A North Bellmore resident has been recognized by the Nassau County Office of Hispanic Affairs in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. Last month, Angelica Therese Gomez, 19, received the Rising Star Award from the agency after her mother, Carmella Annuziata, nominated her.
“This year, for the first time, we [asked] the public to nominate exemplary individuals who should be honored during Hispanic Heritage Month,” said Amy Flores, the executive director of the Office of Hispanic Affairs. “After reviewing many submissions, Angelica was chosen as the recipient of the Rising Star Award. She has shown great leadership and excellence both in school and in her community.”
Gomez recently received her award and a citation from County Executive Laura Curran during a Covid-friendly ceremony at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola.
In an interview with the Herald Life, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice student said she always knew she wanted to help people.
When Gomez was 16, she joined the North Bellmore Fire Department as a junior firefighter — and was one of the first females to do so. When she was 18, she became a New York state certified EMT. And for the past four years, she has logged nearly 700 hours with the county’s Law Enforcement Exploring program, which provides young adults with comprehensive training, competition, leadership and service experiences.
“I just fell in love,” said Gomez, who is a captain in the program. “I get to train, compete and make connections [with] people from the FBI and Homeland Security. It gave me so many opportunities and is setting me up for a great career.”
Because of the pandemic, the efforts of Nassau’s law enforcement explorers are “more meaningful than they were before,” Gomez said. In the past eight months, she and other program members have handed out personal protective equipment in conjunction with Curran’s office, and volunteered at food drives to help feed families in need.
In her nomination letter, Annuziata said her daughter’s “excitement to contribute to the community is contagious,” noting Pherese’s previous volunteer work as a member of Wellington C. Mepham High School’s Key Club and spending one summer assisting adults with disabilities at Camp Anchor in Lido Beach.
For Gomez, who is half Puerto Rican, being recognized for her community service as a Hispanic-American is a way to pay respect to her heritage, she said. Winning the Rising Star Award, she added, is “good for representation, and it makes me feel really good.”
Gomez said her involvement in the junior firefighter and explorers’ programs has given her an “opportunity to learn and connect with my community,” and she implored others to do the same.
“If you’re given an opportunity, you shouldn’t pass it up,” she said. “Dive in and take everything it has to offer.”