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Southwest Spotlight: Angel Dejesus…Queens Profile: Maria Vester… Demanding, Stressful - But It's A 'Beautiful Career'

Southwest Spotlight: Angel Dejesus

By Sherry Boas | Special to the Sentinel

November 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

Age: 36.

Family members: My wife, Gloria Rivera, and our four children: Angel Jr., 16; Luis, 12; Katheelen, 12; and Jonathon, 12.

Where I live and for how long: Poinciana, for two years.

Originally from: San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Education: I have an associate's degree from Kingsboro Community College in New York.

Occupation: Coordinator for the South Lake YMCA.

Job description: I run a before- and after-school program at Windy Hill Middle School in Clermont that provides homework help, sports and arts and crafts from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 3 to 6 p.m.

The best thing about my job: I feel I am helping someone.

The worst thing about my job: That I have to travel about an hour to get there.

I got my first job when I was: 15, working in a factory, putting nuts and bolts together.

My job history includes: I was a family assistant counselor for the New York Board of Education in a program called Aspira. I worked with the Latino teen population to help them stay in school. I also worked for the Department of Juvenile Justice as a counselor at a group home.

When I'm not working: I play sports, especially baseball.

My favorite meal: Lasagna.

My favorite music: Jazz.

Something important that I've learned in my life: It is always good to help people.

Someday I hope to: Bring the rest of my family here from New York. I've already brought my mother, sister and one brother. I have one more brother yet to bring.

Queens Profile: Maria Vester

Sheila McKenna

December 19, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Newsday. All rights reserved.


New director, Queens chapter of the American Red Cross; volunteer with the private, nonprofit New York Cares, which handles many volunteer services; and the private, nonprofit group Public Education Needs Civic Improvement in Learning, dedicated to private sector involvement in public education, and sponsor of Prin- cipal for a Day, where people from all fields get a chance to lead a city school.


33; born in Puerto Rico, reared in Buffalo; received a bachelor's degree from Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y., and a master's degree in science education from the University of Buffalo; worked as a schoolteacher for seven years in western New York; joined the Red Cross in November 2001 as assistant director of legal affairs for its Sept. 11 Recovery Program; married, one son; resides on Upper East Side, Manhattan.


"After 9/11, the Red Cross introduced a new youth initiative called Facing Fear. My role was to create all the ads and manage the implementation of the program, which was introduced to schools in the greater New York area. Facing Fear is a curriculum that consists of lesson plans [and help programs] that focus on terrorism and disaster."


"As the new Queens [Red Cross chapter] director, I want to ... continue to enhance and increase community involvement through our community outreach programs and the classes that are available here."


"My history of being a teacher and then moving into the world of nonprofit has been a natural progression. In all of these things I want to help my community in any way possible ... It is something I have always tried to do, especially with young people."

Demanding, Stressful - But It's A 'Beautiful Career'

Jim Merritt

February 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Newsday. All rights reserved.

Millie Santiago's background in 1970s community-based organizations in the Bronx was a useful preparation for her job as administrator of Casa Promesa, a 108-bed residential health care facility in the Bronx.

Shortly after leaving her native Puerto Rico in 1968, Santiago became a specialist for the Model Cities Community Development Programs, helping create programs for education, health, social services, children's services, housing and economic development.

Preparing for a midcareer shift, Santiago earned a business administration degree from Tarrytown's Mercy College in 1980 and nursing certification from C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University in 1996. Her studies continue at Manhattan's New School for Social Research and Columbia University, and Valhalla's New York Medical College Graduate School of Science.

In 1978, she became admissions director at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, but in 1994 received "an invitation that I couldn't reject to open Casa Promesa ... . " In 1996, she obtained a state license to run a nursing home and became Casa Promesa's administrator in 1999. Santiago says she's "one of the few Latinas with the license."

Promesa's population presents unique challenges. Although 15 percent of patients are older than 55, and the average age is between 21 and 45, Santiago says, all are from the city's "special needs population." They may be dealing with substance abuse and chronic diseases such as hepatitis, cancer and AIDS. The population is a New York City mosaic including African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians. Many of the 152-member staff, including medical specialists, are bilingual, Santiago says.

Santiago said her midcareer change to nursing home administrator has been rewarding and demanding.

"There's a lot of stress, but it's a beautiful career," says Santiago, 53. She encourages other health care professionals to consider working in nursing homes, and in Santiago, they have an energetic boss.

"I like to be active," says Santiago. "The management-by-walking concept, that's me."

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