Dominican American Teens Cheer as Their Paisono, Adriano Espaillat, Makes History

Posted on January 5, 2017 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

First Dominican American & Former Undocumented Immigrant Sworn into Congress

Alianza youth in Washington D.C.

Groggy from catching a 6 a.m. bus yesterday to Washington D.C. but jolted awake by the record-setting moment, our Alianza Dominicana students, most hailing from Dominican American backgrounds, cheered when their fellow paisono, Adriano Espaillat, made history as the first former undocumented immigrant and Dominican American sworn into Congress.

Nearly 100 students along with a handful of teachers and Catholic Charities Alianza Division staff made the five-hour pilgrimage from Washington Heights, the largest Dominican American neighborhood in New York.  The students participate in Alianza afterschool programs held at George Washington Media and Community Highschool, George Washington Health, Science and Careers Highschool and Innovation Diploma Plus.

Catholic Charities Alianza Dominicana Division provides after school dropout prevention, youth employment, and arts/cultural programs for students in Washington Heights, Inwood and the Bronx.

The students joined hundreds descending on the event, so many that the largest auditorium Congress has to offer – the new Visitors Center – had to be used to fit the celebrants.

“I thought it was important the children got to witness this once-in-a-lifetime event,” says Catholic Charities Alianza Division Director of Youth Services Eddie Silverio, a fellow Dominican American.  “This is something 40 years from now they can tell their children and grandchildren about.”

The newly sworn in congressmen represents neighborhoods in Upper Manhattan and Western Bronx . He is only the third person to hold this seat first created in the 1930s.  Famed civil rights activist Adam Clayton Powell held it first for nearly 30 years and Charlie Rangel held it for the following 45 years.

L-R: Shannon Kelly Director of Catholic Charities Community Services Hudson Valley Services; Beatriz Diaz Taveras Executive Director of Catholic Charities Community Services; Adriano Espaillat;  Monisignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities New York; Luz Tavarez-Salazar Director of Government and Community Relations 

Catholic Charities plays such an active role in this 13th Congressional District that Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan was chosen to give what proved to be a rousing invocation in English and Spanish.

The children, taking over an entire section of the auditorium, cheered. Then they joined in to sing national anthem and boogied as music star Sergio Vargas sang the Dominican national anthem. Then they sat in awe as they also saw the new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan sworn in.

“To be right there as this new presidency is about to begin and watch as a once undocumented immigrant was sworn in as a congressional leader meant having a front-row seat on history,” Mr. Silverio says.

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