These are short biographies of the panelists and guest speaker who joined us for today’s BCC NAACP 2013 Voter Education Forum. Thanks to all who shared their support with the Bergen Community College NAACP chapter to make this event happen, and to those who by listening in, showed their interest in being an informed New Jersey voter.
Ivan’s opening remarks:
All New Jersey state level political offices are up for election this year, and will be decided by voters on November 5. Gov. Christie, the Republican candidate for governor, declined our invitation to join us today. But, we are fortunate that New Jersey State Senator Barbara Buono accepted. Sen. Buono is also running for governor as New Jersey’s Democratic candidate, and I am very excited that she took time out of her busy campaign schedule to share wisdom and thoughts with us about life, career choices and why it’s important for students to be engaged civically and politically.
New Jersey State Sen. Barbara Buono, Guest Speaker
Barbara Buono has been a New Jersey State Senator since 2001 and in 2010 became the first woman in our state’s history to be named as Senate Majority Leader. When Sen. Buono served as Senate Budget Chair she was able to shrink our state budget by $4.5 billion. Sen. Buono has also served as Metuchen Borough Councilwoman and New Jersey State Assemblywoman. She champions conservative fiscal spending, ethnic and gender diversity; strong public education and excellent public health systems.
JEFF GARDNER, Panelist
Jeff Gardner is an outspoken community advocate. He grew up in New Jersey, attended Rutgers College and Law School and for the past 15 years he has been a successful labor attorney with a private practice in Hawthorne. Jeff is a Co-Founder and Past President of the Hawthorne Historical Society, a Trustee of Passaic County Community College and Chair of the Garden State Equality Educational Fund. Jeff prides himself on being a fighter who is not afraid to take on tough career and community advocacy challenges. He is currently a candidate for Hawthorne Borough Council.
BETH MARMOLEJOS, Panelist
Beth Marmolejos is past President of the Medco Diversity Network and an expert at supporting community-based organizations. She believes in a proactive approach toward effecting change and has been active in the social and political life in both Bergen and Passaic Counties, with stints as Ward President an as a community advocate of individuals with disabilities. Beth served in 1998 as President of the Dominican Empowerment Political Association Committee (DEPAC). She is currently a Democratic candidate running for Wayne Council.
THOMAS REYNOLDS, Panelist
Thomas Reynolds is currently serving his second term as President of the Montclair Branch NAACP. Tom and his executive committee have doubled chapter membership; successfully applied for two economic development grants and one health grant; increased young voter engagement; rallied the community to bring back the community policing program; protected programs that directly affect minority students and more. Tom’s branch has been recognized by the State NAACP as the Most Outstanding Chapter and is working with six other branches throughout the country to raise engagement of young adults in the NAACP.
Tom’s Essay, Why I Vote, will give you insights about why you, too, should vote.
ALEXIS BRAVO, Panelist
Alex is a Communication Arts Major, a Bergen Community College sophomore and speaks fluent Spanish and some French. Although she is a New Jersey native, Alex’ mother is Puerto Rican and father, Ecuadorian. She is active in campus groups including the Business Club, Model UN, Student Activities Board, the Torch newspaper, and she serves as this year’s Student Government Association President. Alex interns for the NJ Republican State Committee, working on the campaigns of Chris Christie and the District 36 Republican candidate.
IVAN GOMEZ WEI, Moderator and BCC NAACP President
Ivan Gomez Wei is an aspiring Urban Farmer and social activist who organizes community around food, sustainability, equal rights and student issues. He holds an AS in Business Administration from Bergen Community College, and is obtaining a horticulture degree. He leads the BCC NAACP Chapter and is chair of the NAACP’s Youth and College Division in the northeast. Ivan is a Chinese-Hispanic Jew; attended Chinese school for many years and is active in Latino political and cultural activities.