County holds Portuguese heritage celebration

Photo Courtesy of Glen Frieson
Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr., center, presents Star of Essex awards to Patricia A. Gois, left, and Manuel Da Silva.

NEWARK, NJ — Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. hosted the 2017 Essex County Portuguese Heritage Celebration on Wednesday, June 14. During the program, DiVincenzo presented Star of Essex Awards to Patricia A. Gois, principal of Rafael Hernandez School in Newark, and Manuel Da Silva, vice president of Construction Operations at the New Jersey Schools Development Authority. The honorees were recognized for their many positive contributions to New Jersey, especially in Essex County.

“Essex County has been shaped and developed by the various cultures and ethnicities of the people who have lived and worked here. Celebrating the heritage of our neighbors will help us understand and embrace our diversity,” DiVincenzo said. “Patricia Gois and Manuel Da Silva have made many positive contributions to the cultural, civic and educational history in Essex.”

Gois has been the principal of Rafael Hernandez School of the Performing Arts in Newark since July 2014. As principal, she has made an impact in a short period of time, improving student performance and teacher support. In 2009, she received the Governor’s Teacher Recognition Award for Teacher of the Year. In addition to her responsibilities at school, she is very active at her church and in the community, serving as a Sunday School teacher for 10 years, and training and directing a church group for altar servers. She is also a scout leader, tutor and translator, and a mentor for a youth group that helps troubled youth.

“I am proud of my culture and I also love to be around other cultures. My family and I came here on July 15, 1985, in search of the American dream,” Gois said. “Now to see things from this other side makes it all worth it.”

Da Silva has served in various capacities with the New Jersey Schools Development Authority for the past seven years. His notable accomplishments include being directly responsible for the delivery of four new school facility construction projects in 2016 with a construction value of $194.5 million and more than 3,000 new pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade seats in 2016. A special project was the construction of the new Oliver Street School, since the old school was Da Silva’s alma mater.

“It is easy for me to accept this award when other Portuguese people have gone before me and paved the way,” Da Silva said. “I am humbled to receive this. I also want to thank my parents, my in-laws, my wife and my children for their continued support.”