DIRECTOR, MERCER COUNTY ONE–STOP CAREER CENTER,
FOUNDING MEMBER OF MERCER COUNTY HISPANIC ASSOCIATION (MECHA)
Virgen Vélez was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1951. In search of a better life, her family migrated to Trenton, New Jersey when she was three years old. In the ninth grade, she received a high school scholarship from A Better Chance program to attend a private school in Vermont. She received an associate's degree in secretarial science from Mercer County Community College and a bachelor's degree in sociology from Rider College. Ms. Vélez is currently the deputy director of the Mercer County One–Stop Career Center where she's been working for over 20 years. As a community activist, she became a founding member of the Mercer County Hispanic Association (MECHA), an agency that ensures that adequate representation and services are provided to meet the needs of the Latino population in Mercer County.
Prepared by Yesenia López, Archivist.
Hear Virgen Vélez discuss the origins of the Mercer County Hispanic Association (MECHA):
Text of Audio Quote:
[Text edited for clarity. For a full verbatim transcript of the quote, please see p. 11 of the complete interview transcript.]
"MECHA is very near and dear to my heart. Years ago, when I was working for the City of Trenton, Mercer County wanted to assess the needs of the Hispanic community in Mercer County and they put together a committee to assess the needs and make recommendations. I was one of the people that was representing the City of Trenton. Once we completed our task and submitted our report, many of us felt that there was a huge need in the Hispanic community. There was a huge gap between the services that were available and [the] information filtering through to people that needed it. So the more time went on, and the more we discussed it, we realized that what was needed was almost like an information and referral source, not necessarily an agency to provide direct services, but an agency that can serve almost as an information center, to be able to connect people with the services that were available. And we continued to meet and we made the decision to form MECHA. We went after funding because we had no money; we went to the County, we went to the State, and we were able to receive some funding to begin the organization. And that's how the Mercer County Hispanic Association, MECHA first began. "
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