The new career academy is nestled on a hill overlooking the city of Waterbury.

                            Column by Jay Gonzalez

   The city of Waterbury is a diverse melting pot of many different cultures and nationalities. From Portuguese to Lebanese, Latino to Irish, Italian to Albanian and so on, this great city has a plethora of establishments celebrating the unique aspects and traditions of each great culture. The rich heritages of The Brass City can be seen from street corners to festivals. Whether it’s the Ponte Feast, Portuguese Club, Mayor for the Day, or Jonathan Reed School that recently opened up, our city honors the sacrifices, hard work, and dedication that these cultures and people have made for their hometown. As the fifth largest city in Connecticut, there are many opportunites we have to pay tribute to a cause or ones beliefs. Just last year in Waterbury, there was tremendous support for the naming of a new school opening up to be dedicated to a black man, first time ever. Really? It was the first public school in the City of Waterbury, a city so diverse, to be named or in honor of a minority. Hundreds turned out, and rightfully so, for Jonathan E. Reed School dedication ceremony as this was a long overdue accomplishment for the city.

  This year will mark the opening of a new technical high school in Waterbury come fall, and just as Jonathan Reed School had no name at one time, so does the currently dubbed “Waterbury Career Academy”. With over 20% of the population being black, its easy to see why the black community was standing behind this. Our cities 30 plus public schools have educated thousands of minority students, all of whom never attended a school named after one of their own. Until now.

   While this was an excellent accomplishment, there is still work to be done. Our city, as well as our school system, has a large Latino population. Over 30% of Waterbury’s citizens are of latino descent and that number is even higher in our public schools. With such a large demographic, I feel that the new school’s name should be fitting to the people that attend the school, not merely the location of the school. While “Waterbury Career Academy” is catchy, it sounds a little like a bootcamp. How about a school name that the kids attending can feel proud of and comfortable with because its familiar and recognizable with a majority of its students and parents, as well as the community around it.

   One name that comes to mind is Heriberto “Eddie” Rivera, the firefighter who gave his life while serving his city. Since his passing, his wife Maritza, daughter Jessica, and the entire Rivera Memorial Foundation has been serving the Latino community and our students for over 20 years. They have worked tirelessly providing affordable and enriching programs to address the growing needs of our youth. They offer everything from after school mentoring programs to providing a variety of activities throughout the summer and act as positive role models and life guides for many of children. They also offer scholarships for outstanding work being done in the community by these kids, an opportunity that might otherwise not be available. Its community leaders like these who deserve the honor of having a name representing the thousands of students that they mentor. Rivera Memorial Tech has a little nicer ring to it and is definitely very deserving of it.

   As a Conservative, I feel that this is where it all begins. Our values are beginning to be learned at a young age and these students need to be guided in the right direction. Our education system will likely determine the path that these students go out into the real world with and the discipline and skills that this school will teach them, makes them all the more prepared to lead a productive happy, healthy life. We have an opportunity to support the latino community and make our voices heard. Its about time that the hispanic people of Waterbury have a school not of their own, but that represents their culture and the tradition of excellence and service in ones community. Latino’s Republican, Independent, and Democrat alike should be in support of this. Partisan feelings and back scratching aside, This should be something that the whole Hispanic community should be behind.