CUSSW Mourns the Death of Alumna Yolanda Sánchez, Powerhouse in El Barrio
June 12, 2012
Yolanda Sánchez, an alumna of the School and a major figure in East Harlem’s Latino community, died at the age of 80 on June 11, 2012.
Sánchez, a child of Puerto Rico, was a Black Boricua activist organizer in the El Barrio (East Harlem) area of Manhattan, New York City. She founded the East Harlem Council for Human Services, the Puerto Rican Inter-Agency Council, the NYC Chapter of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women, and the National Latinas Caucus. She was instrumental in the establishment of a number of organizations that served El Barrio, including Casabe Houses, where she was the program coordinator of the CACHE Cultural Arts Program. Among the other organizations that she led are the Puerto Rican Association for Community Affairs, Puerto Rican Program Development at the City College, and the Boriken Neighborhood Health Center.
One of her first jobs was to serve as a Bureau of Child Welfare caseworker. She then became a social worker at ASPIRA of New York, which has striven since 1961 to foster educational excellence and civic responsibility among young Puerto Ricans and Latinos.
It was during her years at ASPIRA that she visited Puerto Rico for the first time and began her passionate advocacy for Puerto Rican women. She subsequently decided to come to the Columbia University School of Social Work for her MS degree.
Upon graduation, she went on to be a National Urban Fellow and to hold a number of influential leadership positions at several leading community organizations. Her professional life included many years of teaching at a variety of higher education institutions, of providing lectures at conferences and workshops, and of service on a number of boards and associations. She was always firmly planted in the grassroots of her community.
"Yolanda Sánchez loved El Barrio and believed in the boricuas, treasured their culture, and used her professional and personal strengths, knowledge, and skills to improve the quality of life and the life chances of her people,” said Dean Jeanette Takamura. “We are confident that her legacy will live on, shining brightly for the youth of El Barrio. Our condolences go to her family and loved ones."