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Home > News > NJ Latino High School Students Chosen to Participate in NJ’s First National Civic Engagement Program

Paul Nichols By Paul Nichols
Tuesday, Jul 09, 2013

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Democratic Hispanic Task Force, today joined Mayor Dana Redd, Assemblyman Whip Wilson, County Clerk Joe Ripa, and representatives of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) at LEAP Academy’s S.T.E.M. High School campus in congratulating three local high school students who were selected to participate in CHCI’s prestigious Ready To Lead Next Generation, a.k.a. R2L NextGen, 2013 Program.

This program is the first of its kind in New Jersey and was made possible at no cost to the participants with the support and sponsorship of the Mafco Worldwide Corporation, a manufacturer headquartered in Camden, NJ. Senator Menendez applauded their sponsorship and encouraged other local businesses in New Jersey to demonstrate similar corporate leadership by supporting CHCI’s civic engagement programs. In coming years he hopes additional New Jersey businesses do their part and sponsor local high school students and future Latino leaders.

“Our greatest responsibility is to mentor the next generation,” said Sen. Menendez. “And CHCI’s R2L program is a premier mentoring program that will change the lives of these three young Latinos from Camden. Now more than ever, as immigration reform comes under fire in the House and voting rights of minorities hang in the balance of our legal system, our nation needs the leadership of the Latino community for the progress of our country as a whole. I thank Mafco for graciously stepping up to sponsor these young leaders--New Jersey’s first participants in CHCI’s leadership and civic engagement programs. Today, I call on every New Jersey company, and every community to support programs that teach our youth how they can affect positive change for themselves, their families, their communities, and our nation.”

“I am thrilled that the CHCI R2L program has selected three Camden youth to participate in this year’s program,” Mayor Redd said. “This will truly be a life-changing and memorable moment in their lives and I know the experience they will gain from the program will positively impact their lives. And thanks to the sponsorship from one of our local businesses, Mafco Worldwide, our three Camden teens will be able to represent us in Washington, D.C. for the entire week. I also want to thank Senator Menendez for his continued leadership and his efforts to improve the lives of our young children in Camden and throughout the nation.”

“For the third consecutive year we will include high school students in the Washington, D.C. experience that we have been providing to college students and college graduates for more than three decades,” said Esther Aguilera, CHCI president and CEO. “CHCI is very proud to include the Camden, N.J. community as part of this year’s R2L Next Gen program and we thank the Mafco Worldwide Corporation for its support of three future Latino leaders, and State Farm®, the founding sponsor of the program, for its continued support.”

"As a member of the Camden community for more than 100 years, Mafco is proud that its support for CHCI's R2L Next Gen program will enable three local young Latino leaders to participate in leadership training in Washington, D.C. this summer for the first time since the inception of the program," said Joe Ahearn, Senior Vice President of Mafco Worldwide Corporation. "We thank Senator Menendez for his continued support of the Latino community in Camden and the entire state of New Jersey, and commend CHCI for all of its outstanding efforts in cultivating a new generation of Latino leaders across our country."

About CHCI’s R2L NextGen Program:

Each year, CHCI brings students in 9th, 10th, and 11th grade to participate in the HSLLDC program, a week-long leadership training in Washington, D.C. During the program students gain a deeper understanding of the importance of their role as engaged citizens, meet with key leaders, participate in study visits at historic sites and develop a deeper understanding of how they can affect positive change in their communities and their nation. To learn more about R2L NextGen program, click here.

About Mafco Worldwide Corp:

Mafco Worldwide has been the world leader in quality licorice products since 1850. The Company specializes in manufacturing licorice extract and related derivatives for use as flavoring and moistening agents in various consumer products, including candies, pharmaceuticals and tobacco products. Its primary brand of sweetening and flavor-extending products is Magnasweet. Mafco Worldwide also markets Right Dress, a gardening mulch, as well as other flavor and plant products, including natural roots, spices and botanicals. Mafco is headquartered in Camden, NJ where it has been manufacturing licorice extract products since 1903.

The three New Jersey students chosen to participate in CHCI’s R2L NextGen Program are:

Michelle Melanie Panchana (16)

A rising senior at John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School. Apart from being an honors student, Michelle is involved in her school’s community service, and ambassadors club and is also part of her school’s swim team. Michelle is also an active member of the Puerto Rican Unity for Progress’ (PRUP) Youth Empowerment Network Program where she helps with several volunteer projects for the communities of Camden and Philadelphia. Her native Ecuadorian parents immigrated to the United States in hopes of providing their four children better opportunities and access to education. Michelle has enrolled in additional science courses to help achieve her primary goal of graduating from college and earning a nursing degree.

Jonathan Ramirez (18)

Jonathan is currently attending LEAP Academy University Charter School where he will be a senior in the fall. An avid basketball player, Jonathan also stays busy by taking dual enrollment college courses through the Rutgers Future Scholars Program and serving as student government president of the class of 2014. Aside from planning on being the first member of his family to attend and graduate from college, Jonathan has aspirations of pursuing a career in medicine. As a young man of Puerto Rican, Nicaraguan, and African-American descent, Jonathan hopes to improve his community and the options available to young people

Peter Rivera, Jr. (16)

A Camdenite since birth, Peter is a rising senior at LEAP Academy S.T.E.M. High School. An active member of the National Honor Society and the LEAP Robotics club, Peter also takes dual enrollment classes at Rutgers’ Camden campus, plays on his school’s basketball and baseball teams, and presents workshops for the organization Communities of Learning for Urban Environments and Science (CLUES). Peter also volunteers at the Children’s Garden of Camden. As a young man of Puerto Rican and African American descent, Peter hopes that in achieving his goal of graduating college, he will be able to inspire his two younger brothers to do the same.

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