Tony Varona immigrated to the United States from Cuba as a small child. Growing up in Newark, New Jersey, he was the only person in his family who spoke English.
“I was called upon to be the family translator and to be the family representative. Whenever anybody needed to go to the immigration office or the Social Security office, I went with them,” he said. “That experience taught me about advocacy.”
Varona also navigated what he called the 'challenging task' of coming out as gay as a working-class Cuban immigrant in Newark.