Board Candidates

Below you will find all candidates who submitted their information to be included with the Assembly information packets. 

Nominations from the floor will be entertained throughout the Board Election Process. 


Candidates for our Board of Directors

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Name: Jason Ortiz

City of Residence: Hartford
Position sought: President

Tell us a bit about yourself and why you are running for a leadership position with CT-PRA
I was born in New London to two Puerto Rican parents who had both spent time on the island growing up. Over the last few years I’ve moved to Puerto Rico twice, once to Santurce and last year to Rio Piedras, to get involved locally and better understand what is happening there. From that experience I came to understand that the best use of my efforts was to mobilize Boricuas stateside to pressure congress to ending the current colonial situation as soon as possible.

If elected, what would your top 3 priorities be?

1. Holding trainings and educational events in 10 cities in CT. Our people need a chance to hear our history, and also learn how to take action toward a better future in Puerto Rico and in the United States.

2. Implementing our committee structure so that everyone who wants to help has a clear and supportive way to get involved.   

3. Registering 10,000 new voters. Our people are concentrated in our urban centers, which are centers of power politically in CT. If we were to increase our political participation, it would empower more of us to engage at all levels of government to get better outcomes for our people. It will also build an outreach list of 10,000 people that can be mobilized to pressure our congressional representatives.

What skills or personal experience makes you a great fit for this position?
I have the skillset, the patience and the drive needed to ensure this organization is successful in its first two years.

The skills needed are many and varied. I have worked in organizing for most of the last 10 years, including helping national organizations grow from scratch or ones that already had a large staff. I have won multiple campaigns and helped change and write laws. I have managed paid staff teams and also all volunteer efforts. I not only have the skills needed but I have a track record of success on each. This role will also take an incredible amount of patience as we hear from all parts of our community and work towards a common cause.

Lastly, I have spent time directly on the island hearing from activists and organizers on what challenges they have and how we can best help. This experience helped me understand the urgency of our work here, and exactly how serious of a problem we are talking about with our fiscal crisis. I know that not one day can go by where we do not advance our agenda, and I am committed to making that happen.

What do you see as the greatest asset of the CT Puerto Rican Community?
Our passion in fighting for what we believe in. The are few out there that can match the power of the Empowered Puerto Rican. I believe that we are more than capable of exerting real pressure on our elected officials, and also of inspiring our youth to rise up into positions of leadership. There are thousands of young Boricuas out there who are waiting to be given a chance to do something great, and we're going to go find them.  

What do you see as our biggest challenge?
We have no stable organization that can reach our grassroots specifically on Puerto Rican issues. I think a lot of the our different political opinions could be better addressed if we had open forums. Too often we refuse to talk about the important issues and just walk away. I think we should encourage those heated debates and have them as a community. I think we will be stronger and all learn something about who we are as a people.

Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?

Mi Familia es de Añasco y Caguas.

Vice President

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Name: Elmer Rivera-Bello

City of Residence: New Haven

Position sought: Vice President

Tell us a bit about yourself and why you are running for a leadership position with CT-PRA

I am passionate about addressing the issues affecting Puerto Rico and our people both on the island and in the diaspora.  I believe that if as a people we unite we can force real positive change for our people as a whole.

If elected, what would your top 3 priorities be?

Informing our people on the issues affecting us, resolution of Puerto Rico's status, and organizing so that we as a people are never left voiceless.

What skills or personal experience makes you a great fit for this position?

I bring a fresh perspective to this movement. I have never held nor aspire to hold an elected office within the government.  My only agenda is the advancement of the Puerto Rican people.

What do you see as the greatest asset of the CT Puerto Rican Community?

Our cultural diversity is our strong suit.  While many in the U.S. attack diversity our strength will not be shaken.  It gives varying perspective on issues affecting not just Puerto Ricans but American as a whole.

What do you see as our biggest challenge?

Misinformation that has resulted from years of colonization and the deliberate attempt to make Puerto Ricans assimilate to America's way of life.

Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?

I am a Husband and a father of three girls and hope to be able to leave them a Puerto Rico that can be the envy of great nations.  We as a people have it within us to be great regardless of what we have been systemically programmed to believe.

Treasurer

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Name: Yanira Rios Cruz

City of Residence: Bridgeport

Position sought: Treasurer

Tell us a bit about yourself and why you are running for a leadership position with CT-PRA

Born in Aguadilla and raised between San Sebastian, P.R. and Bridgeport, CT, I  grew up knowing and understanding two very different worlds. As an “islander” who can read, write, and speak the language and as someone who currently lives in the states and hears how others portray our island positions me with a very unique perspective.  

