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By Natalia Apontes-Reyes
(Photos by Francisco Chacón)

“To highlight all of the positives that Lawrence has to offer through the many uplifting and inspiring stories in a collective and inclusive effort to elevate the image of this great City…”

Kicking it off: Eastern Bank President Bob Rivers (center) is surrounded by a diverse group of attendees at the Viva Lawrence oficial launching reception held at Rio’s Bar and Brill in Lawrence on Wednesday, March 26th. With Bob from left to right: Jose de la Rosa, Co-Founder/Administrator at Guardian Health Care; Esther Alburquerque, Women Health Advocate at YWCA; Jeannette A. Gerald, Business Development Consultant for The Minority Business Development Agency Business Center;  Janin Duran, Program Manager for Merrimack Valley Sandbox; Bridget Shaheen, Lazurus House Ministries Executive Director; Rivers; Heather McMann, Executive Director of Groundwork Lawrence, Phil Ouellette, General Manager for the Daily Item Newspaper; Alberto Vasallo, Jr, founder of El Mundo Newspaper, Nader Acevedo, Executive Director of the Hispanic American Chamber Institute, Héctor Bauzá, principal of Bauza & Associates, a full-service integrated marketing agency and Wilfred N. Carpenter, VP, Sales & Service, Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Kicking it off: Eastern Bank President Bob Rivers (center) is surrounded by a diverse group of attendees at the Viva Lawrence oficial launching reception held at Rio’s Bar and Brill in Lawrence on Wednesday, March 26th. With Bob from left to right: Jose de la Rosa, Co-Founder/Administrator at Guardian Health Care; Esther Alburquerque, Women Health Advocate at YWCA; Jeannette A. Gerald, Business Development Consultant for The Minority Business Development Agency Business Center; Janin Duran, Program Manager for Merrimack Valley Sandbox; Bridget Shaheen, Lazurus House Ministries Executive Director; Rivers; Heather McMann, Executive Director of Groundwork Lawrence, Phil Ouellette, General Manager for the Daily Item Newspaper; Alberto Vasallo, Jr, founder of El Mundo Newspaper, Nader Acevedo, Executive Director of the Hispanic American Chamber Institute, Héctor Bauzá, principal of Bauza & Associates, a full-service integrated marketing agency and Wilfred N. Carpenter, VP, Sales & Service, Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce.

That was the original concept behind the “VIVA LAWRENCE” as it was presented to then newly elected Mayor Dan Rivera by El Mundo in early 2014.

“I said ‘yes’ right away. As someone who’s job it is to do that every single day I not only warmly welcomed the idea, but I became it’s number one fan” stated Rivera at the official launching reception last Wednesday (March 26th) at Rio’s Bar and Grill on Appleton Street.

If Rivera is the initiative’s biggest supporter a close second place is taken by Eastern Bank’s President and COO, Bob Rivers who shared his comments with the over 200 in attendance.

“We’re delighted to be a part of what’s shaping up to be a fabulous story here in the city. I think it really feels like were hitting an inflection point here with so many good things,” said Rivers.

Eastern Bank is the initiative’s major partner, as it has committed to help underwrite the costs of El Mundo’s extended coverage via sponsorship and advertising in the VIVA LAWRENCE section of El Mundo, which includes a weekly dedicated front page for Lawrence readers.

While the overall mission of VIVA LAWRENCE is to forge an unprecedented series of collaboration to “collectively raise the spirit and image of the Lawrence community”, it’s the strategy that really makes the concept unique and without precedent.

“In its simplest form it’s to look for, discover and highlight the many inspiring stories that chronicle so much of what Lawrence is about, the good things that never get any exposure or visibility, that’s what this is about and it’s about doing it together”, explained Alberto Vasallo, III, CEO and President of El Mundo.

This will entail engaging the community like never before. It means asking individuals, organizations and ordinary hard working residents to participate by contacting the paper with story ideas. To facilitate in that process a dedicated e-mail address has been put into place: vivalawrence@elmundoboston.com.

“But it goes beyond that, it’s also about telling the rich history of Lawrencians who have contributed here and abroad that folks don’t know about, it’s about letting people outside this region know that there are many, many good things that have come and will continue to come from Lawrence,” added El Mundo senior writer and editor Maximo Torres who has bylined many of the stories in recent weeks leading up to the launching.

“What also filled me with pride was the people who came to the event and expressed their enthusiasm. I saw old pioneer leaders in the room, standing next to young ones ready to continue the work, it really was inspiring”, added Mayor Rivera.

“My colleagues and I are indeed excited to be here this evening and celebrate what is truly a rebirth here in the City of Lawrence.”. added Rivers.

“I love the idea that VIVA LAWRENCE is bringing different forces together. The fact that the media is involved, local bankers, small business men and women, educational institutions and so many non-profits and individuals is crucial, because that’s the way we are going to bring jobs, resources and a renewed sense of pride,” said Rivera.

Other partners who have officially joined the VIVA LAWRENCE initiative are Cambridge College and the Boston Red Sox.

“This is a great example of how we are all in it together. Cambridge College is committed to this city, our President Deborah Jackson has made a commitment to the Mayor and to Superintendent Jeff Riley and we are delighted to participate in turning this 7 square miles of city into the most magnificent e 7 square miles possible” said Joe Miglio, the Director of Cambridge College’s Lawrence location.

“Because Cambridge College has been such a pioneer in adult learning for over 4 decades and with a regional campus in Lawrence, we look forward to the many inspiring and motivating success stories they will provide for us to highlight”, explained Vasallo.

The Red Sox have also stepped up as on Thursday July 10th, over 20 academic all-stars from the Lawrence middle schools will be honored with a pre-game field ceremony at Fenway Park with 2013 World Series MVP David Ortiz. In addition, a Lawrence youth will have the opportunity to sing the national anthem that afternoon moments before the Sox take on the Chicago White Sox.

“That means that over 35,000 members of Red Sox nation from all across New England  will meet some of our brightest students and get a glimpse of the kind of talent we have here in the City”, smiled Rivera.

For the Mayor of Lawrence, all of the excitement last Wednesday night was simply the first step in the right direction.

“All in all, this looks like it will grow with so many dedicated people and organizations involved.”  

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