Mayor Morse to Honor Two Local Immigrants for Immigrant Heritage Month Text Size

On Monday, June 5, 6 – 8 p.m. at Wistariahurst, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse will present citations to Marikler Toensmeier and Iohann Rashi Vega in honor of the contributions they have made to the City of Holyoke. This is the second year that the Mayor has celebrated the start of June, designated as National Immigrant Heritage Month, by recognizing the contributions of individuals who have immigrated to Holyoke and worked in service to the community here.

Toensmeier and Vega will be recognized at a reception at Wistariahurst, which is the kick-off event for a month of educational programs related to Holyoke’s immigrant communities, past and present. Also featured during the reception will be The Art of Steven Huerta, a show comprised of the work of Holyoke-based artist Steven Huerta, whose inspiration for the show has been drawn from the experiences and stories of his family, who journeyed from Mexico to California, and State Representative Aaron Vega who will speak on the importance of Holyoke continuing to be a safe and welcoming community for all people. The reception at Wistariahurst will be free and open to the public.


Marikler Toensmeier was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Early in her carer, she worked with Heifer International, a non-profit organization working to eliminate poverty and hunger through community development and education. She came to Massachusetts in 2001 for a promotion at Heifer where she was relocated to Rutland, Massachusetts to develop programming for the Learning Center. After meeting her husband through this work, she moved to Holyoke in 2007. Toensmeier is now the Community Building and Engagement Manager for WayFinders, an organization working to make sure all people have safe, secure places to live. She is a passionate advocate dedicated to empowering low-income communities. In this position, she coordinates Way Finders’ outreach and community building efforts in the city of Holyoke.


Iohann Rashi Vega was born in Mexico City, Mexico. He began his early life studying Communications with a focus on journalism, radio, and TV, and later moved to the City of Puebla to produce his own music radio show at a local station. Vega then moved to Puerto Rico where he volunteered and eventually became the Program Director’s Assistant at the University of Puerto Rico’s Public Radio. In 2011, Vega moved to Massachusetts and joined the Gandara Center where he continues to work at the Youth Development Center. He expanded the Computer Literacy Program into a Media Production Center for Youth where he teaches students how to create media content with a focus on community media, journalism, and creative work, using technology and different resources in social media.


The 2016 recipients of the citation were Vitek Kruta and Laura Restrepo.

Throughout the month of June individuals and organizations in Holyoke will be participating in the celebration of Holyoke’s immigrants with history talks, panel discussions, a documentary screening, and more. The program will conclude on Thursday, June 29th with a free community gathering and picnic in the historic gardens of Wistariahurst to celebrate “All Who Make Holyoke Home.”


For more information visit the Wistariahurst website at


Posted on May 16, 2017 by