SPRINGFIELD — In a classic black suit, white shirt, and blue bow tie, Heriberto “Herbie” Flores held up a shiny copper penny to remind a room full of family, colleagues, and city officials how far he and other members of the city’s Latino community came.
“In Puerto Rico, we started with a dime,” Flores, a nonprofit leader for decades in western Massachusetts, said at the Student Prince restaurant as he recently hosted an event that he hopes will it, will foster the next generation of leaders of communities of color in Greater Springfield.
Growing up poor in Puerto Rico, Flores emigrated to Springfield around 1965. After serving in the military in Vietnam, he returned to Springfield to begin what has been more than 50 years of public service, focusing primarily on the Latino and migrant community. He helped develop the agency which began in 1971 as the New England Farm Workers Council and is now Partners for Community.
As Flores’ story of service to his community continues, he focuses his energy on encouraging the next generation to follow in his footsteps.
At the reception, Flores recognized his nephew, Jose Escribano, a member of the Springfield Public Schools leadership team, and his great-niece, Deavan Theriault, a physician completing residency at Baystate Medical Center, for their accomplishments. and educational decisions. go home and work in Springfield.
He cited them both as examples of young people who grew up in Springfield, continued their education, and made the decision to return to Springfield to pursue their careers and inspire others to do the same.
“We have to start recognizing our next heroes and the next generation to go anywhere,” Flores said. “We want to recognize them and give them the motivation and confidence to move forward.”
Theriault, earned his doctorate from Rocky Vista University and is currently completing his residency at Baystate Children’s Hospital.
Escribano, earned a degree in education from the University of Massachusetts in 2000. A former principal of Brightwood Elementary School, he worked with Springfield Public Schools for 15 years. In April, he started a new position as the head of family and community engagement for the school system.
“This event really highlights how important education is to me. It really made a difference in our lives. Escribano said. “Now it’s important for us to give back, to stay in Springfield and to help others accomplish the same.”
During the reception, Escribano and Theriault received citations from State Representative Carlos González, D-Springfield, for returning to the city after receiving their education.
González recalls first meeting Flores years ago as part of the bilingual college program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Since then, Flores has been a support system for the Latino and Black community, creating several programs to assist with employment, access to higher education, and providing low-income and elderly residents with fuel assistance and assistance. ‘other services.
Heriberto Flores honors the next generation of the Latino community for “choosing Springfield” as a place to stay and work after graduating from school
According to the parents of the new doctor, Lizmyra and Scott Theriault, the family has always remained humble and sought to set a good example. Growing up next to Baystate Medical Center and near her own pediatrician was a big influence on her decision to become a pediatric specialist, they said of their daughter.
“She’s an amazing young lady, she grew up next to Baystate, she was sledding in the hospital (and) Dr. Jose Llorens, her pediatrician, was our neighbor,” Scott Theriault said.
“She never wavered,” added Lizmyra Theriault. “She went to school in Springfield and Ludlow. She was third in her class… She has set goals and is disciplined.
“I am overwhelmed with love and support. It is great to be with family and community,” said Deavan Theriault. “I look forward to helping children live healthier lives, pursue their studies and make a difference in Springfield.”
According to Flores, as the population changes, so do the opportunities to make the city more inclusive and tolerant when it comes to training, recruiting, building relationships and supporting young leaders of color. The latest US Census data shows the city of Springfield is now 45.7% Hispanic or Latino and 20.9% Black or African American.
With an aging population nearing retirement, it’s important to encourage members of the next generation to step up, support the middle class and build long-term regional vitality, Flores told the Republican.
An important part of uplifting community is understanding that young professionals need mentors who are like them, who have gone through the same struggles in life and come to the other side, who will refrain from criticizing, will do a good job and not stay behind the scenes, Flores said.
All are attributes that Scott and Lizmyra Theriault said Flores has shown over the years to the youngsters in their family.
“Herbie set a great example to keep doing better,” said Lizmyra Theriault.