Four Huntington High School students were among a group of spectacular teenagers honored at the town’s 26th annual Hispanic heritage celebration at Town Hall.
Huntington High School juniors Erik Flores and Yanira Rivera and seniors Adora Colay and David Canas Granados were presented with coveted Student Achievement Awards.
“This is a wonderful, bright and talented group of students and we are so proud of them,” Huntington High School Principal Brenden Cusack said. “I am grateful that the Town of Huntington has chosen to recognize these fine individuals, who represent the very best Huntington High School has to offer.”
Sponsored by the town’s Hispanic Task Force, the event took on a subdued tone due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It typically includes a packed auditorium, music and dance performances and a sit-down dinner attended by hundreds. Instead, masked Huntington Town Board members presented the honorees with certificates and posed for a group photo.
“While the pandemic may have prevented the typical celebratory gathering, it cannot compromise the tremendous accomplishments and leadership demonstrated by these four outstanding young people,” Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky said. “They continue to shine in all regards, serving as student leaders in the classroom and within the community, exemplary role models and the finest of school representatives.”
Yanira Rivera was born in El Salvador, the homeland of both of her parents. “I came to the US at the age of five without knowing any English,” she said. “Latinos are very hardworking people. There are so many beautiful tourist places to visit, even though El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America.”
The teenager plays basketball and runs on the track and field team. She is a member of the anti-discrimination club known by the acronym AWOD (A World of Difference) and she also participates in the Grandfriends club and United Amigos. She has assisted with the high school’s blood drive.
“I want to study the profession of psychology,” Ms. Rivera said. “I want to be able to study abroad and represent the Huntington spirit. I love helping others out and making them smile.”
David Canas Granados
Born in El Salvador, David Canas Granados came to the United States as a 10 year old. “I’ve always been very proud about being Salvadoreño,” he said. “I love learning more about my culture, from the language, the folklore, the food and the music to my indigenous heritage.”
The teenager has been a member of the Huntington Blue Devil marching band, the high school drama club, a capella choir and chamber orchestra. He has volunteered at Tri-CYA. He also works part-time as a barista at Harbor Harvest.
“I would like to major in philosophy, political science and Hispanic studies,” Mr. Canas Granados said. “After graduating from college, want to attend law school. I am interested in a career as an attorney specializing in immigration, human rights and criminal law.”
Erik Flores was born and raised in El Salvador. He immigrated to the United State as a 12 year old. “Initially, I did not think that coming to the US would have such a significant impact on me because I did not understand why people emigrated,” he said. “Life in El Salvador, as I remember, was much simpler than life in the New York. I can assert that one of the things that I love about El Salvador is that people are very generous and polite and they will welcome you with food and whatever they can afford to offer. People are taught to respect the elderly and young people would have to greet the elderly whenever they passed by. Yet, when I came to New York, I realized that it was very different than El Salvador.”
The teenager said another “valuable characteristic” of El Salvador is that those who can speak other languages are “very much appreciated” and they are asked “millions of questions” about those languages other than Spanish.
“I feel very proud to have come to learn the English language and I use Spanish and English in my daily activities,” Mr. Flores said. “I feel very honored to be born into a Hispanic family, because there are some values that I would not have understood if I was born into a different culture. There are some essential aspects that come with culture and one of them includes perspective. I feel proud because not only do I use English and Spanish, but I am also learning Latin and Italian.”
The junior is involved in many after-school clubs and he’s been inducted into several academic honor societies. “I have tutored and helped many ENL students in the school,” Mr. Flores said. “I think it’s always a great experience to help others. Over the summer, I volunteered at a local health fair in Port Jefferson and I was able to help people by interpreting some information into Spanish.”
Mr. Flores said he currently is planning to incorporate his cultural knowledge and experience into his career choice. He is interested in possible careers as a surgeon or in linguistics or world languages. “I believe that everything is possible if we are determined to keep up with the good work,” he said.
“My mother’s side of the family is pure Puerto Rican,” Ms. Colay said. “I have not met most of her family since the majority of them live in Puerto Rico, but I feel immensely connected to them through the stories my mom tells me about her experiences as she grew up. Whenever she speaks about her extended family her eyes brighten with the memories. She always has a great story to tell about her family, even if she does repeat them a couple times. I am extremely proud of my heritage as I continue to learn more about my unique people and culture.”
The teenager intends to continue participating in the Blue Devil fencing and volleyball programs. “For this season, I was invited to be the women’s team captain of the fencing team,” Ms. Colay said. “This will be a difficult task and I can’t wait for the challenge. I’m ecstatic and very hopeful for the upcoming year.”
The senior has volunteered at Catpurrccinos Cat Cafe in Huntington village. “My purpose as a volunteer was to get the kittens comfortable with people so they would express their individual personalities that could later get them adopted once they reached the café,” Ms. Colay said. “It was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a volunteer. I encourage anyone who is looking to adopt to check out the cafe. I am also set to go into orientation for the Huntington Hospital volunteer program in November.”
Ms. Colay’s future plans include continuing with her education on the undergraduate and graduate level school level as she pursues her “ultimate goal” of becoming a veterinarian.