By Jim Lambert
Alexxa Irizarry, who has worked tirelessly on relief efforts for Venezuelan refugees and has spent years helping indigenous people in Colombia and the United States, recently received several honors for her service and civic contributions.
Irizarry, a sophomore at Union Catholic, was selected as the 2018 International Teen Queen of the Carnaval de Barranquilla, Colombia, was awarded a Special Congressional Recognition Certificate for her outstanding and invaluable service to the community by New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr., and she was honored by the city of Paterson for her outstanding civic contributions.
Irizarry, who will be coronated in Colombia during the Carnaval de Barranquilla, which is scheduled for Feb. 10-14, has become a big celebrity in Colombia. She’s made several TV and radio appearances since being named International Teen Queen, and said she gets recognized all the time in Colombia.
“I need a bodyguard in Colombia because so many people want to have pictures taken with me,’’ said Irizarry, who lives in Union. “Over a thousand girls aspired to be the International Teen Queen, so it’s a tremendous honor to be chosen and something I am very proud of. “I was chosen because they have seen all the work I’ve done in Colombia and in the communities here, and they have seen my presentations in schools and churches. To have this title and be able to represent my family and my ancestors is such an honor.’’
Being a humanitarian is something that has always been in Irizarry’s blood.
“My mother, Nallide, who was born and raised in Colombia, is the Founder and President of the Colombian American Goodwill Association, and I’ve been working with her organization for several years. Helping people has always been important to me and my family, and that’s why I want to become a doctor one day, so I can help as many people as possible.’’
This past summer, Irizarry volunteered to teach English at an orphanage in Colombia, helped secure the donation of 100 bicycles for kids in Colombia, and helped deliver lots of medical supplies, food, water, clothes, and other necessities to Venezuelan refugees and indigenous Colombian natives.
“The refugees have nothing,’’ said Irizarry. “They don’t have anything to sleep on, no water or food, and barely any shelter. It really affected me quite a bit to see how they live, so we try to bring as many truckloads of supplies to them as possible. I wish we could do more for them.’’
Irizarry plans to use her title as International Teen Queen as a platform to keep fighting poverty.
“This title comes with a very big responsibility, but it’s something I’m looking forward to,’’ said Irizarry. ”With all the media attention I am receiving, I want to use my title as International Teen Queen to create as much awareness as possible about all the poverty in this world. It doesn’t have to be this way, and I’m going to continue to do everything I can to help as many people as I can.’
Irizarry said she came to Union Catholic because the core values of the school matched her own.
“The main reason I came to Union Catholic is because the school emphasizes respect for others, community, and compassion,’’ said Irizarry. “Those things are so important to me, and what I focus my life on, and that’s how life is supposed to be. Helping people and being kind to people is something everyone should strive to do in life.’’