Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez’s words of wisdom impacted a young teenage girl from NYC.
It was 21 years ago when Eliana Almeida stood in a circle with her classmates listening to the words of the first Puerto Rican woman to be elected to the U.S Congress. On that day Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, was the only representative who said yes to a group of young, female high school students visiting the U.S Capitol for the first time. In the ten minutes spent with Congresswoman Velazquez, who not only was a physical representation of what was possible for the young black and brown girls in her presence but emphasized the importance of unwavering good character and getting an education.
For Eliana, a young girl from NYC, this was a reminder of the teachings of her parents and was enough to inspire her to continue her college education, a year later. However, two years into her studies, Eliana had to make a difficult decision of discontinuing her studies, “my father was very sick, and I had to leave school to help support my family and become a caretaker.” Fast forward to twenty years later, on June 4th, 2018, Eliana received her degree. Fulfilling the vow, she made that fateful day with Congresswoman Velazquez.
That summer, while in conversation with a colleague, Attorney Matthew Chachere, Elaina spoke of that first encounter with Congresswoman Velazquez, and how instrumental it was in shaping who she is today. Eliana expressed her desire to write to Congresswoman Velaquez to express her gratitude for those ten minutes of inspiration that have had a lasting impact 20 years later. Unbeknownst to Eliana, Matt had known Congresswoman Velazquez and offered to deliver her letter directly.
This past December, Eliana received a surprise visit from Congresswoman Velazquez, “I will never in my life forget this moment.” Congresswoman Velazquez walks in with flowers and I just started crying and hugging her. She was crying with me too. We talked about school and I showed her some graduation pictures. We talked about my mom and her health and my journey in caregiving for my mother. Ms. Velazquez again was kind, positive and encouraging as I remembered her 20 years ago.”
When asked what advice Eliana would give to a young girl as an adult today, she responded: “Educate yourself academically and be a woman of good character”. Learn as much as possible about different necessities that a human being might have. Such as, mental health, disabilities, and the many health and life conditions that exist. Life is not about pride and position, it is about the value of your character and the contribution you are providing to society.