Arroyo brings multicultural, multinational experience to work in community
On Jan. 23, 18 Camden County residents were to be honored for their unselfish contributions to improving their community at the 2019 Freedom Medal Ceremony. The award, created by the Freeholder Board in 2001, is presented to civic leaders who demonstrate the ideals and actions that reflect the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rosy Arroyo was one of three Cherry Hill Township residents to gain recognition, and she still can’t quite believe it happened.
“When I received the notification, I actually started shaking and I responded back, ‘are you sure this was meant for me?’ From that point on, I’ve just been in awe of that. To think that other people recognize the importance of this work. Because, in recognizing me, you really are putting more attention to the youth and families in our community. As long as that happens, I’m so humbled by it,” she said.
Residents of Cherry Hill since 2010, Arroyo and her husband, Isaac, are the proud parents of two children: 5-year-old Alexander and 3-year-old Lila Rose. Rosy received her bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Rutgers University, Camden Campus. She also earned a master’s degree in public policy from Drexel University, with a certificate in Sustainable Building and Green Construction.
Born in Houston to a family with deep Mexican roots, Arroyo and her family moved to New Jersey for better work opportunities in the mid-1980s. They initially settled in lodgings along Route 70 until they were able to find better housing, which ended up being in Cherry Hill. Arroyo then lived in Maple Shade and Pennsauken, where she graduated high school. Later on, after finishing school and having gotten married, she moved to back Cherry Hill to start a family.
“Cherry Hill offered more in terms of being central to where the rest of my family was, it was easy to get to my parents and my in-laws. It always felt like there was a lot happening there I wanted to be a part of. I was already supporting some Cherry Hill sustainable work. If all this is going on, I want to stay there and create a family. We bought our first house and redeveloped it and have stayed here ever since,” she said.
Before all that happened, Arroyo was a world traveller who came back to the region with a diverse perspective on sustainability, government building and civil rights.
Initially hoping to focus on political science and economics, she lived in the Yucatan and studied at the University of Merida, working with a the residents of a remote village, helping support healthy decision making, education and finding ways for them to sustainably feed themselves. Later, while attending Rutgers, she spent what she called an “intense and awesome” month in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, working with local youth and supporting peacekeeping efforts between Catholics and Protestants.
“I got to understand some of their civil rights movement, and how it was built on our civil rights movement. A lot of what they were doing was based upon what Martin Luther King, Jr. was doing here. It was interesting to see how what went on in the United States impacted somewhere else in the world without us even realizing it,” she said.
Next, Arroyo spent time in Budapest to support development of Hungary’s nonprofit sector as it had gone largely underserved in the decades since the transition from a communist to capitalist government.
“My father always taught me to have a lot of knowledge about things in your environment. You don’t have to be an expert, but you have to be aware of what other people are doing,” she said.
In 2015, Arroyo became the co-chair of the New Jersey Association of County Youth Service Commissions. That same year, she also supported implementation of the Juvenile Justice Family Partnership Program, developing a peer-parent support network for parents of justice-involved youth in Camden County that has served more than 250 parents since implementation.
Arroyo has developed efforts to reduce youth arrests, specifically focusing on reducing the amount of disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system. To do this, she led an effort allowing Camden County to collaborate with the Juvenile Officers Association, the juvenile unit of the prosecutor’s office, and six police districts to focus on innovative practices in diverting youth arrests.
“I took on the role of developing and providing services for the youth in our community and to try and prevent them from going into the criminal justice system or the child welfare system. In six years with CPAC (Community Planning and Advocacy Council), there was a transition to have the work brought into the county for support. So now I’m at the youth center, under the Department of Corrections, supporting juvenile justice reform,” she explained.
Arroyo’s most recent social awareness activities include comprehensive immigration discussions with local and national Latinx communities, and developing a youth summit focused on unity, respect, and equity. She also ran for a spot on the school board this past November, trying to bring a diversity of perspective to academic policy matters.
“I thought, why not do this for the township and offer the support they need in terms of developing a better and inclusive school district than we have now? Working on that diversity aspect in terms of having more Latina leaders at the table. It taught me a lot about who I am and what I would like to see in my future and my kids’ future,” Arroyo added.