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A 1998 School Trip to D.C Results in a Teary Reunion

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

Kind words go a long way to inspire others. If you want to help support young adults continue their educationconsider donating or volunteering with NMIC’s Education & Career Services program.  

Community Union of Washington Heights & Inwood Raises Over $5 Million for Park Revitalization

Safe, Clean, and Drug-Free Playgrounds Should Be Available to All New Yorkers Including Low-Income Neighborhoods 

The Community Union of Washington Heights & Inwood or Union Comunal was founded almost 30 years ago. The Community Union is an alliance of neighbors, whose purpose is to organize and advocate to improve the quality of life for Washington Heights and Inwood residents. The organization is guided by the desire to see the Washington Heights and Inwood community thrive economically, socially and politically, and to protect residents against the many violations that afflict low-income communities.  

In a 2011 annual assembly meeting, Union members identified the poor conditions of the Audobon Playground located on West 170th street in Washington Heights. The park was littered with drug paraphernalia and the playgrounds amenities had lost their utility and the park over all was in a poor and crumbling condition. Union members also identified the stark contrast in quality with parks located in more affluent areas of the neighborhood like Bennet Park and the Javits Playground. Some of the changes members proposed to improve the conditions of the park included new and improved restrooms, resting areas with benches, better lighting, safety measures, new recreation and sports areas for children and young adults, as well as greenery (trees, flowers, plants). These improvements would not only revitalize the appeal of the playground but provide community members with a viable playground option that is safe, clean and enjoyable.  

The project was supported by Council Members Ydanis Rodriquez and Mark Levine who serve the Washington Heights Neighborhood areas. The $5,584,00 in funds procured to renovate the playground will allow children, seniors and all community members alike to have a space they can access without fear. Construction on building the new playground began in October 2018 and is expected to be completed in 2020. Click here to find out more about the Audobon Playground Project from NYC Parks.  

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