Wilma V. Torres, a top administrator for the Youngstown Area Community Action Council, said in a recent column that young Hispanics, especially women, must have a vision and work hard to achieve that vision.
Two young local Puerto Rican women from the same family have done that.
Miriam Ocasio, the second youngest of nine children of Evangelista and the late Francisco "Chico" Ocasio, is the first lawyer in her family and one of just a handful of Puerto Rican attorneys in the Mahoning Valley.
Miriam's niece, Eva Rae Sanchez Ocasio, is the first member of the extended Ocasio family to graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo. She is now a second lieutenant.
Meeting Millie: I first met Miriam, or Millie as she is called by family and friends, in 1975 when she was about 10. I was an English teacher then, and I went to her North Bruce Street home on the city's East Side to give her sister, Sarah, some makeup homework assignments.
Sarah, who had missed a few days because of illness, was in my eighth-grade English class. The Ocasio family lived across the street from the school, so it certainly wasn't out of my way to make the trip. I explained to Sarah what she had missed and the assignments that were due when she returned. I noticed this skinny little girl with big round eyes peering at me from the next room.
I smiled and told her she also might be in my English class one day. She giggled and quickly disappeared from sight that day, but not from my life.
The road to the courtroom was not easy for her. She was a good student at Youngstown East High School, but not an exceptional one. She's always been focused, however, and worked hard to achieve her goals.
I remember sitting at the family dining room table helping her with English composition assignments and book reports. She often would get frustrated when I explained to her the fine points of syntax and subject-verb agreement.
"I don't know about this, Ernesto," she would often tell me.
I would reassure her that she could do it. It was a challenge, but she was up to the challenge. She would dutifully made the corrections, often starting her work over from scratch to make sure it was done correctly.
Persevered: Millie earned her undergraduate degree from Youngstown State University and desired to become a lawyer. She did not pass the Ohio State Bar Examination on her first try, but she didn't let that setback stop her. She kept trying until she passed.
She worked as a law clerk in the 7th District Court of Appeals, kept constant tabs on her widowed mother, and lent what support she could to her many nieces, nephews and siblings.
Last year, Edward A. Cox, the former appellate court judge and another family friend, swore her in as an attorney.
I watched the tears flow from her mother and other family members as they witnessed with pride the culmination of years of hard work and steadfastness.
Millie's niece, Eva, is a 1997 Boardman High School graduate, the daughter of Reinaldo and Wildemina Ocasio Sanchez. Wildemina, or Willie, is one of Millie's eight sisters.
I've known Eva since she was a baby. I remember her curly red hair and boundless energy. She also developed a strong work ethic and kept her focus on doing the best she could academically and athletically at the academy.
She graduated first in her legal studies major and was on the dean's list every semester, maintaining a 3.0 grade point average. She also was on the school's fencing team for two years and completed the free-fall jump program to earn the Air Force Jump Badge.
Eva is now stationed at the Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan, where she is a contracting officer.
Her sister, Amber Rae, is an Ohio State University student, and her brother, Jussus, is beginning his second year at Ohio University.
A last personal footnote about Atty. Ocasio: Today is her birthday and she's getting married in November.