With most of my family still back in the island, including my father and one of my sisters, the economic crisis is not just something I read about, it’s a daily reality. From having my uncle's family business close its doors,  to seeing my sister, an elementary school teacher, sacrifice all she worked for just to see her elementary school shut down due to the economic crisis; I see the issues and feel it’s impact.  As a divorced, single- mother of two, and Community Liaison for U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal; our education, cultural preservation, and awareness of the issues we face as Puerto Ricans, is at the top of my priority list.As a young Boricua with a strong connection to the island and the issues we are facing, I am running for this position with a strong sense of urgency, hope, and responsibility to take action for my children, my family, and our entire Puerto Rican community.

If elected, what would your top 3 priorities be?

As a member of the executive committee, I will commit to ensuring that the CT- PRA focuses its priorities on cultural preservation, education and awareness, and every and all issues that impact both Puerto Ricans of CT and those in our island.  As treasurer, I will ensure transparency as it pertains to funding for the organization and commit to helping with any and all fundraisers.

What skills or personal experience makes you a great fit for this position?

Through my role as a community leader and staffer in U. S. Senator Blumenthal office I continue to promote and advocate for the people of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Ricans living here in CT. I have participated in many discussions and call to action events related to Puerto Rico. Over the last few years I have also served on non for profits boards in which fundraising was a goal.

What do you see as the greatest asset of the CT Puerto Rican Community?

From being active in the community I know that many Puerto Ricans in CT hold many positions of influence through local elected seats, for profit positions, and even at the CT General Assembly, Puerto Ricans continue to be at the forefront. What we need to focus on is ensuring that we are leveraging that influence in a collective manner.

What do you see as our biggest challenge?

Again, one of the challenges is ensuring we are leveraging our influence for one or many causes collectively. This is a very significant time for us as Puerto Ricans and it begs for our unique skills and passions to collaborate and be utilized to best address the needs of our community.

During a time where CT continues to grow as a melting pot, we must ensure that our story continues to be told.

Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?

I hope I can count on you for your support so that we can collectively work together on the issues impacting our community here in CT.

Secretary

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Name: Stephanie Mercado - Irizarry

City of Residence: Stafford Springs

Position sought: Secretary

Tell us about yourself and why you are running for a leadership position with CT-PRA

I moved a year ago from Puerto Rico to Connecticut to pursue graduate studies at the University of Connecticut. Currently I'm doing research in Puerto Rican and Caribbean Studies. I am running because I'm particularly interested in the Puerto Rican Diaspora, how the crisis of the Island is affecting them or those who decide to be part of the diaspora, and would like to be part of a group of people that are willing to seek solutions and that organize support for Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans.

If elected, what would your top 3 priorities be?

I will do a research of the Puerto Ricans and Latinxs in Connecticut, so I can have the information to create and/or expand a network of solidarity and support within the community. Will like this network to be expanded to the Puerto Ricans on the Island, particularly with the students of the University of Puerto Rico, who now more than ever need our support to continue the struggle for an education of quality. Finally, to create all these networks, it is necessary to inform the community and make them aware of the economic and social situation. It will be necessary to continue these workshops and conferences to promote a better understanding of the issues.

What skills or personal experience makes you a great fit for this position?

Since September 2016 I am in charge of the responsibilities of the New England Council of Latin American Studies (NECLAS) Secretariat. This are my duties, and the experience that I have as the main person in charge of the Secretariat: Manages membership lists (both individual and institutional), and website. Provides logistical support to President and Vice President where needed. Sends out call for papers and panels. Manages election of EC candidates, tallies and announces the results, Reports attendance, finances, and other pertinent details of the previous fall conference at spring meeting.

What do you see as the greatest asset of the CT Puerto Rican Community?

I do think it is imperative to have an organization that is aware of the events that are happening in Puerto Rico and how these events affect not only the Puerto Ricans in the Island, but also the diaspora; and that it includes activities with experts from all areas, including nonpolitical areas, cultural, organized labor, civil rights, community and business people. All these people have one goal in common, and that is to present alternatives and solutions to today's issues.

What do you see as our biggest challenge?

We need to make people aware of the situation and why it is important to be part of the movements. There can be a lack of interest from the Puerto Ricans because of the obstacles that they or their family faced when they lived in the island.

Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?

As a graduate student, I was one of the scholars who presented a resolution seeking the support and solidarity from UConn, to the UPR Students and people of Puerto Rico. We have gathered information about the agreements and collaboration between both public Universities. I understand it is necessary to develop these bonds, and as a Secretary, I will continue to discuss this issue and to create the necessary conditions for the improvement of the Puerto Rican Academic community.

