MERIDEN — The Connecticut Association of Latino Administrators & Superintendents is inviting the community for appetizers, music, and networking, while fundraising for the education of Connecticut Latino students and educators Friday night.
CALAS was created in 2015 by a group of dedicated New Haven area Latino leaders, who saw a need to advocate on behalf of Latino students in the state of Connecticut.
The organization’s mission is to expand resources and opportunities for Latino students and educators.
The fundraiser will take place on Friday (March 24) from 5-9 p.m. at Taino Smokehouse Prime, 1388 E. Main St.
Tickets are $30 and can be purchased beforehand through the organization’s Venmo @CALAS-EDU, or at the door. All proceeds from the event go toward CALAS’ scholarship fund.
“We're also going to be highlighting all of our past scholarship winners,” said Daisy Torres, president of CALAS. “There are going to be some pictures and things displayed so that people can see directly where their money's going.”
The organization offers three awards each year—the high school senior award, which is $1,000; the college student award for $1,250; and the public educator award for $1,500.
According to Torres, there are certain criteria for each scholarship.
“For the high school award, the student must be enrolling in an accredited higher education institution for the upcoming fall semester and majoring in the field of education, as well as having at least a 3.0 GPA,” she said.
For the college student award, the student must have completed at least 30 credit hours of coursework prior to the upcoming fall semester. In addition, they have to remain full-time in college.
The public educator award goes to a current educator who identifies as Hispanic or Latino and has a minimum of three years’ experience teaching in a Connecticut public high school. They must also be enrolled in an educational leadership program.
All recipients must be a permanent resident of Connecticut.
“Giving out awards is something we've been doing since 2017,” Torres said. “To this date we’ve given out $17,250 in scholarships to Latino Connecticut students and educators. This is something we're really proud of.”
Scholarships are closed for this year, and the recipients will be notified by early April.
Nominees will be celebrated at the organization’s 6th annual gala which will be held on May 6.
Torres said one of the previous recipients, Hector Cardona III, is a prime example of what CALAS stands for.
Cardona received two awards—the high school senior award in 2018 and the college student award in 2019.
In 2018, Cardona graduated from H.C. Wilcox Technical High School and made the transition to the University of Connecticut where he went on to study education.
“This helped me jumpstart my abilities in the field of education. It was not only just a scholarship, but a network of people that I could ask questions about education,” Cardona said. “When I was just going from high school into college, it kind of helped me to really realize how vast education is and that there's a really large support system in Connecticut for Latino educators.”
At UConn, he graduated with a bachelor of science in education in 2021, and a master’s in education and curriculum instruction in 2022.
After graduating, Cardona went back to Meriden and became a fifth grade teacher at Casimir Pulaski Elementary School.
According to Cardona, Meriden was at the top of his list for school districts he wanted to teach at.
“I knew I wanted to return here,” he said. “Just because it really meant a lot to me, that I'll be able to show students that come from the same community as me that it's possible to get a college education and to be successful.”
“Hector is someone who took that scholarship and he used it for the exact purpose we wanted, which was to enter the education field. Then, he came back to his hometown and is giving back directly to his community,” Torres said.
Other past recipents of the awards have been Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education; Dario Soto, Principal at Crystal Lake School in Ellington; Luz Rivera, director of multilingual learners at Norwich Public Schools; and Da'Nasiah Blackwell, student at Southern Connecticut State University.