September is Hispanic Heritage Month, and I'm glad to see my old friend Henry Guzman will be a part of the local activities planned at Youngstown State University.
Hispanic Heritage Month begins Sept. 15, the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries — Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
In addition, Mexico declared its independence Sept. 16, and Chile on Sept. 18.
The area's observance will continue through November.
I met Henry back in the 1970s through a mutual friend, Juan "Tingo" Diaz. Henry had served as the first president of Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana Americana — most often referred to as OCCHA — Youngstown's primary social service agency that addresses the needs of the Mahoning Valley's Hispanic community.
I also grew up on the East Side with Henry's siblings, Luis and Maggie.
Henry, a YSU alumnus who was born in Puerto Rico, will speak at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 21 at the university's Hispanic Heritage Conference in the Chestnut Room of Kilcawley Center.
The conference theme this year is ¡Querer Es Poder! (Where There is a Will, There is a Way!)
Henry was the first Hispanic appointed, then elected, to the Youngstown City Board of Education.
My friend has done very well since he's left Youngstown. He is director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety. Gov. Ted Strickland appointed him to that post earlier this year.
He also has served as director of the Columbus Department of Public Service, director of the Department of Public Safety for Cleveland and director of program development for the Ohio attorney general.
He also has served on several commissions and boards.
Henry and his wife, Nydia, have four children and nine grandchildren.
His distinguished record of public service comes forth as an example to young Hispanics that they, too, can reach for the stars and achieve success.
He has worked hard and has earned the respect of his peers.
In addition to Henry's address, the conference will include a flag ceremony with area Hispanic schoolchildren displaying heritage flags from 22 Hispanic countries, a dance presentation by Raices Latina and refreshments. The event is free and open to everyone.
In addition to the conference, there are a number of community events celebrating Hispanic heritage taking place through November.
Susan M. Moorer, coordinator of diversity initiatives at YSU's Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, was kind enough to send me the schedule to share with you.
U Sept. 13: A book discussion on "Journey to the Future: A Roadmap for Success for Youth," by Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, will be facilitated by Maggie Diaz McClendon, assistant director of YSU's Undergraduate Admissions Office. The book discussion will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Boardman branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. Call Deborah Liptak at (330) 744-8636, ext. 118 to register.
U Sept. 27: The 2007 annual Educators and Community Helping Hispanics Onward College Fair, sponsored by YSU's Undergraduate Admissions department, will be at OCCHA, 3660 Shirley Road, from 9:30-11:30 a.m. This is an informational college program to assist Hispanic/Latino students and their parents. Call Maggie Diaz McClendon at (330) 941-2000 for more information.
U Oct. 20: LUNA (Latina's United Networking Association Inc.) is having its fourth annual wine tasting fundraiser. The event will be at the Byzantine Center at the Grove, 3801 Shady Run Road, Youngstown, from 6 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $40 per person. For more information, contact Olga Rivera, event chairwoman, at (330) 506-1749.
U Nov. 2: OCCHA's 35th Anniversary Fundraiser Dinner will be at Mr. Anthony's Banquet Center on South Avenue, Boardman. Tickets are $40 per person. Social hour begins at 5:30 p.m., and dinner is at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call OCCHA at (330) 781-1808.