Jen Velez, executive vice president, health and network solutions, at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, has a resume of accomplishments that are as long as her current title.
As a longtime health care executive and the longest-serving human services commissioner in state history, Velez was an ideal selection for the Latina Trailblazer award handed out by the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey at its annual gala Friday night.
Velez showed her leadership and character when accepting the honor.
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“A trailblazer is a really significant term,” she said “It’s defined as someone who’s the first to do something. And, certainly, we’re together tonight in a roomful of trailblazers, and we’re all the beneficiaries of those efforts and those accomplishments.
“We certainly stand on the shoulders of many who have come before us.”
And many of those who stood with her Friday night.
Velez gave a shoutout to her longtime friend, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdez, the first Latina to serve as lead prosecutor in the country.
She gave a shoutout to her fellow honoree, Uli Diaz, also of Horizon.
“Being a trailblazer of any kind comes with tremendous responsibility — to the community and to those who follow in our shoes — to continue to set the bar high,” she said. “It’s important to ask: What did we do with that responsibility? Do we continue to do good for others?”
She said she’s grateful for the opportunity to partner with Diaz at Horizon.
“It is an incredible opportunity that comes with awesome responsibility,” she said. “He and I know that — and we live it every day.”
Diaz, senior vice president of government and community affairs, spoke of opportunity.
“Many of us here tonight came to this great country for many different reasons,” he said. “I’ll try and summarize it in one word: opportunity. The opportunity to be free, the opportunity to work, the opportunity to express our cultures, but, most importantly, the opportunity to improve the lives of our families.”
A Cuban American, Diaz told the crowd he understands the immigrant mindset and mission — and that he appreciates the uniqueness of each journey.
“The diversity in our community is what makes us special,” he said. “And what we expect, as a diverse business community, is an opportunity to compete fairly in this marketplace.”
Diaz thanked the Hispanic Chamber, particularly CEO Carlos Medina and Chairman Luis De La Hoz, for helping to foster that.
“Since 1989, the chamber has been the steady voice of our business community and a strong advocate for over 120,000 Hispanic-owned businesses,” he said. “It continues to be in the forefront of promoting diversity, equity & inclusion. And, with Carlos and Luis, this chamber is always positioning the Hispanic community and the Latino interests in the marketplace.”