Sept. 27, 2021 – A public servant who paved the way for the creation of the Acosta Bridge.
A pulmonary care specialist who was one of the first doctors in Florida to successfully treat a COVID-19 patient.
And a grandfather, who left Puerto Rico at the age of 2, traveled the world, and went on to become the Director of the Peace Corps in Colombia and Ghana.
These are the heroes who were celebrated by the three student winners of the district’s Hispanic Heritage Essay. Sponsored by the Jaguars Foundation, the contest is meant to honor the impact Hispanic-Americans have made locally in Jacksonville.
The three winners were Grace Gonzalez of Pine Forest Elementary School; Ryleigh Harris of Landon Middle School; and Avi Patel of Stanton
Each student was recognized at a special ceremony on Sept. 24 at the Cummer Museum. There they had a chance to read their essays and publicly share how much their heroes mean to them.
Gonzalez, a fifth grader, wrote an essay titled “My Papa, My Hero” about her grandfather, Wilfredo Gonzalez, who was born in San Juan and realized through his world travels that he wanted to help people. Earning a degree in sociology, he went on to oversee Peace Corps operations in Colombia and then Ghana.
“In everything my Papa does, he looks for ways to help others,” and he never does it so that he will get anything in return,” wrote Gonzalez. “He just has a very giving heart and always wants to help others make their dreams come true. He inspires me and encourages me to do the same things in my life. When I grow up, I want to be a teacher so that I can help others, especially kids, be the best they can be just like my Papa has always done for others. My Papa is my hero.”
Harris, a sixth grader, wrote about Dr. Danny Pulido, a local physician specializing in pulmonary and critical care. His father emigrated from Cuba in 1960s and began a life in Jacksonville. Harris writes that Pulido started his medical school journey at the University of Costa Rico and completed it at the University of Florida where he studied internal medicine and pulmonology. As a doctor who works to combat COVID-19 in the community, Pulido believes in integrity and teamwork.
“Dr. Danny thinks that the most important quality of a doctor is honesty,” wrote Harris. “He believes that you should treat every patient ‘like they are your mom or dad.’”
Avi Patel, a senior, wrote about St. Elmo William Acosta, who served as a city councilman in Jacksonville during the early twentieth century and worked to improve the condition of roads and sidewalks in the city, including the development of a paved road from Jacksonville to Jacksonville Beach. His most famous achievement, writes Patel, was the construction of the Acosta Bridge.
“Prior to its development, the city lacked a reliable connection between the North and the South, ften taking nearly a half an hour via ferry,” wrote Patel. “Yet, after 17 years of daily lobbying, toiling, and spending over $6,000 out of his own pocket, Acosta achieved the difficult feat of constructing the St. Johns River Bridge, significantly reducing travel time from the two banks.”
The Hispanic Heritage Essay contest is hosted annually by the district’s ESOL Department. This year, it was sponsored by the Jaguars Foundation, which provided prizes to each of the winners including tickets to this Sunday’s Jaguars vs. Cardinals game.
Click on the links below to read the winning essays:
- Grace Gonzalez: “My Papa, My Hero”
- Ryleigh Harris: “Dr. Danny Pulido – A Local Hero”
- Avi Patel: “St. Elmo W. Acosta: Bridging the Two Divisions of Jacksonville”