ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — This Hispanic Heritage Month the stories of two men are bringing to light so many of the contributions and achievements that local Hispanic Americans have brought to the greater Rochester area.
Alex Castro and Ruperto Montero lead Rochester’s PathStone organization, a nonprofit community development and human service organization serving Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Virginia, and Vermont.
Both Castro and Montero lived in Puerto Rico before coming to Rochester and their journeys took hard work, dedication, and some trial and error.
But today, they serve thousands of families throughout the region, helping them and their communities around them become self-sufficient.
For Castro, his journey to the United States began when he was 18-year-old. He grew up in Puerto Rico, where his family was middle class and full of hard-workers.
His parents decided they wanted a better future, so when he was a teenager, Castro moved with his family to Orlando, Florida.
“My stepfather, he had a great job in Puerto Rico and when he moved to Florida he couldn’t find a job. So he drove up and down I-4 on a motorcycle in winter time and he was able to find a job as a manager at McDonald’s,” Castro remembers. “They made a lot of sacrifices. We went from somewhat of an okay middle class to really be poor in Florida for many, many years.”
But it was his parent’s work ethic that instilled something similar in Castro.
He moved to Rochester at the age of 19, following his daughter’s mother, and went right to work.
“As we were dating and I didn’t have a job, I had to go on social service. So I was in social services for about six months to a year, I believe it was while we were still getting to know each other. And then from there, I was able to get a job,” Castro said. “She had two children from a prior marriage, and you know, raising a family at 19, 20-years-old. It was difficult, but her family embraced me.”
While trying to find a good job and take care of his family, Castro sometimes worked two jobs at a time, while taking classes.
“It took me about 12 years to get my associates, bachelor’s and master’s,” Castro said. “It was hard. It was you know, late nights, early mornings, long days, no weekends with family and friends.”
But over the years, Castro worked his way up to become CEO…and not just at one company.
“It was a lot of work. It was a lot of sacrifice, financial sacrifice, personal sacrifice. But, you know, I have to say that I enjoyed it. It was thrilling,” Castro said.
Castro has been the CEO of PathStone for a year-and-a-half, but he has also held the position of CEO for the Rochester Housing Authority and the Housing Council. He attributes his success to “good luck” and the wonderful people around him.
“The critical part is always surrounding myself with people that had the same end goal that I had. So I attributed a lot of ways to luck, hard work, but also just surrounding myself with great people and being in a great community such a Rochester,” he said.
While Castro’s story is inspiring, it’s one his Chief Financial Officer at PathStone can resonate with.
Ruperto Montero also came to the United States from Puerto Rico to begin his career.
He grew up in the Dominican Republic before moving to Puerto Rico. Then in his mid 20s, he decided to move to Rochester.
Montero has worked for local hospital systems and non-profits in the area, before he joined the PathStone team three years ago.
As a Hispanic American, Montero said his position as CFO at the non-profit can help others in the community, specifically some of the farmworkers they provide services for.
“Farm workers usually are of Hispanic origin, so that gives us a great opportunity to be closer to them and kind of understand where they’re coming from,” Montero said.
Montero said Hispanic people in American can sometimes feel like they are in the shadows, and he enjoys using his position to help shine light on the fact that these individuals and their families are contributing to America and making it a better country.
“We can help other people like us, other people that perhaps came here looking for the American dream like we did, and perhaps we are in a better position to help them too,” Montero said.
As this Hispanic Heritage Month rolls around, both Castro and Montero are proud of the work they have both done for the community, but also the work of so many other local Hispanic Americans.
“This month gives us an opportunity to highlight that we’re not guests. We are part of this larger community. We are contributors to this large part of this larger community,” Castro said. “It’s a good reminder not only for the folks outside, but also for folks within the community to say, ‘listen, we have gotten really far…we have strived, we have taken opportunities afforded to us, and we have contributed to the community.’”
Montero said he believes others can attain their own dreams, just like he and Castro did. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what your background is, it just matters that you work hard.
“If you work hard and if you stay focused, it is possible. Sometimes setbacks might come around and you think that that opportunity that you thought should have been given to you…wasn’t given to you. It doesn’t matter. If you keep positive, stay positive, and keep trying, eventually things will happen,” Montero said. “Then you’ll have a chance to actually help your community, make things better for them and everybody else.”
To learn more about PathStone and the services the organization provides, click here.