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American Dream Awards | Immigration | Kathy Castor

Six immigrants who have made contributions to the Tampa Bay community were honored with the American Dream Award.

TOWN ‘N’ COUNTRY – U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, awarded six local individuals with the “American Dream Award” in a public ceremony Thursday (Sept. 20) in Town ‘n Country.

The recipients each were recognized for their outstanding accomplishments after immigrating to America and Tampa. They have excelled in the areas of business, innovation, law, education and health care, and have made remarkable contributions to our community.

“America and Tampa’s strength is our diversity,” Castor said.  “I was proud to honor several extraordinary immigrants who have made remarkable contributions to our community through hard work, perseverance and love for our country and our home town: Jun (John) Wu Zhao & Jiahua (Tommy) Tang, founders of Yummy House; Dr. Yogi Goswami, Director of the University of South Florida’s Clean Energy Research Center; Adriana Dinis, immigration lawyer; Christine Campbell, school social worker; and Monica Rodriguez, chair of the Latino Coalition of Tampa Bay.  They represent all walks of life – business, innovation, law, education and health care.”

The six:

Christine Campbell (education) – Originally from Kingston, Jamaica, Campbell is a school social worker who oftentimes works in the background helping students, families, and teachers address problems such as truancy, social withdrawal, and the effects of special physical, emotional, or economic problems. She is co-creator of the pilot program S.W.AT.  (Social Work Attendance Team), a professional learning community aimed at increasing district-wide student graduation rates through student attendance

Adriana Dinis (law): Originally from Venezuela, Dinis grew up in the Miami area. As an immigration lawyer, she has loaned her creative lawyering to better assist her clients; she has loaned her legal expertise across the region in the form of education forums, walk-in clinics and technical assistance to law enforcement and community-based organizations; and she has loaned her voice when the voiceless have needed her the most.

Dr.  Yogi Goswami (research/innovation): Originally from India, he currently serves as the director of the prestigious University of South Florida’s Clean Energy Research Center and he is regarded as one of the country’s most renowned inventors, holding 23 patents. He has built an illustrious career as a researcher, inventor and educator for his contributions and development of technology related to solar energy and indoor air quality. His invention of an air purifier that kills bacteria was listed on Time magazine’s 25 best innovations of 2017.

Monica Rodriguez (community wellness): Originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, she has lived in the Tampa Bay area since 1998. For 12 years of her professional life, she dedicated herself to the Healthy Start Coalition of Hillsborough County as the supervisor of the MomCare Program. In 2010, she became a member of the Latino Coalition of Tampa Bay, an umbrella organization representing nonprofits that serve our Hispanic population, where she recognized gaps in services in our region – especially in the eastern part of Hillsborough County.

Jun (John) Wu Zhao & Jiahua (Tommy) Tang (business): Both originally from China, John Zhao and Tommy Tang have taken their devotion to authentic Chinese cuisine by founding Yummy House, first in Tampa and now with locations in Sarasota, Gainesville, Ocala and Orlando. They have also started opening Sweet Buns Bakery, the first in Gainesville by the University of Florida and will soon open a second in Tampa by the University of South Florida, to offer a variety of Asian pastries, including crepe cakes, egg tarts and 120 types of buns, which are mildly sweet, fluffy breads.

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Castor presented her American Dream Awards at a town hall to discuss current federal immigration policies as well as answer questions from the public on other current federal issues.

“I also want to thank Principal Frank Diaz from Webb Middle School for hosting my town hall and for sharing his story as a young immigrant from Cuba who came to the United States,” Castor said. “Principal Diaz has become an incredible educator, administrator and inspiration for his students, their families and my home town for his fulfillment of the American Dream as well.”

Castor joined with Mi Famila Vota – which also helped provide insight into the current issues of U.S. immigration policies – to light candles and observe a moment of silence to honor the lives lost after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands a year ago.  She also reflected on how the Tampa Bay community has come together for the past year to assist Puerto Ricans – fellow Americans – who relocated to our community in the wake of Hurricane Maria’s devastation.

“Although the current administration has spoken harshly against immigrants and refugees, Tampa Bay values our diversity – our history and economic successes are built on the contribution of immigrants,” Castor said.  “I am committed to continue promoting tolerance and acceptance – especially as our diverse Tampa Bay community begins celebrations for Hispanic Heritage Month.”

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Castor said she has supported dozens of bills focused on fixing the broken immigration system, including:

  • H.Res. 524, Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) Resolution – Recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month and celebrating the heritage and culture of Latinos in the United States and the immense contributions of Latinos to the U.S.
  • H.R. 3440, The Dream Act – Allowing certain U.S.-raised immigrant youth, some who know no other home but America, to earn lawful permanent residence and American citizenship.
  • H.R. 6135, Keep Families Together Act – Keeping families together, limiting criminal prosecutions for asylum seekers and increasing child welfare training.
  • H.R. 6304, Reunifying Separated Families Act (introduced by U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg) – Requiring the Department of Homeland Security to immediately reunify children separated from their families at the border following implementation of the Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy.
  • H.Res. 88, Extend Temporary Protected Status For Haitians – Extending Temporary Protected Status to Haitian nationals until Haiti has demonstrably recovered from a series of natural and manmade disasters.
  • H.Res. 774, Debating DACA resolutions – Requiring the U.S. House of Representatives to consider four bills under a “Queen of the Hill” rule to address Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients.
  • H.R. 858, DREAMers, Immigration, and Refugees (DIRe) Legal Act – Funding legal services to protect them from Trump’s executive orders.

Castor represents Florida’s 14th Congressional District in the U.S. House.

For information about Castor, go to

For full biographies of Castor’s American Dream Award recipients, click here.

Photos courtesy of Kathy Castor.

Kathy Castor | Immigration | Politics | Tampabay News

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