Blog | UnidosNow

Volunteer of the month, Alex Lobeto

UnidosNow is fortunate to count on passionate and committed volunteers such as Alex Lobeto, an immigrant from Cuba who is the perfect representation of a successful first-generation immigrant, and who is now giving back to his community and spending his time and experiences with our Future Leaders Academy for Girls scholars and families. Please do not miss his story here. Alex, thank you for making UnidosNow a place of hope with your contributions.

Thanks again for the opportunity to serve. As I have shared with you, I immigrated from Cuba in 1962 with my parents and older brother. Our families in Cuba were not for want. This all changed from one day to the next as we landed in Miami penniless. As I reflect back to my childhood I cannot recall a time being hungry, homeless, or without clothes. I now comprehend the dynamics of helping others and others helping themselves. From prosperous to paupers, my parents never lost their pride, family values, or work ethic.
 
My opportunities include serving with the 82nd Airborne Division in the late 70’s and serving in the Fire Service for 30 years. I went from a high school dropout to earning a Masters Degree in Public Safety Administration. I now volunteer my time and talents with UnidosNow, Sarasota and Manatee School Districts, Sarasota Literary Council, and Books for Kids (Lakewood Ranch Rotary).
 
Working with UnidosNow has provided me with an opportunity to share the life values that my parents instilled in me. From experience, I am a firm believer that a solid family creates solid members of society. UnidosNow strongly supports this foundation by involving entire families in bringing up our future generations.
 
Of utmost importance to success and happiness is one’s ability to develop personal responsibility. I have found UnidosNow strongly supports this message. Instilling this mindset in our society is, in my opinion, the most important value a person can share.
 
I would strongly urge others to participate in shaping the lives of our youths and families. To provide someone an image of personal achievement will enhance you. To me it is one way of answering the question, “what can I do to make my society better in a self-sustainable manner?”
 
“The most important gifts I have been given I cannot hold in my hand…I hold them in my heart.”

Our Scholars Made Her The One

Jo-Ann Hillman arrived at UnidosNow for what it seemed to be out of the blue, but it wasn’t. Our social media campaign for the 2016 Giving Challenge showed up in her newsfeed. The pictures and quotes of our students touched her and she connected with our scholars straightaway, but no one will tell her story better than herself. Please read it below:

A friend shared this picture of a young woman smiling, looking directly into the camera. Confident. Warm. Engaging. The picture had a quote: “The Future Leaders Academy has taught me to dream big because first generation low-income Latino students also have a chance to achieve their dream of going to college. – Sarah Marin”. It also had two logos, one of the Giving Challenge and the logo of the organization, UnidosNow. Their call to action: “It only takes one to inspire a student. Be The One.”

 

In 2016, it was impossible not to have heard about the Giving Challenge, but I had never heard about UnidosNow before. I clicked on my friend’s post and started learning about UnidosNow. I soon found myself on their website, checking their Education tab and learning about their Future Leaders Academy, hearing their students’ testimonials and reading their remarkable achievements. I instantly related to these students, remembering my own efforts to apply to college, not knowing what to do and what to expect.

 

I donated to their Giving Challenge appeal, feeling I could Be The One to these students.

 

But that didn’t seem enough for me: I have a background in education, and I have been an educator all my life.  My expertise includes preparing students to take their ACT exams and get the scores they need to be accepted into college.. I could Be The One for these scholars on a bigger scale, face-to-face, connecting and sharing with them. I had to click on their contact page and I sent them a message introducing myself:

 

“Dear Mrs. Corcuera,

 

This is Jo-Ann Hillman. I’ve spent the last half hour looking at your website, impressed by the stories of your students. They are heart-warming, and the concept behind your Future Leaders Academy is astounding. I would love to get involved with UnidosNow and volunteer at the Future Leaders Academy. I would love to discuss with you my expertise to prepare students to successfully take their ACT exams. I look forward to hearing from you. Best, Jo-Ann Hillman”.

 

Mrs. Corcuera, UnidosNow Executive Director, not only got back to me almost right away but she also first thanked me for my donation to their Giving Challenge appeal. If you haven’t met Luz Corcuera yet, I will only tell you one thing about her: you will immediately feel a connection with her. Her passion and love for the students and families shine through everything she does, and that passion ignited mine.

 

UnidosNow has given me the chance to meet brilliant students on their way to success. On 2016, I joined their Future Leaders Academy team and, at the University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee campus, I taught a class of 23 and gave them all the tools they needed to successfully take their ACT exams.  It was rewarding to see their ACT scores improving along with their chances to be accepted into selective colleges. It was not only a very fulfilling experience -seeing these young people realize their potential and the endless possibilities for their future. I even met Sarah Marin, the young woman whose story first draw me to this admirable organization, and all her classmates, who were dreaming big in 2016, and now they are living that dream in college.

 

The 2016 Giving Challenge was my gateway to an organization that makes dreams come true. Now in 2018, I continue Being The One for these UnidosNow Future Leaders, and so can you! Donate to UnidosNow on May 1st-2nd, from noon to noon.

 

Follow UnidosNow in Facebook and Twitter.

