e moved offices to 54 West Park Avenue around 1982 as the organization began to expand. This space had
about six offices and a large room in the back to have meetings and work with children and youth. The office
was vibrant with new staff and we worked to create new programs to respond to community needs.
We continued to operate programs to support children and youth. We also added the first new program that was
known as PAVE. This program provided support to at-risk high school adolescents. It included educational assistance
and prevention education on topics such as pregnancy and violence. We brought youth on college tours to visit
campuses and helped to motivate them to complete their high school education and matriculate to college.
During these beginning years we became known as an organization to support youth and families who spoke
Spanish. At that time in Long Beach and in Nassau County there were few bilingual services providers. Círculo
de la Hispanidad offered an opportunity and place for Hispanics to receive support in their native language
in a cultural and sensitive environment. Our larger office made it more comfortable for individuals to access
services and support to meet their needs and aspirations.
We celebrated our first anniversary with a Festival at Kennedy Plaza, in Long Beach. At this time our friend and owner
of the Hispanic Grocery Store, Los Latinos, helped us pay for the orchestra. The Plaza was full of color with many food
stands representing different Hispanic countries, offering flavorful dishes. We had many different folkloric groups that
danced. The orchestra played salsa, merengue, cumbia and other popular dance music.
The adults and children dressed in folklore dresses and this gave the plaza an international flare that we had not seen in
this area. Folklore dances in the afternoon and dance music in the evening until 10 pm made hundreds of attendees
very happy and all left with a smile and wanted more. The first festival was a success and so it gave Mr. Bernardino
the idea to continue to have it every year. He saw it as an opportunity to bring Hispanic culture out to the open. Too
often he saw Hispanics struggling with their feelings of inferiority of speaking their language, Spanish, in the open, as
a result of their own ignorance or due to the rejection and racism against Hispanics in our society.
Mr. Bernardino thought it was also important that Long Beach residents enjoy Hispanic culture including eating
different types of food and dancing to music in a peaceful, safe, joyful manner. In this way he sought to combat
stereotypes that were often portrayed in the media at that time showing Hispanics were violent, carried knives and
were less than human. Mr. Bernardino dreamt that this kind of festival would bring people together through learning
about different cultures.
While he was thinking about the festival he had the idea that this event was also an opportunity to raise funds for
scholarships to support Hispanic high school graduates attending college. Being that the unequal and sometimes
discriminatory treatment of Hispanic children in Long Beach and the high Hispanic dropout rate was one of the main
reasons to establish Círculo de la Hispanidad, this idea was a natural result.
The first Awards Night, as we know it today, was in 1982. The concept was to provide support to Hispanic High
School Graduates of Long Beach to assist them with their college education. We wanted to emphasize education as
a way to empower, build strength and knowledge. We raised $2,000 for youth scholarships from our first festival
Scholarships have been given since then, (1982), to Hispanic High School graduates of the Long Beach High School
after a process that included an interview by the Scholarship Committee formed of staff from the Long Beach High
School and Círculo’s Board of Directors. We bestowed scholarships on students that excelled in academics and in
different subject areas. In order to provide support and motivation to our new immigrant students we also added a
category for effort. Círculo has continued to hold Awards Night every year. Círculo expanded the program ten years
ago to include students from Hempstead High School.
Students in Long Beach’s Dual Language Program were also honored year after year at Círculo’s Award’s Night. Long
Beach had a nationally recognized Dual Language Program that operated for many years. Unfortunately this
program was eliminated by the District and its School Board at a great loss to the students of Long Beach and
to the entire community.
After the festivals ended we organized an Annual Spring Gala at the Garden City Hotel. Through these dinner dances
for the past fifteen years we have continued to raise funds for scholarships.
We raised $2,000 for scholarships the first time we held our festival in 1981. Over the following years we began to
raise $5,000 each year to support scholarships for youth. We have continued to provide scholarships and give over
$10,000 to students each June.
“Awards Night is the most rewarding event I organize each year”, says Mr. Bernardino. Círculo has awarded more than
$200,000 in scholarships throughout its history.
Círculo’s festival became an event that Hispanics from Long Beach and surrounding communities looked forward to
with great anticipation. It was a weekend to enjoy our rich culture and to meet and network with friends, family and
neighbors. Long Beach residents enjoyed the food, folklore and music. It was certainly a very positive experience for
the whole community that resulted in many changing their perspectives of Hispanics.
Círculo’s festivals took place for twelve years without incident and we extended the time after a few years from one day,