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Member Jozii Ruiz's Book Initiative Backed by AFT's 'La Familia'

From left: Lilly Ruiz (Socorro-Texas AFT), Jozii Ruiz (UHP), Samantha Rosado-Ciriello (Yonkers AFT), Marta Shepard (Hartford Federation of Paraeducators), and Roxana Zuniga (AFT Michigan) at the July 2022 meeting of the AFT's Latino Issues Task Force in Puerto Rico

As a child I loved to read, I always had a book in my hand because I knew that it would take me to a magical place and time. My first job was at the New Haven Public Library when I was 13. I really loved that job because it allowed me to get lost in any topic I decided for that moment.  When I transferred over to UConn Health, my boss, Dr. Mina Mina, introduced me to audiobooks. Well, what an eye-opening experience that was! I then began to ask for traffic jams so that I could listen to my book just a little longer.

I was asked to become a member of the AFT Latino Issues Task Force — "La Familia," as we call one another when we meet. There I was given the opportunity to sit in a room with 27 other educators, government-appointed officials, and our president and executive VP of AFT. One of the biggest campaigns that President Randi Weingarten and VP Evelyn Dejesus strongly believe in is that "Reading Opens the World!" Believe me when I tell you, thousands of books are given away with backpacks.

At our last meeting, held on my beautiful Island of Puerto Rico, the task force met for five days. We discussed issues at hand and how we may resolve them as a TEAM. I informed the group that I started a small library at UConn Health for my kids who are seen in the OR for oral rehabilitation. I call it my "Recovery Books," as I want them to have something to read while they are home recuperating from their surgeries. I told them I would purchase the books from AFT's First Book program and they would deliver them to my home. I then sorted books for both of my ORs — JDH and CCMC — for all the kids to receive after their procedure, along with toothpaste and a new toothbrush.

When the "Familia" found out I was purchasing books out-of-pocket they generously put some funding together and awarded me with a $500 gift certificate to First Books so that I can purchase any and all of the books I may need — It was an amazing moment and I am very grateful they chose my kiddos to benefit from their generosity!

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