When the parents of Sen. Bob Menendez came to this country to escape the changes happening in Cuba under dictator General Batista, their actions would set in motion a move towards a better life for their family. Menendez was born in 1954, two years after his parents immigrated to the United States. Life was not easy for the Menendez family, and it was from his mother, Evangelina, that Sen. Menendez would learn the importance of education, hard work, and perseverance. His mother passed away in 2009.
As a tribute to her legacy, Sen. Menendez created the Evangelina Menendez Trailblazer Award to recognize women, from the state of New Jersey, who promote equal rights for all and champion the rights of women, families, and children.
“Last year was truly the Year of the Woman,” said Menendez. “A record number of women were elected to Congress and local office, shaping our legislature to look more and more like the people it represents. We have the most women ever to serve in the Senate at one time. Despite President Trump’s efforts to suppress equal rights, women are fighting back every day for a better world. The fight for women’s rights is far from over, but I am proud to fight alongside these women every step of the way.”
This year, Marie Blistan, president of the New Jersey Education Association, was recognized along with Jennifer Skomial, New Jersey State Teacher of the Year 2019; Catherine Brienza, founder of Jolt USA; Joan Dublin, president and CEO of Metropolitan Family Health Network; S. Nadia Hussain, director of the Momsrising Maternal Justice Campaign; Marcia Marley, president of Blue Wave; and Elizabeth Meyer, activist and founder of the Women’s March on New Jersey.
“As we honor your mother, an amazing and trailblazing woman from Cuba who came to our great state and thrived, I feel such rejuvenation,” said Blistan, upon accepting her award. “Senator Menendez, as I have heard you say many times before, it was your mother who instilled in you the values of education, and I am honored to be here today receiving this award in the name of educators everywhere. My mother taught me that we stand up for what is right because it is right, and that foundation of compassion allows me to stand up and advocate for what’s best for New Jersey’s children. Blistan went on to say, that “in this role, our NJEA members have empowered me to contribute to our profession, the profession that made me who I am, and to teach students – to truly teach children – that together, we can make and will make the world a better place.”