According to Dr. Siomara Sanchez Guerra, the national president of the association, the Elena Mederos award is given each year to Hispanic women who have contributed to the advancement of the Hispanic-American community.
Birne, who began her career in education when she was only 20 years old, is the only local recipient of the award this year.
"I am very honored as a Cuban-American and an Hispanic woman," said Birne. "It is a great honor to be recognized."
Union City Municipal Court Judge Lilia Munoz received the award last year.
This year's recipients include Brunilda Nunez Fabrega De Baeza, the deputy permanent representative of Panama to the United Nations in New York City; Shirley Rodriguez Remeneski, a commissioner on the New York City Housing Authority; and Lolita De La Vega, the publisher and editor and chief of Temas Magazine.
What an honor
When Adriana Birne began her career with the Union City Board of Education as a second-grade teacher at Sarah Gilmore Elementary School 20 years ago, she was often mistaken for one of the students herself.
On April 30 of last year, Birne was appointed acting director of the city's Day Care program. This year, she moved into the board's central office as a director of language programs.
"I put my heart and soul into what I believe in," said Birne. "Education is very important in a child's life."
Birne's love of education began when she was a child. Both of Birne's parents were educators. Her father was a school counselor at Emerson High School in Union City and her mother was a teacher in the Newark Public School System.
"If you work hard and believe in education you can reach success," said Birne, remembering one of the lessons her parents instilled in her.
Birne's twin sister, Silvia Abbato, is currently the principal of Hudson School, a kindergarten through sixth grade school in Union City.
Who was Elena Mederos?
Elena Mederos, who was the founding vice president of the Association of Cuban-American Women, was known for her contributions to women's human rights and social work in Cuba and in the United States.
Before coming to the United States in 1962, Mederos was named the first Minister of Social Work in Cuba and helped found the school of Social Work at the University of Havana, which established social work as a career in the country.
However, Mederos resigned from her position after Fidel Castro took control of the country in 1961, just two years later.
Mederos dedicated most of her adult life in the United States to working to free her nephew, who was a political prisoner in Cuba. Mederos founded Of Human Rights, an organization dedicated to freeing political prisoners in Cuba, in hopes of freeing her nephew.
Unfortunately, Mederos passed away before her nephew was released.
"[Mederos] spoke of Human Rights way before it was popular in the United States," said Maria Luisa Guerrera, a close friend of Mederos and author of Un Mujer con Perfil (A Woman with a Face), a biography of Mederos' life. Guerrera also was a past recipient of the Elena Mederos Award.
Today, the Elena Mederos Foundation in Miami is continuing Mederos' work in the United States.