For decades, Jorge Santiago has done research on Hispanic culture and taught on the college level. Today, Santiago will be one of several Hispanic educators from across the state to be honored by Gov. Deval Patrick for their contributions to educational excellence.
"It's a great honor," Santiago, 57, of Methuen, said. "It feels good to be recognized after so many years of working for the Hispanic community."
The presentation at the Statehouse is in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and Education Month.
"Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes Massachusetts' rich history of diversity," Patrick said in a statement. "As we celebrate our differences, it is important that we turn to each other and recognize that these differences make a stronger and more vibrant Commonwealth."
Santiago is a professor in the Behavioral Sciences department at Northern Essex Community College, where he teaches sociology and social welfare at both the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses. He is also director of the Institute for Community Workforce Development at the school.
"Dr. Jorge Santiago is a gifted teacher and we are extraordinarily fortunate to have him teaching at Northern Essex," said college president Lane Glenn.
"He overcame obstacles in pursuit of his own education, and he understands firsthand the challenges many of our students face. This is one of the reasons he is such a terrific role model for our students, especially our male Hispanic students," Glenn said.
Before joining the faculty of Northern Essex 15 years ago, he was executive director of Centro Panamericano for 13 years. Santiago was also deputy director of research in the state Health and Human Services department during Gov. Michael Dukakis' administration.
Throughout his career, Santiago has focused much of his research in Lawrence and is focusing on ways to help Hispanic men excel in college.
Born in New York City of Puerto Rican descent, he graduated from the University of Vermont. He received a Ford Scholarship to Boston University, where he received master's and doctorate degrees in sociology.
"I feel really proud of being Latino because I have the ability to see things from two perspectives, coming from the streets of New York and from an academic perspective as a scholar," Santiago said.
Also being honored by Patrick is Geraldo Acosta, principal at the International High School on the Lawrence High school campus.
Acosta has worked in the Lawrence Public Schools for 16 years first as a teacher, then as assistant principal at the High School Learning Center, Health and Humanities High School at Lawrence High and Arlington School.
"He is one of those teachers who does anything he can to motivate students to understand what they need to succeed and help them meet those expectations," interim Lawrence School Superintendent Mary Lou Bergeron said.
"Gerry understands what it takes and what it means so he encourages students to continue to work at it to succeed because he has done it," Bergeron said.
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