Cervantes Society.”
Rivera opened the ceremony on a bit of a somber note as he remarked on the struggles many Latino-Americans are facing as the country considers the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act (DACA) and the multiple hurricanes that have passed through the Caribbean over the last few weeks.
“This year is a little different because it’s an apprehensive time of year for Latinos,” Rivera said. “Puerto Rico is in our prayers because they are expecting a Category 5 hurricane to make landfall sometime today. It’s very serious and we’re hoping that the island does well.”
By the time the storm hit Puerto Rico, it had become a Category 4 storm that reportedly devastated the communities of Juana Matos, La Puntilla and Puente Blanco leaving thousands with flooded homes and no power.
Rivera also recalled the history of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which officially begins on Sept. 15, the same day Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrate their independence and the same week of Mexico, Chili and Belize’s independence.
Batista talked about the mentors that helped him become the first Hispanic CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters and, previously, the first CEO of the American Cancer Society. He then spoke about the importance mentors can have on children.
“When kids have a mentor in their life they just do so much better,” Batista said. “Ninety-nine percent of kids in our program go on to the next grade, and 97 percent graduate from high school. Compare that to 70 percent [in NYC public schools]. And 92 percent of our kids go on to college all because they have a positive role model in their lives.”
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