Newly appointed United States Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona’s homecoming drew crowds in Meriden Wednesday.
People lined the streets near the school looking to catch a glimpse of the first lady or the former Connecticut commissioner of education from the Silver City.
“I think I came down around 9 o’clock or so. I’m just excited for Miguel and his family and the City of Meriden,” said Diane Morenz, a fourth generation Meriden resident.
Morenz says Cardona’s return to Connecticut proves you can do anything you put your mind to.
A sentiment shared by so many, especially those with Puerto Rican ties like Cardona.
“He shows the people that hard learning, listening to your parents, you can achieve the American dream,” said Isla Nieves of Meriden, who donned a U.S. and Puerto Rican flag.
“I just had two emergency surgeries yesterday and I got out of my bed and recovery to come here to celebrate,” said Kimberly Duran-Bailey of Meriden.
She says as an educator she supports the work Dr. Jill Biden is doing.
“My grandson gets to see and listen to her speak on education, that’s the key, the knowledge,” she said.
That’s why 2-year-old Zoe Tran’s grandparents brought the future Ben Franklin Elementary School student to see this moment too.
But not everyone who gathered sang their praises, a small group rallied against the Biden administration.
And in the McDonald’s parking lot across the way, parents of Connecticut students set up a classroom display along the visitors’ travel route.
“Just to remind our leaders that our parents and our students really need some change where education is concerned,” said United People for Progress co-founder Natalie Langlaise of Hartford.
“A lot of times I think Black and brown children kind of get left and swept under the rug,” said fellow co-founder Lashawn Robinson, also of Hartford.
They say they have hope in Cardona’s appointment, but they don’t want him to forget where he came from as they continue to fight for education equality for all children in Connecticut and beyond.
“We congratulate you, but please make sure you are doing the work for our children and listen to parents’ voices,” said Robinson who says they want to hold leaders accountable.
This day was one for the history books in Meriden.
“Can you think of anything for the city of Meriden that was bigger than this?,” said Morenz.
The first lady and the commissioner left Meriden to go to a middle school in Pennsylvania.