Adonis Banegas chooses education. The door to learning is selected with astonishing constancy when it comes to choosing a way out of poverty. In facing this option, no one is ambivalent. The “mandelacentrists” believe that “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”. At Concilio they believe in this powerful formula and wastes no time in claiming it as a solution to Philadelphia’s many problems.
Statehood, COVID-19, mental health, gun violence and poverty. These were the topics in an interview with the Council’s executive director. According to its website, the Philadelphia NGO provides human service programs for more than 9,000 people.
It leads programs such as orphan care, adoption services, youth development and after-school programming. It is also engaged in children’s immunization and the promotion of cultural values with an emphasis on Puerto Rico.
Banegas chooses education
As a renowned Puerto Rican we felt tempted to ask him about the island’s statehood. It was clear to us that Banegas chooses education above all else, but we wanted to know his opinion. Senator Bob Menendez wants Puerto Rico to be the Union’s fifty-first star.
-What is your opinion?
El Concilio elegantly avoided going deeper into the subject. It has a policy of not getting involved in political matters. “We are here to support the people of Puerto Rico and celebrate their culture. Regardless of what happens with Puerto Rico in that realm, Concilio will always be there for the people.“ Just like that, like a “celaje”, Adonis Banegas passed over the question about statehood.
The treasure of education
Adonis Banegas is said to be a true Philadelphia product. He graduated from Samuel S. Fels High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Health Policy and Administration from Pennsylvania State University. He also holds a Master of Science in Health Education from Arcadia University. His community involvement includes serving on the board of the Deep Roots Charter School and Community Advisory Committee for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Cares Community Fund. These facts certainly convey why Banegas chooses education.
Asked about a feasible plan to contain poverty in Philadelphia he did not hesitate in his answer. “The most important thing is to train people in the community to get better jobs and higher salaries. People require having a job to get enough money to take care of the family.”
Banegas pointed out that Concilio has alliances with other agencies different programs. This summer will begin one of them. It will be aimed at young people. The youth will be trained to multiply care and protection messages regarding COVID-19. “The important thing here is that what they learn will be useful for other jobs in the future.
A COVID-19 review
El Concilio has acted assertively to help fight the pandemic in Philadelphia. Banegas points out that it has been a difficult time for everyone. “We’ve seen things we never thought we were going to see. We have now a vaccine. It’s very important that the community knows the importance of getting it and what the benefits are.”
The Council’s executive director said that there is currently enough vaccine in the community. However, “people are still hesitant. They haven’t made the decision to get the vaccine. It’s our job to persuade people. Convince them that it’s a good option. Getting vaccinated is the best thing for their community.”
About mental health
Mental health has been particularly affected by this pandemic. As an advantage Latinos and Puerto Ricans in general are fortunate to have Banegas’ choice of education. “The most important thing we have done is to keep in touch with our clients. We communicate with them to find out what they are doing and how they are doing.”
In addition, “the children have not been able to go to school to see their friends. There are a lot of things that have affected them mentally. It’s our job to give them the community resources to see how we can assist them. And as the city is gradually opening up, we are going to keep to providing in-person services and also organizing events to bring the community together which has been quite separated last year.”
Puerto Rican Day Parade 2021
Cultural activities are an important focus of development for el Concilio During the year 2020 it was impossible to hold the Puerto Rican Day Parade. However, this year it has already been scheduled for September.
As a believer in cultural events, Banegas chooses education. The celebration will be more modest than in previous editions. The capacity will be for fewer people but the affection will be much greater.
Traditional Latin music, poetry and dance will make this vibrant festival a must-see event. The Puerto Rican parade will be held on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The number of participants is still unknown.
What is on the horizon is the Summer Youth Works program. This is an activity that is run in partnership with Philadelphia Youth Network. The program hires Philadelphia youth for six weeks during the summer.
There is still no certainty for this 2021. Summer youth workers are supposed to work 20 hours a week for six weeks. Each year, students complete a service-learning project around a specific theme. The program is designed to provide high school students with real-world work experience. At the same time it enhances community involvement and academic performance.
Students also participate in skills development activities, workshops and field trips in addition to their service-learning project.
Concilio has a tradition of operating a 6-week summer camp. It is targeted to youth in school grades K-8. Programming is held at Francis Hopkinson Elementary School located at 4001 L Street Philadelphia, PA 19124.
The goal of the program is to provide academic enrichment-based instruction. It has a strong emphasis on literacy for grades K-5, high school preparation for grades 6- 8 and transition/successful promotion to the next grade for all students.
Translated by José Espinoza