2005 New Frontier Award recipient Kica Matos.

Background

When 38-year-old Kica Matos became Executive Director of JUNTA for Progressive Action, she accepted the leadership of the oldest Latino community service organization in New Haven, Connecticut. But prior to her arrival, JUNTA had fallen into disrepair, even as New Haven’s Latino population surged in number and need. In a few short years, Ms. Matos has transformed JUNTA into a model service provider and a powerful community force, expanding the organization’s mission and programs and multiplying its client base with each passing year.

Kica Matos spent her early career as a community and human rights advocate, working for such institutions as Amnesty International and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. She went on to earn a law degree from Cornell University and subsequently became an assistant Federal Defender in Philadelphia, where she represented death row inmates in state and federal courts. Ms. Matos observed that minorities and the disadvantaged represented a disproportionate number of the criminal justice system’s bleakest cases. She decided to focus her work on community and social services in order to provide those at risk with alternatives to lives of crime and deprivation.

Kica Matos is a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She has an M.A. in political science from the New School and a law degree from Cornell University. She has lived in Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, the Fiji Islands and New Zealand.