East Boston Times 2019 Persons of the Year

Phil Brangiforte, Man of the Year

Since taking over the reigns at East Boston High School in 2014 Phil Brangiforte has elevated the school’s profile and achievements not only in Eastie but the entire city.

Phil Brangiforte talks at EBHS graduation.

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) voted to award EBHS continued accreditation, MCAS scores on the rise and the four-year graduation rate has been increasing year after year–hovering at over 75 percent.

For this Phil Brangiforte is the East Boston Times 2019  Man of the Year.

An EBHS graduate himself, Brangiforte admits that at times in the school’s recent past, EBHS has faced a bit of criticism for certain aspects of academic performance.

“I feel that it is critical to address this issue and offer some much-deserved praise to my staff and students,” said Brangiforte. “Ninety-one percent of our students are currently categorized as either having moderate or severe special needs, or are English language learners (ELLs).  Put another way, only 9 percent of our students are considered ‘Regular Ed’. We also have one of the highest numbers of English language learners in the entire state.”

Brangiforte has not only made EBHS a place that embraces students from all ethnic, socioeconomic, and academic backgrounds, but also motivates them to achieve at the highest possible levels.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Education, in one year, East Boston High School moved from the fifth percentile to the 21st percentile in the state. Also, 80 percent of the schools current sophomores are classified as meeting their expected academic targets on the MCAS test.

“Our sophomores surpassed all expected target scores,” said Brangiforte. “What does this mean? Schools who do not reach their targets can face various levels of state intervention, but I am proud to say that East Boston High was one of only three high schools in the entire city of Boston – including the exam schools – to receive an overall classification of “not requiring” assistance or interventions.”

Brangiforte said perhaps the number that he has been most proud of is the school’s increasing four-year graduation rate.

“Our graduation rate has climbed from 56.1 percent when I began as Headmaster in 2014, to almost 75 percent in 2017,” he said. “The growth is all the more significant when we reflect upon some of the tremendous obstacles and hardships that many of our students face on a daily basis. I believe that several initiatives that we have implemented over the past five years have paved the way for measurable long-term success.”

However, Brangiforte does not in any why think he alone is the reason for the school’s success.

“I want to congratulate all of the staff members, students, and community partners in the East Boston High School family: the custodians, cafeteria workers, support staff, teachers and administrators who all do their part in ensuring that our students are afforded the opportunity to learn in a safe, clean, and welcoming environment,” said Brangiforte. “I have demanded a tremendous commitment from my colleagues over the past few years; they, in turn, elevated their expectations of student performance. While the road was sometimes difficult to navigate, everyone rose to the occasion, stayed the course, and put forth maximum effort each and every school day.  The results? Higher student achievement, a welcoming educational environment, and a great atmosphere to work and learn.”

Brangiforte said while he is proud of EBHS’s progress he understands that the real journey has just begun.

“We will continue to work hard to nurture, educate, and inspire every student who walks through our doors,” he said. “I am humbled and honored that the parents of my beloved city entrust me and my staff with their children’s academic and social development, and we are committed to make East Boston High the best school in the City of Boston.”

Angela Atenco Lopez, Woman of the Year

Angela’s Café namesake, Angela Atenco Lopez, recently celebrated over a decade in business in East Boston.  Lopez, whose mastery in the kitchen helped put Angela’s Cafe on the corner of Lexington and Brooks streets on the culinary map, has been featured in numerous magazines, appeared on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives” (twice) and has consistently made the short list of one of Boston’s best Mexican restaurants among numerous food critics.

Angela Atenco Lopez celebrating Angela’s Café being in business for over a decade in business East Boston.

For her continued success and her recipes that have wowed us all, Angela Atenco Lopez is the East Boston Times 2019 Women of the Year.

Lopez was born in the State of Puebla where she started her culinary career at 8-years-old, following the guidance from her mother.  After almost 50 years of professional cooking, Lopez moved to Boston and joined her two sons, Luis and Joel, as she pushed her career to a new level.

Lopez’s cooking has been featured on the “Phantom Gourmet,” has made numerous ‘Best of Boston’ lists in local nightlife and food magazines and received international recognition after appearing on the Food Network.

The Food Network’s popular show Diners, Drive Ins and Dives (Triple Ds) debuted its segment on Angela’s and host Guy Fieri was beyond impressed by the Puebla/Mexican cuisine being served at the small corner restaurant on Eagle Hill.

Lopez dazzled Fieri with a traditional Puebla dish and staple among Mexican food enthusiasts.

The entire segment focused on Angela’s Chilaquiles and the dish prepared by Lopez did not disappoint.

After one bite Fieri was propelled into food ecstasy that only a dish like Angela’s Chilaquiles can cause.

“I’m coming back to get this tomorrow,” said Fieri of the dish.

Fieri was also impressed by how quick Lopez makes her homemade tortillas, as well as Angela’s Pepian Rojo and Mole Poblano.

The Mole is something that has dazzled food enthusiasts since Angela’s opened over a decade ago. Lopez says There are 50 to 60 ingredients in this sauce and among them are about 10 varieties of chili and takes her two days to make.

However it’s loyal customers like Rep. Adrian Madaro and his wife, Ariel, that perfectly summed up why Angela’s and Lopez’s food has become such a popular destination in Eastie.

“You feel like your home,” Madaro said. “Angela and her son, Luis, have become like family to many of us here in East Boston. When you come in, sit down Angela comes right over and gives you a hug. She’s such a wonderful person and makes everyone feel welcome here.”

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