NEWARK, NJ — Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. hosted the county’s annual Latino Heritage Celebration on Friday, Sept. 16, in the Essex County Hall of Records in Newark. With an array of colorful flags representing 22 Latino countries as the backdrop, DiVincenzo led a spirited celebration to pay homage to the rich culture and traditions of U.S. residents who trace their roots to the Spanish-speaking nations of Europe, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.
During the program, DiVincenzo presented the county’s 2016 Estrella del Condado de Essex Awards, or Stars of Essex County Awards, to Shirley M. Collado, executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer of Rutgers University-Newark, and Newark Councilman Luis A. Quintana.
“We are honored to recognize Shirley M. Collado and Luis A. Quintana for their commitment to improving the lives of all residents, their leadership and dedication to public service,” DiVincenzo said, according to a press release. “Our cultural celebrations give us the opportunity to highlight the achievements of individuals from many different backgrounds, and learn about their heritage as well.”
Collado, a South Orange resident, joined Rutgers University-Newark in 2015 and teaches sociology. Collado leads the implementation of key elements of the university’s strategic plan and oversees academic affairs, student affairs and core institutional operations, including academic services, enrollment services, student life, human resources, facilities, information technology, and budget and finance. Collado is a clinical psychologist with a specialty in trauma among multicultural populations and a national thought leader on diversity, collaboration and innovation. She has taught at a number of colleges and universities.
Collado previously served as the executive vice president of The Posse Foundation, where she significantly grew the organization and managed operations on a national level. The Posse Foundation is a not-for-profit organization and one of the most comprehensive college access programs in the country. A member of The Posse Foundation’s inaugural class of students and a Brooklyn-born daughter of Dominican immigrants, Collado is the first person in her family to attend college, having earned her undergraduate degree in human and organizational development and psychology from Vanderbilt University in 1994, followed by M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in clinical psychology from Duke University. Moreover, Collado is the first Posse Scholar to receive a doctoral degree and become a trustee of an institution of higher education.
“Essex County, Rutgers University-Newark and the city of Newark have really embraced me and this is now my home,” Collado said. “The bus ride I took from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Vanderbilt University as a member of the Posse Foundation changed my life. That bus ride has defined everything I did as the first person in my family to graduate from college and professionally as I work diligently to provide opportunities for students.”
Quintana was elected to his first term as Newark councilman-at-large in June 1994 and has served for 22 years. Quintana was the first Hispanic to serve as councilman-at-large, city council president and mayor.
Quintana was born in Añasco, Puerto Rico, and, in 1967, at the age of 8, he moved with his family to Newark. Challenged by his new environment, the young Quintana, who could not speak or understand English, was determined to learn and achieve his goals. He received a bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice from Seton Hall University in 1983. After his graduation, motivated by his concern that all Newark children receive a decent education regardless of race, creed or color, Quintana became a youth counselor at the North Ward Center in Newark. As youth advocate, he worked with the Essex Council Boy Scouts of America, The Explorers, Rick Cerone Little League, Girl’s and Boy’s Clubs of Newark, and the Urban Youth Task Force. He has served as president and adviser to the Newark Police Explorers, Post 522.
“Having arrived here as a youngster who did not speak or understand English, I had to work hard to become successful. I have learned a lot through service, which allowed me to achieve. I believe that it’s not about bragging about achievements, it’s about doing the work within our communities,” Quintana said.
Minister Maria Ortiz from Christian Love Baptist Church in Irvington delivered the program’s invocation. Entertainment was provided by students from Arts High School in Newark.