A young woman is the deputy director of communications for the office of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. Joy Huertas, a 29-year-old woman from Bogota, Colombia, came to the United States 12 years ago to improve her English and has taken advantage of every opportunity since her arrival on North American soil.
Huertas shared with El Sol Latino details of her life and her stance in the US, among other stuff.
“Joy is a leading woman, with a heart (oriented) to serve, to help people. Someone who understands the trajectory of the immigrant, the Latino, the Hispanic in the US”, she described herself.
Huertas originally came to the US to study English. Her plan was to return to Bogotá after a few months. However, destiny had other plans. “While in Colombia I found out that I was awarded me with a scholarship to study in the United States and do an undergraduate degree.”
The magic of Huertas’ scholarship is that she was not the one who applied directly. She obtained a scholarship to study journalism (focused on television) at Liberty University thanks to the efforts of her English teacher months ago.
“She had already asked me if she wanted me to stay. I told him yes, obviously. It was like the American dream for me,” she said. “During the time I was in Colombia she spoke, and at that time they gave her a scholarship. They wanted to bring more international students and gave a scholarship to one person per country”.
She was fortunate that there was no one from Colombia in the program and they offered her a scholarship that even allowed her to work.
After studying, teaching how to give oral presentations and obtaining a master’s degree (also from Liberty University), Joy Huertas joined Esperanza, an organization that has been in charge of empowering the inhabitants of Hunting Park (north of Philly) to lift themselves out of poverty through programs that cultivate self-confidence, determination, and knowledge.
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Her role at Esperanza was marketing associate. She managed social networks, videos, photography and communications in general.
“On one occasion they did a super big event in Washington with faith leaders from all over the country. They brought both Republican and Democratic politicians like Nancy Pelosi, the speaker (Paul) Ryan, (then VP) Mike Pence. All the marketing communications from the event fell on me,” she said. “Then they promoted me to manager.”
After Esperanza, Huertas was given the opportunity to work in the City of Philadelphia under the administration of Jim Kenney. Of course, with a “very small” aggravating circumstance: the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joy Huertas joined the Mayor’s team as communications manager for mobility, and the most important initiative in her charge was Vision Zero. “It was very cool to do communications for Vision Zero and it is still part of my portfolio to be able to communicate to people the importance of slowing down, of driving carefully, these types of measures that are super important,” said the young woman from Bogota.
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The change to deputy director of communications
During the pandemic, something that press team from the office of the Mayor of Philadelphia noticed was that there were few people in the city who spoke Spanish.
“The press team, of which I am now a part, connected with me to help them translate, and this was a time when only essential workers could work,” he explained.
During that time, Huertas got to know the team and a vacancy opened in October. “The first person they thought of applying for was me and it was a very competitive process,” Huertas said. “As much as I studied in the US I didn’t go to Harvard, I didn’t go to Penn University, so one goes with great humility. But I did feel that it was the position for me, that I could perform well”.
Finally, Joy Huertas confessed to El Sol Latino that she felt a great responsibility to represent the Hispanic community and Latin American women with dignity. However, it is a commitment that she assumes with pride and with her head held high.
“I feel that I have the responsibility to stand up for Colombians, for Latin women. It’s important to me.”
Huertas outside work
Joy Huertas is a woman of contrasts: a very social girl with introverted moments, according to her own vision. She loves exploring Philly and the world, as well as reading, spending time with her friends, and going to concerts as long as her job allows it.
During the pandemic Joy was encouraged to play sports, but there was one in particular that caught her. “I started running and I really liked it,” she confessed to El Sol Latino. “I am aware that I need to recharge my batteries because the job at the mayor’s office is very demanding. I love to watch a good movie and read a book, I read about five novels in a year.”
The future for Joy Huertas
The young woman from Bogota aspires to continue facilitating access to the Hispanic media for information and services from the Mayor’s office. “I see myself as a bridge between the Administration and Hispanic residents, and I would love to continue strengthening those ties with the media to report on available resources and help,” she said.
In the long term, Huertas would like to resume the path of journalism “in one way or another.”
“From my experience in government I have realized the importance of educating and informing the community on civic issues, citizen participation, the environment and mobility.” However, her greatest desire has to do with her homeland.
Doesn’t forget her origins
Huertas always has Colombia in mind, through contact with her family, from the news or her memories. For this reason, her greatest aspiration is to give back her country everything it has given her and contribute to her country what she has learned on American soil.
“In the Kenney Administration there is a very strong pillar that is fairness and government transparency. If I could contribute in the field of communications in an NGO, media outlet, or even in the government of Colombia or Bogotá, it would be a dream come true”.