When I was in elementary school, I wrote a biographical essay on Roberto Clemente. I was not enthusiastic about baseball, but my dear father, born in Puerto Rico, was obsessed. As the only family of Puerto Rican heritage at my school, he encouraged me to write about, share, and take pride in the story of the first Latino, a Puerto Rican, to be inducted into the Major League Hall of Fame, Roberto Clemente. This theme was repeated throughout my elementary and high school years as my parents filled the educational voids in my school library and classroom instruction. In addition to their story-telling, they procured books for us, checked out from the public library or borrowed from a work colleague, to provide the parallel and missing lessons of contributions and achievements of Hispanic, Asian, and African Americans in the United States. Long before any statement became part of a national dialogue, they knew that representation mattered.
Today, I lead the Crimsonbridge Foundation, a philanthropic nonprofit organization that includes and embraces the linguistic, cultural, and identity assets of students, nonprofit leaders, and women and girls. As a nonprofit leader and an American woman of Hispanic, Asian, African heritage, our work is deeply personal. So when we received a donation of the Smithsonian's bilingual anthology Our Journeys/Our Stories: Portraits of Latino Achievement as a resource to share with community partners, I found myself reading it cover to cover. It was engaging, informative, and there, on page 31, was Roberto Clemente. In addition to his story, there were dozens of other inspirational portraits in English and Spanish, highlighting the significant contributions of Latinos to American life across generations. It was a resource I'd never had growing up.
Appropriate for students of all ages, parents, and teachers, we offered the books to our Bridges Program, Bridges for Schools, and Adult English Language program community partners. Recently, I delivered the last stack of books to Sacred Heart School, a bilingual school in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, DC. As I left, I felt hopeful for these students, moving through the hallway from one classroom to another, eager to learn and full of joy, energy, and potential. Written by Danielle M. Reyes, President and CEO of the Crimsonbridge Foundation.