ABOVE: Watch a replay of the Virtual Dominican Day Parade
WABC-TV is a proud sponsor of the first ever Virtual Dominican Day Parade, which you can watch right here!
Because of COVID-19, the traditional parade on Fifth Avenue will not happen this year. In its place will be a joyous virtual celebration featuring Zoe Saldana, Alex Rodriguez, and Manny Perez. This event will showcase the Dominican spirit, highlight scholarship initiatives and recognize those who positively impact the Dominican community.
Indeed, some of the biggest stars aren't the ones typically seen shining along Fifth Avenue.
"I always wear my country on my sleeve. I always tell people that my parents are Dominican and that I'm Dominican and that I get to talk about and that I get to be recognized for that," Betsy Vasquez said.
Vasquez is a Dominican Day Parade Scholarship Finalist, who graduated from Princeton University with a bachelor's degree in neuroscience.
The 21-year-old ascended to the top of a pool of 400 applicants seeking a piece of more than $100,000 in scholarships awarded by the Dominican Day Parade.
The winners were annonced during the virtual celebration.
The top 30 finalists will receive anywhere between $1,000 and $10,000 based on need.
Lauren De Los Santos is another finalist who will be attending Binghamton University where she plans to study biomedical engineering.
"It would just mean that here are a group of Dominicans, who see your potential, and they want to support you on your career path," De Los Santos said. "It's nice to know that are people who believe in you."
The parade will also celebrate the accomplishments of Dominican front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among them is Dr. Miguelina German of Montefiore Medical Center, who realized there were mothers with COVID-19 who couldn't nurse for various reasons and there were children in the pediatric practices who needed to eat.
"It just became this perfect storm where really the infants were forgotten," German said. "Although the mayor did a wonderful job committing to providing food to the department of education, that didn't include babies."
That is when German created infant survival kits that include diapers, wipes and if a family requested it, formula.
German and her team have given out 1,400 kits to date and for this, she is one of the health care heroes being honored at this year's Dominican Day Parade.
"As someone who has attended the parade in years past I could never have imagined that I would be honored," German said. "It's a little shocking and fills me with joy and pride."
Denise Nuñez, a pediatric ICU physician, is also being honored this year. When she's not on the front lines in the ICU at Montefiore, she volunteers with Somos Community Care to administer COVID-19 tests.
"I'm just grateful that we are here and able to celebrate somehow. Especially going through what we went through and being in the ICU and seeing so many people just pass away," Nuñez said. "It's just the fact that we're celebrating, it's good. I'm very happy."