by Zanna Shapiro

SFC hosted Puerto Rican born politician Nydia Velazquez for the first Life in Public Service series in the Genovesi Center.

Velazquez held a dialogue with Dr. Miguel Martinez Saenz in which they discussed education and politics.

Velazquez has served in the U.S. government since 1993. She was the first Puerto Rican woman elected to U.S. Congress.

She served in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 12th district from 1993-2013, and the 7th district from 2013-present.

This is her 14th term.

Martinez Saenz said that she was invited to speak so that the audience could “get an understanding of people behind the public persona,” and Rep. Velazquez told him to “know that you have a friend in Washington”.

Velazquez shared a compelling story of her childhood, detailing her humble upbringing.

Nevertheless, her father – a sugar cane worker – always prioritized education.

Her father – who instilled the importance of education in her from a young age – is a motivating force and continues to live through her.

She said she would not be standing there today if it wasn’t for the education she received.

Rep. Velazquez was always eager to learn, even from a young age. She described herself as a very curious five-year-old.

She said that her form of entertainment was learning how to read and reading many books.

She was inspired by her father’s sister, who was a physician in Puerto Rico. Velazquez described her as a well put, presentable woman. She knew that education played a role in her aunt’s disposition.

Velazquez’s zeal to learn continued to grow as she got older; in high school she took summer classes and graduated when she was 16 years old. In college, she also took summer classes and graduated with her baccalaureate degree at age 19.

Soon after, she was awarded a full-ride scholarship to study at NYU, and moved to New York City to pursue her master’s degree.

Velazquez described herself as “outspoken” and said that she never allowed her strong accent to deter her determination, “always find your voice…to ask questions,” she advised the students in the audience.

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