Yvette Vega, School Secretary from UFT
* School secretary
* Brooklyn Academy HS, Brooklyn
For more than 25 years, Yvette Vega’s title was school secretary. But Yvette “was way more than our school secretary,” said her friend and colleague Tanya Brand. “Her beautiful smile and warm demeanor left an indelible mark on our staff and students,” said Brand. “She was a maternal figure, a person of trust and someone our school community truly cherished.”
For the past two years, Yvette worked at Brooklyn Academy HS, a transfer school in Bedford Stuyvesant. For the 11 years before that, she worked at Bedford Stuyvesant Preparatory HS, a transfer school in the same building. The schools merged in 2018.
Yvette, 60, died on April 9.
Described as welcoming and encouraging, Yvette was known for checking in with students, asking if they wanted assistance and referring them to the appropriate staff members, Brand said. “She provided a listening ear and emotional support to those in need.”
In addition to her helpfulness to colleagues and students, Yvette was known for her cultural competence, respecting all cultures and celebrating her own. “She loved spending time in Puerto Rico and was an avid historian and music lover,” Brand said.
She would discuss with colleagues the ethnic background of Puerto Ricans and how it consists of Taino indigenous people, Spaniards and Africans who were enslaved, kidnapped and forced to come to Puerto Rico, Brand recounted. Social studies teacher Damion Trent, who also teaches at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, said he told Yvette he considered her “a primary oral source” and often quoted her “historically accurate statement” at Hostos.
Brand said, “Yvette was shaken by the damage Hurricane Maria had done to her beloved Puerto Rico.” She loved her culture immensely, including foods such as bacalao – codfish that is typically dried or salted – and music such as bomba and salsa. Some of her favorite musical artists were Eddie Palmieri, Celia Cruz, Tito Puento and Los Hermanos.
Chapter Leader Claudia Normil Novelo said Yvette was “sweet but strict and always very respectful.” The students, she said, loved her. “She was like a mommy in the office. The kids formed a bond with her.” Novelo recalls a wake for a students’ mom: “She sat with that student all afternoon.”
Yvette regularly attended union meetings, Novelo said, and always had a smile on her face.
Yvette is survived by her son, Santos Ramos Vega; her grandchildren, Kathy and Nordi; her brother, Fernando Ramos; and her nieces, Julissa, Bethany and Haley.