As Westchester County’s Hispanic population continues to grow so too do the number of Hispanic leadership positions.
Iris Pagan understands the value of hard work and the difference encouragement can mean for a youth. The daughter of a single mother who cleaned houses for a living, Pagan says, “I stand on the backs of at least three generations of women who never graduated from elementary school. Yet, they struggled so that someone in their family would make it.”
She credits teachers and other wise people who pushed her constantly to advance to a point where she has now earned her Doctorate of Education. They never allowed me to accept defeat. “Stand up over and over until you make it,” that is what they would say.
And Pagan is paying it forward in her role as executive director of the Westchester County Youth Bureau. The county agency works to improve the lives of youth through funding, monitoring and providing technical support for Westchester County’s 60 youth programs.
With a background in science, Pagans duties include supporting the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) Initiative, which County Executive Robert P. Astorino announced in March. With this initiative in mind, Pagan and her staff of five strive to bring quality STEM experiences to the county’s minority youth. The initiative is gaining momentum, she says, pointing to a couple of its successes. The Westchester Youth Bureau partnered with pharmaceutical company Regeneron to bring the Bio Bus, a vehicle that contains high-tech microscopes to view fascinating images such as skin cells, to youth in Peekskill, White Plains, Yonkers and other locations. Additionally, through collaboration with Jing Xie, a finance department manager at IBM; Robert Fuhrer, the founder of Kenken (a math puzzle) and Robert Doornick, the founder of International Robotics, the Westchester Youth Bureau was able to bring a Kenken contest to the White Plains Youth Bureau’s summer camp. The contest was designed to tutor campers in math while having fun and learning about their innate creativity.
Hispanic Leaders in Government
Pagan is one of many Latinos holding management positions in one of New York’s largest counties. Katherine (Katy) Delgado serves as deputy chief of staff for County Executive Rob Astorino. Jim Castro-Blanco, Esq., is the chief deputy county attorney.
Castro-Blanco has witnessed the changing role of Latinos in Westchester during his three-year tenure. He began his legal career as litigation associate before entering public service as Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York. Later he accepted the role of Assistant Dean and Adjunct Professor of Law at St. John’s University School of Law before returning to public service in Westchester. “Upon joining this office, I was pleased to see several Hispanic attorneys working in prominent roles in our office and was pleased to see that number increase during my tenure,” he says.