The street naming honors the executive director of El Centro Hispano, Isabel Villar, who founded and opened the Hispanic cultural and educational resource center 39 years ago. The center has resided in the same building on the grounds of St. Bernard’s Church since is inception and has served thousands of Latino immigrants with instruction in English as a Second Language, computer instruction for children and adults and scholarships for high school seniors going off to college.
Since 1980 over $310,150 in scholarships have been awarded to qualifying White Plains High School students.
In unveiling the new street name, White Plains Mayor Tom Roach said he could not imagine White Plains without [Isabel Villar].
“The concept of a cultural center is now common,” Roach said. “But 39 years ago it was ground-breaking. It takes a special person to make that happen.”
“Some people have gifts that allow us to be more powerful and strong. They come into our lives and help us along the way,” Roach continued. “Isabel is one of those people. She is strong with a kind heart and determination. Thousands of people have benefitted since she came to this country in 1966.”
Roach noted that the United States is a country built by immigrants, which is made stronger when they come into our culture and become a part of its fabric.
About 200 people came out for the street-sign unveiling, including members of the Lanza family who have made many generous contributions to El Centro Hispano.
The street naming was kept a secret from Villar until just before the event. She was visibly moved, surprised and deeply honored.