By Sanjana Butala, Staff Writer,
The Middlesex County College New Brunswick Center organized a guest speaker panel to
celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
This event was held in collaboration with EMPOWER, a college preparatory program for high
school students, and was conducted virtually over Zoom.
The event was moderated by Alexis Delgado, director of the Educational Opportunity Fund
(EOF) Program at MCC, and Evelyn Rosa, director of the New Brunswick Center.
The panel was attended by Rafael Manzanares and Angela Roque. Manzanares is the son of a
Central American refugee and South American migrant, and after graduating from MCC and
Kean University, he is now a English professor at MCC.
Roque was born in El Salvador and migrated to the United States at the age of 14 with a pocket
Spanish-to-English dictionary. Roque also graduated from MCC and Kean University. She now
teaches at the New Brunswick High School.
The event began with a brief video educating and informing the audience about the difference
between Hispanic and Latino communities.
The guest speakers talked about their respective backgrounds and their unique identities.
Manzanares said that he has Native American roots, while Roque added that she comes from a
Roque said that support from her ESL teachers truly helped her get through. She reminisced
about her first day at school and how reading even a single paragraph in English was a
challenge in her initial days.
Roque said that making connections between English and Spanish words and using a dictionary
will help improve writing.
Roque said she received much needed assistance from her ESL teachers after leaving school
when she decided to take up an internship.
Rosa said it is crucial for students to get a good support system behind them to help them
navigate their journeys, so that they don’t get stuck.
Manzanares said his desire to earn money distracted him from his focus on high school.
Manzanares said, “My advice to you [students] would be to work a lot less, and focus a lot more
“Money isn’t the most important thing in the world. What’s more important is the relationships
you build with people,” Manzanares said.
“Financial resources are definitely necessary. It can help any community, especially the
immigrant community,” said Manzanares.
Roque said that it is difficult to gauge the intensity of the troubles students might be facing and
that she understands the responsibilities that students may have back at home.
Rosa said students may take advantage of the on-campus basic needs counselor and grants for
rental assistance, transport, food, etc. if needed.
Roque said, “I once was ashamed of speaking Quechua, but later I realized that there is nothing
to be ashamed of.”
Roque said that you should embrace who you are and what makes you unique.