Meriden’s Cardona, Benigni amongst honorees at Latino training gala
SOUTHINGTON – The Connecticut Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents Gala winners highlighted the importance of education within the Latino communities while enjoying a formal evening at Aqua Turf.
Community officials and family members danced to salsa and bachata music all night to celebrate Latinos in the education sector. The proceeds from the event, which took place on October 8th, will be used to fund future scholarship opportunities.
CALAS is one of the country chapters of the national organization ALAS. A group of New Haven school principals created CALAS to expand resources for Latino and Hispanic teachers.
“CALAS ‘mission is to promote equality among Connecticut Latinos, build capacity within the Latino community and provide scholarships for Latinos interested in careers in education,” said CALAS President Evelyn Robles-Rivas. “When we founded this organization, we saw the need for the students to see themselves represented in the leadership.”
Many of the evening’s winners emphasized the importance of education for Latinos.
Mark D. Benigni, principal of Meriden Public Schools, received the Outstanding Educational Leader Award.
“I’m really lucky to be able to work with so many innovators … together we make sure that all students in Meriden are successful,” he said.
US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona received special recognition. He discussed the inequalities within the education system and encouraged educators to continue advocating for Latino students. Cardona is a former Meriden administrator and teacher and former state education officer.
“I wear my sunglasses when I walk through airports because there have been so many moments in the past 7 months that my eyes are shining because I am blessed to serve at that time …. If I wasn’t wearing the sunglasses folks could look at me like “porque este bobo esta llorando”? (Why is this punk crying?). I wear sunglasses because I think about Marissa and how much we had to give up in order to serve God’s plan, that call to serve, ”he said. “We are in a pandemic that has widened the opportunities … If not now, when? If not us, who? The real struggle to courageously address injustices in our system. You will have haters for disrupting a system that has normalized some students’ mistakes. “
Ingrid Canady, Executive Director of the State Education Resource Center, received the Equity Champion Award. She shared her personal experiences in Costa Rica as well as her pride in receiving the Equity Champion Award.
“Cultural diversity represents the reality of this country. Together we can make the difference that this country and this world need, ”she said.
State Representative Geraldo Reyes Jr., D-Waterbury, received the Policy Change Award. He spoke of his successful efforts to pass a law requiring all school systems in the state to offer an elective course in Black and Latino Studies.
“I have had the privilege of leading the black and Puerto Ricans caucus, which I do not take lightly. Change always comes from small groups. I had the privilege of being here with three of my colleagues tonight. Everything we touch is viewed through the lens of justice and injustice, ”he said.
The winners also included: Kevin Booker, Jr., Edith Johnson, Michelle Martinez, and Adrian Solis. Special recognition also went to Tomas Miranda.