Hear Their Stories Live

Through our newsletters, social media posts, and blog posts you can get to know our students, their families, and their stories. But wouldn’t it be more special to hear it directly from them? Now you have that chance! Join us on May 1st at 6.30 p.m. at the Keating Theatre at Florida Studio Theatre to see our students share their lives with you in a stage reading, El Camino: Our Great Journey.

Reserve your seat here.

This event would be part of the 2018 Giving Challenge. Join us to celebrate this year’s Giving Challenge while getting to know the students and families you’ll be helping when donating to UnidosNow.

2018 Giving Challenge

Mark your calendars for May 1st and 2nd, when you’ll have the opportunity to help our students and families continue to thrive by donating to the Giving Challenge, presented by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County—with each gift strengthened by The Patterson Foundation.

What’s particularly exciting this year is that The Patterson Foundation will provide a 1:1 match for all unique donations—up to $100 per donor, per organization—without  a limit to the number of individual matches from unique donors (individuals with a personal credit/debit card) a nonprofit can receive during these 24 hours.

“Be the One” to support our students and families of UnidosNow.

Your donation is crucial. We are asking for your support so more students and families can take advantage of our programs.

You can continue to make a difference because your contribution can help us establish the following programs in even more Sarasota and Manatee county schools:

  • Our Future Leaders Academy for Girls (FLAG), and our Future Leaders Academy for Middle Schoolers (FLAMS), which enable low-income elementary and middle-school students and their families learn about the path to higher education and develop critical skills.
  • Our Families Together Program equip parents of low-income, first generation students with the knowledge and skills for learning how to succeed in the education system in the United States by integrating indispensable life and language skills and building social capital.
  • Our Future Leaders Academy provides Manatee and Sarasota high-school seniors with the tools to successfully be admitted to college, as they pursue their academic and professional journey.
  • THE GANAS program informs and supports those students wanting to pursue technical school, a two- or four-year college, or the military. Aptly named, the translation of “ganas”is grit or desire to succeed, which is what our students embody.

On behalf of the UnidosNow students, parents, mentors, volunteers, staff, and Board, we appreciate all your support and the difference you’re making in so many people’s lives.

Please support UnidosNow during this Giving Challenge—from noon to noon on May 1st and 2nd—and help empower our students and their families. Stay tuned on May 1st at 12 p.m. when the donation link will be live to participate and donate during the 2018 Giving Challenge.

As in the past, thank you for your unselfish commitment. Together we can Be the One.

Oscar Portillo-Meza: A Role Model Exemplifying UNIDOS

By Sandy Chase

UnidosNow fosters improvement through education, integration, and civic engagement.

But when you get to know our Future Leaders and families, you’ll agree that UNIDOS is an acronym that describes Hispanic and Latino youth who are learning skills and acquiring knowledge for empowerment:

  • Undeterred by Obstacles
  • Navigating life’s journey to fulfillment
  • Inspired by leaders in all facets of life
  • Determined to be successful
  • Overcoming adversity
  • Setting a model for others to follow

A 17-year-old immigrant from Honduras, Oscar defies obstacles confronting his personal and academic goals.  “I’ve weaponized those barriers and turned them into the tools that have helped me construct bridges and tear down walls.”

Oscar is fervent about public service, relaying how President Barack Obama’s accomplishments have also reaffirmed that belief:  “I, too, will continue to challenge myself and others for the betterment of our.”

A dually enrolled Bayshore High School senior, Oscar shares his day at the State College of Florida.  The following activities describe a birds-eye view of his typical experiences—highlighting his determination to make a difference:

  • President of three clubs and the Student Government Association
  • Past editor on the yearbook staff
  • Current writer for the school newspaper
  • Fellow on political campaigns, involved in voter registration and restoration of voter’s rights.

“Ambition” understates this young man’s strengths. Oscar is determined to pursue undergraduate studies in political science and economics, after which he plans to attend graduate school for a Master’s of Political Science or a Juris Doctorate to practice corporate law.

UnidosNow has helped him better realize his academic goals and lighten his path when it appeared bleak.  “When I began applying to colleges, I learned about my status as a non-citizen, but didn’t despair because UnidosNow helped guide me through the process.  My college and career advisor—an insightful, knowledgeable counselor, connected me with the organization’s directors, who have encouraged me and others in similar situations to feel like the best days lie not behind us—but ahead.”

Oscar has already been accepted to over 25 universities nationwide; he’s waiting to hear from more.  But schools like the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa, and Fordham University top his list.

Eventually, Oscar plans to become a senator.  “I want to do as much as I can for Americans, also dedicating some of my life to the nonprofit sector, with an organization like the Human Rights Campaign or the Save the Children Foundation.”

Oscar’s visions define success:  “When you’re old and frail, you have no regrets.  You’ve turned your thoughts into action, fighting every battle you’ve deemed right for everyone.”

Farewell, Lisbeth

Lisbeth Oscuvilca, the kind and giving soul that accompanied our students’ journey to Dream Big since 2015, is now moving to the next chapter of her life. Lisbeth, you will be missed by our students, families, mentors, supporters, and the UnidosNow team.

