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LEEP spotlights ITDC Member April Ortiz

The Hispanic Coalition NY, Inc.
HC New York

April Ortiz was born into a second generation of migrated Puerto Ricans on Long Island, NY. She grew up in Central Islip, which was created as a suburb community for young families, however, quickly turned into an unsafe arena of violence and crime. As the youngest of two, in a single parent home, walking a straight line was difficult considering the immediate influences and negative role models afforded to her. Unfortunately at the young age of 12, April became entangled in a life of deceit, illegal activities and drugs. Waking up in a youth detention center was the awakening that changed her perspective. After the years of damage to herself, her academics and personal relationships, April vowed to herself to change her life around.

At 17, April worked two part time jobs, attended Alternative High school and took courses at Suffolk County Community College to make up for credits lost along the way. It was with honor and pride that she managed to graduate on time and with her class. During this time, April also established the Student Government for the Alternative High School, was voted President, maintained excellent grades and perfect attendance as well as had the honor of being valedictorian.

Since then, April has become a single mother of one and has been employed as an Aide by political leaders such as Maxine S. Postal, as Presiding Officer (2003-04) of the Suffolk County Legislature and Steve Levy, as County Executive (2004-09) and continues serving the community via the Suffolk County Department of Health as an Outreach Worker at the Brentwood Family Health Center. April reaps rewards each day by the direct impact and interaction that she has with the community that she was raised in. April is delighted to help everyone that walks through the doors of the Health Center, collecting donations of clothes, toys, medical equipment and household items regularly from family and friends to be distributed to those in need.

April is an active and founding member of the David E. Ortiz Memorial Scholarship which was created in memory of her first cousin who was involved in a tragic motorcycle accident. During its ten years of existence, the scholarship has raised over 30K and distributed scholarships to over 15 Seniors from Central Islip High School, all of whom overcame a learning disability to reach graduation and wish to pursue any form of further education.

Most recently, April had the honor of being Campaign Manager to Renee Ortiz, her first cousin and candidate for Islip Town Council, during a historic race as there has never been a person of color elected to serve on this Board, despite the fact that areas represented include Central Islip, Brentwood and Bay Shore. This experience was key in April’s peak civically. The result of the election was not what we hoped for however, the voter turnout from the Tri-Hamlet was in record numbers. April and the entire campaign saw the need of an organization to keep the community involved in current events and actively participating in all aspects of government.

With the support of Renee Ortiz and the entire campaign team, an organization called Leadership towards Empowerment through Education and Participation (LEEP) was formed. LEEP is a non-partisan organization whose mission is to promote and encourage civic and governmental empowerment through education and participation from the communities of Central Islip, Brentwood and Bay Shore. The vision of the organization is to actively implore eligible citizens to register with the Board of Elections. LEEP will also function as an umbrella agency for smaller organizations within the targeted area to promote positive efforts within the community. It is April’s hope that LEEP will also advocate and/or mediate for residents in instances where the resident does not have the means, knowledge or capacity to act on their own behalf.

It is April’s dream to create a non-profit that caters to single mothers or the re-entry of prisoners into society.