ROCHESTER — The head of Latinas Unidas for nearly two decades passed the baton during the 19th-annual Latinas Unidas Reconocimiento Awards.
Daisy Rivera-Algarin officially stepped down during the Nov. 2 event and Joann Santos was approved as the new board president.
"This was the right time to step down," said Rivera-Algarin, who is economic development marketing specialist for the city. "I’m excited to see where they (new board members) take it."
Since the organization began as a small group of women trying to support one another and recognize women making a difference in the community, Rivera-Algarin said that she is most proud how it has gone on to create a women’s scholarship fund and an annual rally for young Latinas to build their self-esteem.
"Having an impact on girls’ lives — that was the whole intent," she added.
During the tribute to Rivera-Algarin, a video montage highlighted the growth of the organization under her leadership. Xena Almonte, a member of the awards committee, wrote a poem that she read while N’Jelle Gage, a Futurpointe dancer, performed.
"Latina women have the power to do it all, whether it be gaining an education, maintaining a career, raising a family, or all simultaneously," read Almonte, an East Ridge High School student. "There is a light within these women that shines."
Rivera-Algarin joked that she felt like she was at her funeral.
"It was overwhelming, but I’m grateful to hear these things when I’m alive," she said. "I appreciate it."
Rivera-Algarin must have "size 25 shoes" and she has no idea how she is going to fill them, said Santos, director of the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) at Monroe Community College.
"The great thing is … that she’s going to stay involved," said Santos. "We’re not letting her go."
Santos said that she appreciates how transparent Rivera-Algarin is with her leadership, and the board knows the details of all that’s going on with the organization.
Being chosen as president after only being on the board for about a year was a "big jump," said Santos, but she also felt the timing was perfect to take on this role.
"I’ve served on other boards, but this one is so different," she added. "It’s like a family. … And that’s a credit to Daisy."
In addition to the farewell tribute to Rivera-Algarin, the luncheon also recognized four local Latinas for their leadership. About 265 people attended the luncheon held at the Hyatt Rochester.
* Flor Colón, an associate general counsel for Xerox Corp., was recognized for leadership achievement.
* Yesenia Ramos-Torres, executive assistant to the president at PathStone, received the award for volunteer service.
* Antonia Custodio, coordinator of facilities and campus services at MCC’s Damon City Campus, received the career achievement award.
* Laura Aguilera, a Webster Thomas High School senior, was honored as the Young Latina Leader.
Mauricio Riveros and Mary Warboys-Turner received the "amigo" and "amiga" awards.
Ramos-Torres said that the kind of leadership exemplified by the award winners comes from passion for one’s community.
"You need to love your community," she said. "You need to work in your community. It has to be in your DNA. I guess it was in my DNA. … and I have been blessed to be surrounded by family members who believed in giving back."
EDITOR’S NOTE: To read Xena Almonte’s poem, "A Dedication to Masterpieces," visit https://en.elmensajerorochester.com/community-faith/reader-contributions/a-dedication-to-masterpieces/