Lisbeth didn’t want to go without saying goodbye to all of us:

“Arriving at UnidosNow in 2015 for my job interview, I already knew that I was in the right place when they told me: “You are here to help students and their parents to DREAM BIG!”. I knew from the beginning that in addition to Dreaming Big, these families needed to understand their real value and feel empowered to take control of their lives. I integrated my life’s experiences from Peru, plus a group of new skills learned on-the-job, to help achieve those goals for our students and their families. Everyone at UnidosNow mentioned that I showed passion for education, and it’s true. I am a true believer that education is the primary door to open minds and hearts.

Every day I brought with me to UnidosNow a recipe consisting of compassion, creativity, and hard work. Compassion: In order to connect with people in the Latino community one needs to see them with compassionate eyes. Compassion lets you see things from a perspective that allows you to act in a more assertive, loving and successful way. Creativity: It is a necessary tool to accomplish your goals while working in any nonprofit organization, and UnidosNow is not an exception. Everyone on our team needs to ‘think outside the box’ in order to accomplish goals with a similar success rate as for-profit companies that have more resources available. Hard work. Lastly, I always brought with me a Spanish expression that my father told his family: ‘A Dios rogando y con el mazo dando’. This means that it is not enough for you to just want something, you need to work hard in order to achieve it.

Finally, UnidosNow reminded me to Dream Big in my own life. I have some personal goals that I need to focus on, so for now, I am withdrawing from the organization. I’m grateful for the people that gave me an opportunity to work on them.  This helped me to grow in a personal and professional way. This gratefulness extends to dedicated board members, to Luz Corcuera, a great leader; Hector and Wendy, great day-to-day team members; and to people that work behind the scenes like Beatriz, Robin, and Lisa. Always, UnidosNow will be part of me and will have a special place in my memories and heart. I wish all the best for my students and their parents on their way to accomplishing their own Big Dreams!”

Dental Hygiene Services in Manatee County by SCF

From the State College of Florida

State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota’s (SCF) Dental Hygiene Clinic is accepting new patients. SCF’s Dental Hygiene Clinic at SCF Bradenton, 5840 26th St. W., Building 2, provides teeth cleanings, oral examinations, dental X-rays, fluoride and sealants to individuals 6 and older. Clinic hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Care is provided by SCF students under the supervision of licensed dental hygiene instructors and dentists who check the services provided to patients. The clinic gives students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience so they are prepared to work as dental hygienists after graduation. The cost ranges from $10 per quadrant for sealants to $37 for adult complex cleanings with medicaments. No insurance is required.

SCF dental hygiene students also regularly participate in community service projects for low-income children and families. SCF students, instructors and recent graduates provide oral screenings, fluoride applications, education and referrals for homeless or at-risk children.

Students’ hands-on experience combined with the education they receive from qualified SCF faculty prepare them to excel at state competitions and on the national examination they are required to pass after they graduate. Since the program began, graduates have continued the tradition of SCF’s 100 percent pass rate on the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the SCF Dental Hygiene Clinic at 941-752-5353.

Hispanic Heritage Celebration. Thank you for joining us!

Over 160 people attended the event and generously donated over $50,000 towards the future of our promising students. Our guests enjoyed a lively opening by Mariachis Los Arrieros, delicious Latino food, and joyful dancing with the music of Trio Fusión.

We are very grateful for the support of the sponsors who made this evening possible: Oro (Gold) Sponsors, Community Foundation of Sarasota CountyKathy Schersten, and CJ Czaia; Plata (Silver) Sponsors, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and Kenyon Law; Bronce (Bronze) Sponsors, IberiaBank and Gallagher & Hagopian; and our Media Sponsor, TV Net Media Group.

A very special thanks goes to Kathy Schersten, an UnidosNow board member and the chairperson of this event. Kathy inspired us to dream big which resulted in UnidosNow exceeding all expectations for this inaugural event. ¡Muchas gracias, Kathy!

A Silent Auction for Everyone! Hispanic Heritage Celebration

UnidosNow’s Hispanic Heritage Celebration is around the corner -one week to go-, and we wanted to invite you all to check our terrific silent auction items. Everyone can find something that they’ll like! Plus, there are more to come.

If you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, what are you waiting for? You can make your reservation here. We look forward to seeing you next Friday to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and our scholars and families.

Hispanic Heritage Celebration 2017

We look forward to seeing you this Friday, September 22nd at 6 p.m. at Michael’s On East to benefit UnidosNow scholars and their families to achieve their Dreams of Higher Education, and to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

Please be aware that Valet parking at Michael’s On East is now facing their Wine Cellar since South East Avenue is under renovations (please see map below for your reference). We will have signs guiding you, but wanted to let you know in advance.

The Hispanic Heritage Celebration will have live entertainment both before and after our gourmet dinner. Come and enjoy the music of Mariachi Los Arrieros and Trio Fusión while supporting UnidosNow scholars and families to Dream Big.

 

We have all these items in our silent auction: what are you planning to bid on?

Looking forward to seeing you!

This Campaign has ended. No more pledges can be made.