Hispanic Heritage Month - Showcase on Staff

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For Hispanic Heritage Month, we worked alongside three staff members to showcase how their Hispanic culture is important to them, to share traditions and even their favorite cultural dishes. We thank Mona, Cristina and Jesenia for sharing and for the important work they do each day with us Keeping Families Together.

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Mona Fermin-Fennell

Quality Management Specialist

What does being Hispanic mean to you?
Food. Music. Family gatherings. Our deep-rooted culture made up of Taino, African and Spaniard ancestries.

Have you/your family been doing anything special this year to celebrate your Hispanic heritage?
This summer, we visited our family that live in Dominican Republic and stayed with them in their local home. We danced and ate delicious food at the annual MVLA Latino Festival at Hanna Park in Utica. We also spent some time visiting the Latino Village at the New York State Fair in Syracuse. Throughout the year, we like to listen to the local Spanish speaking radio station and buy food from the Spanish restaurants/markets. We try to do what we can to continuously support our Hispanic community. 

What is your favorite Hispanic dish to make or to eat?
Sancocho & Pastelon de Platano Maduro 

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Cristina Shahid

Family Service Coordinator

What does being Hispanic mean to you?
For me, being a person of color (not focusing on Hispanic or Black) is important because I have an internal strength that fuels me to strive to be a good person. As a person of color I am strong, family oriented and resilient.

How do you balance your U.S. and Hispanic identities?
I do not feel that I have separate identities. I grew up in the U.S., so my culture is more Americanized. Who I am or my identity is being kind, just, and good to all human beings and that is not shaped by my race.

What is your favorite Hispanic dish to make or to eat?
Plantanos maduros fritos (fried sweet plantains)

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Jesenia Wright

Clinical Supervisor

What does being Hispanic mean to you?
To me being Hispanic means culture, values and pride. I come from a Puerto Rican background and take pride in the richness of our culture and close knit community. My Hispanic upbringing has influenced my decisions and values.

How do you balance your U.S. and Hispanic identities?
I identify as Puerto Rican. My family, including my mother and grandmother, were born and raised in Puerto Rico. However, I was born and raised in Utica so I am American. I keep my Hispanic culture alive by speaking Spanish, engaging in Hispanic traditions, cooking Hispanic dishes, and spending time with my family. I also take pride in being American and celebrating American holidays and traditions. I guess I have never really looked at it as balancing identities but more so just living my life.

What is your favorite Hispanic dish to make or to eat?
I LOVE bacalo con arroz y guanduales (cod fish with yellow rice and pigeon peas)

Do you and your family have any special traditions?
We celebrate Three Kings Day (It is like a Spanish Christmas) on January 6th.