Puerto Rican Power Player
How Education Catapulted
Local Into The Political Spectrum
By Gary G. Toms
If education truly is the key to success, Richard Colón is well on his way to becoming a major star in every sense of the word. At a point where Latinos are fast becoming key players in such key areas as news and media, entertainment and politics, Colón is doing his part to showcase the beauty and power of his Puerto Rican culture, a culture that was once viewed as silent and inactive.
Colón is a life long resident of the Rockaways. He was born in 1967 at St. Joseph's Hospital (now known as St. John's Episcopal Hospital) in Far Rockaway, New York. His parents moved to the Arverne Houses when he was five, and they called it home for 25 years, from 1972 until 1995.
"My father migrated to Far Rockaway in 1961 from Puerto Rico, and my mother joined him in 1964, and they have lived together in the Rockaways for the past 38 years," said Colón.
"My parents continue to live in Arverne Houses. In 2000, my father, Francisco I. Colón, retired from the New York City Housing Authority, where he worked as a Caretaker at Hammel Houses. My mother, Awilda Colón, currently works as a Machine Operator at Madelaine Chocolate Novelties, Incorporated, where she has worked since 1976."
Colón is the middle child of three siblings, an older brother, Israel; and a younger sister, Sandra. Both were born in the Rockaways and currently live in the state of Georgia.
When reflecting on his youth, Colón fondly remembers how his parents stressed the importance of education in his life. For the Colón family, education was the tool that would enable you to achieve any goal you had, and little Richard took full advantage of his educational opportunities.
"I attended kindergarten and first grade at Public School 105. After first grade, my parents enrolled me at St. Mary's Star of the Sea in Far Rockaway. I attended Beach Channel High School from 1981 until my graduation in 1985, and I graduated with a Regent's diploma."
Upon graduation from high school, Colón attended the State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton (now known as Binghamton University). He graduated from SUNY-Binghamton in 1990 and received a Bachelor of Arts degree, with a dual major in Sociology and Political Science (with a concentration in Public Policy and Administration). At SUNY-Binghamton, he also obtained a dual minor in Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies and Afro-American and African Studies.
In 2000, the young scholar obtained a Master of Science degree from the New School for Social Research (now known as New School University), where he majored in Urban Policy Analysis and Management. As a result of his academic accomplishments, in 1990 he was named a Woodrow Wilson National Fellow in Public Policy and International Affairs, and awarded the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship in Public Policy and International Affairs for the years 1990 to 1992.
"I have taken extensive public policy coursework with studies at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, the W. Averell Harriman School of Policy and Management at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook, and at the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany," said Colón.
The Rockaway native notes that he is the first and only member of his entire family to ever obtain a Masters Degree, and the second to obtain a Bachelor Degree. He is currently working for the Speaker of the Council of the City of New York, the Honorable A. Gifford Miller, as the Policy Analyst for the Council's Committee on Environmental Protection.
"As the Policy Analyst, I work closely with the Counsel to the Committee in learning about and researching environmental issues confronting the City of New York, drafting legislation, resolutions, and proclamations, preparing for Committee hearings, responding to constituent letters, and keeping the Committee Members abreast on pertinent environmental issues," explained Colón.
"I'm blessed to be in the position I'm in. I want to help show kids who are poor and struggling in inner city neighborhoods, in Rockaway and abroad, that they can make it if they take education seriously. It was, and continues to be, the key to my success. It can be the key for many of them as well."
His former professional positions included working as Community Liaison for Congressman Gregory W. Meeks; a home facilitator for Child Development Support Corporation; Legislative Director for Assemblyman Gregory W. Meeks; and Research Assistant for the New York Hispanic Housing Coalition, Incorporated. Colón is member of the Christian Cultural Center (CCC) in Brooklyn, and he currently live at Dayton Towers in the Rockaways.