Communications Director

Name Julián Cook

City of Residence: Storrs Mansfield

Position sought: Communications Director

Tell us a bit about yourself and why you are running for a leadership position with CT-PRA

As a child of the diaspora, I have been slowly reclaiming my identity as an Afro-Puerto Rican man. It is because of this alone that I am reaching out more and more to explore, enjoy, and advocate for a culture and people to which I am so closely connected. Recently, I graduated with my master's degree in Spanish Studies (Literatures, Cultures, and Languages) from the University of Connecticut (2016). From there, I was catapulted into the Windham Public School District where I currently teach high school Spanish to native and non-native students. Through my involvement as a teacher in the highly Puerto Ricans-populated town of Willimantic, I have been continually exposed to the needs and issues plaguing our community, but also the heights and triumphs celebrated by our people - both of which deserve recognition. The opportunity to serve in a leadership position with Ct-PRA would allow me to continue serving the Puerto Rican community on a deeper level, permitting me to reach and potentially help and praise the very real struggles and successes, respectively, of Puerto Ricans in Connecticut.

If elected, what would your top 3 priorities be?

  • Making a presence on social media to start garnering supporters for the movement

  • Promoting the organization to people of all ages, specifically younger people, as they are the voices for the present and future

  • Working toward the resolution of the mandates created by the First Constituent Assembly, which are extremely important, pressing, and even more relevant to the betterment of the life of Puerto Ricans, in all aspects, living on the island or in the diaspora in the United States.

What skills or personal experience makes you a great fit for this position? 

Specifically, with regard to the Digital Communications Director position on the Ct-PRA Board, I think I'd make the ideal candidate as I am very closely connected to social media, publishing regularly in both English (my native language) and Spanish (my second language). Aside from that aspect, my ability to communicate effectively in both oral and written speech has been recognized since high school where I was a competitive debater. Moreover, I serve as an bilingual editor for friends, family, and colleagues before the publication of works ranging from informal to extremely formal. For example, when studying abroad in Monterrey, Mexico and the years following, I volunteered the “Programas Internacionales” office where I edited their internationally-distributed program of studies, in addition to providing on-the-spot translations and interpretations. Most recently, I have I have worked with our School Culture Club to help with the bilingual recognition of student achievement via digital signage in our school; I have also worked closely with the school nurse to ensure that health-related information published is done so bilingually, as to not forget about any of our Puerto Rican (or otherwise Latino) students, in addition to other aspects of cultural promotion.

What do you see as the greatest asset of the CT Puerto Rican Community?

The greatest asset of the CT Puerto Rican Community is easily our resilience. Since immigration really began to Connecticut in the mid to late 20th century, Puerto Ricans have been continually hit financially, academically, racially, linguistically, and culturally, yet have found a way to endure and come out better and stronger than before.

What do you see as our biggest challenge?

Our biggest challenge, from my perspective as a teacher, is ensuring that our children receive equity and rigor in education - that they are challenged and challenge themselves. We have a lot to offer, it just needs to be realized.

Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?

I am extremely dedicated and passionate about all things regarding equality. Puerto Ricans represent many facets our society in Connecticut; working on and with the CT-PRA Board would provide me the opportunity to further struggles for equity among the oppressed intersections we often occupy.

Regional Representatives

Hartford

Name Janet Otero
City of Residence Hartford
Position sought: Regional representative; Hartford

Tell us a bit about yourself and why you are running for a leadership position with CT-PRA
I just ended my college semester and i am interested in exploring areas where I could contribute to my community.

If elected, what would your top 3 priorities be? 
1. To ensure that the hispanic community's voice is being heard and attended to.
2. Represent my country well and engage others to do so.
3. Contribute with new ideas and assist with the execution of such in order to succeed within the organization's mission and agenda.

What skills or personal experience makes you a great fit for this position? 
I know how to treat and engage the public into getting things done. I have an inclusive character and have a high level of work ethics. Without hesitation I speak up and I speak up for the people who cannot. I can type 42 wpm, I walk long distances, committed to my work, I have worked with all types of demographics and I'm truly interested in working for a positive organization related to my Island.

What do you see as the greatest asset of the CT Puerto Rican Community? 

The Puerto Rican community of Connecticut seem to help the economy; they are hard workers who own businesses and work hard to achieve a better lifestyle while helping others in the process.

What do you see as our biggest challenge? 
Our biggest challenge will be to make changes in areas where people are used to the same; regardless, if those changes are for the betterment

Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you? *
I would like voters to know that I will be dedicating time and effort to serve the organization and my community. my interest is to work for the success of a project and the organization as a whole.

Windham

Name James Flores 

City of Residence Willimantic
Position sought: Regional representative; Windham

Tell us a bit about yourself and why you are running for a leadership position with CT-PRA 
Currently I am member of Windham Town Council

If elected, what would your top 3 priorities be?

  • Engagement with Puerto Rico Island  issues

  • Better communication between different Puerto Rican communities in CT

  • Education

What skills or personal experience makes you a great fit for this position?
40 year experience working with Willimantic Community

What do you see as the greatest asset of the CT Puerto Rican Community?

Our greatest asset is our Puerto Rican traditions, and the willingness to keep it alive.

What do you see as our biggest challenge?
Bringing a group with different  political agenda together

Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?
I have been working with different latinos group in NY  MA NJ and FL

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