NYSCAS Dean receives “El Award” El Diario selects Lenin Ortega for recognition
New York, N.Y. – Lenin Ortega, associate dean of Touro College’s New York School of Career and Applied Studies (NYSCAS) was a recipient of the 2013 “El Award.” The recognition is given annually by El Diario/La Prensa to outstanding Latino men in the community.
Ortega was one of 21 men recognized by El Diario in an awards ceremony on Nov. 14 at a luncheon that took place at the Grand Havana Room in Manhattan. Now in its 10th year, the El Awards are given to influential and successful Latinos in academia, business, entertainment, public service, and sports. Among this year's honorees are Grammy Award winner Rafael Ithier; Steven Espinoza, executive vice president of Showtime Sports; Robert T. Maldonado, regional president of the Hispanic National Bar Association; and actor and activist Ruben Blades.
Ortega, who has served as associate dean of NYSCAS since 2005, was shocked to find himself in such prestigious company. But he said his own story of growing up in Alphabet City, a tough neighborhood in lower Manhattan, overcoming dyslexia and working his way through Touro College, first as a student, and then as an administrator, appealed to El Diario.
It’s a story that resonates beyond the honor, he said, and one that he tells often to high school students considering NYSCAS. “I explain to them that education is very important, and that growing up in the projects didn’t stop me,” said Ortega. “I think this message comes across better from me; many of these students grew up in similar situations.”
Ortega’s father was from Nicaragua and his mother, from Puerto Rico. English was not Ortega’s first language, and coupled with his dyslexia, college was not his first choice, he said. After graduating from Seward Park High School on the Lower East Side, Ortega enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves, where he worked in counterintelligence. While serving for five years, he entered the associate degree program at Touro College. In 2000, he received a bachelor’s degree from Touro, followed by a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education, Special Education in 2005.
Hired by Touro in 1999 as a computer technician, Ortega has spent his career in education at the school. He served as assistant to the dean from 2000 to 2004 and as associate dean since 2005. He continues to teach and coordinate the NYSCAS site directors.
“Lenin Ortega is considered one of the most hard-working and honorable deans in NYSCAS, by both students and staff,” said NYSCAS Dean Eva Spinelli. “He's always available to help out and solve problems. His tremendously extensive knowledge about the policies and procedures of the college make him one of our most valuable assets, and his love for Touro College comes through in everything he does.”
Ortega is honored that El Diario selected him for the El Award, and is pleased that they saw his transition from student to administrator at Touro as a plus. “Touro enabled me to grow,” he said. “Coming from the neighborhood where I grew up, my education at Touro gave me the opportunity to move forward.”