Unidos Then: Seeing the Writing on the Wall

Interview with Board Chairman Kelly Kirschner

by Sandy Chase

¡Feliz cumpleaños!  Congratulations, as UnidosNow celebrates 10 years of empowering the Hispanic/Latino community—strengthening Sarasota and Manatee counties. 

A role model for other nonprofits, UnidosNow continues to excel, offering such diverse, crucial programs as Future Leaders Academy Barancik Scholars (FLA), Future Leaders Academy for Girls (FLAG), Future Leaders Academy for Middle School (FLAM), Parent Leadership Program, Mi Voto, Mi Futuro Campaign.

The insightful, untiring, professional Dream Team staff; community partnerships; and dedicated volunteers, including board members and FLA alumni, have enabled UnidosNow to promote its mission of educating, elevating, and integrating the region’s LatinX and immigrant community.

Kelly Kirschner, first Executive Director of UnidosNow and current Board Chairman.

We know about the exceptional progress Unidos has achieved over the last 10 years, as local media continues to publicize how UnidosNow makes a difference.

But what was UnidosNow like THEN, when former Sarasota City Mayor Kelly Kirschner, local Spanish-language media publisher Luis Eduardo, and Honduran-American attorney Christopher John (CJ) Czaia mounted a campaign to ensure that the Hispanic/Latino population—the fastest growing segment of our population—was represented?

Kelly set aside time from his schedule as Vice President and Dean of Eckerd College’s Division of Executive and Continuing Education, Board Chair of UnidosNow, and Trustee of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg to reflect about UnidosNow’s beginnings.

Why was there a need in our community for an organization like UnidosNow? 

I was serving as the Mayor of Sarasota in 2010 and, among others in the community – including particularly local Luis Eduardo Baron and CJ Czaia, we were horrified by the 2010 state of Florida election cycle and its results. The winning gubernatorial candidate prior to announcing his candidacy had zero name recognition anywhere outside of Naples. No political pundit gave him any chance of winning. However he invested over $12M in TV, radio and print advertising focusing squarely on a xenophobic, anti-immigrant message that laid the blame for Florida’s deep recession on the immigrant community and promised to remove them all once he was elected, following the lead of Arizona and their recently-passed “Show Me Your Papers” law.

In spite of such rhetoric in 2010, primarily vilifying the Latin American immigrant community, LatinX voters did not participate or show up to vote – particularly in the City of Sarasota where I was serving as Mayor. My recollection is that of our 20% LatinX population, only 2% were registered and only a fraction of that percentage (maybe 30%) participated in the 2010 election. It was a depressing moment for a number of reasons, the biggest being that if you have such a large and growing segment of your population that is not engaging in the most fundamental civic process, then it is a red-flag indicator of an unraveling of capital “C” Community.

When we looked at other areas of civic integration and asked the question:

UnidosNow founders, CJ Czaia (left) and Kelly Kirschner (right) in 2011.

What is the composition of X and is it reflective of this growing minority-majority community? Our local judiciary, are we seeing proportionate numbers of LatinX Sarasota/Manatee County judges? No. How about policing? No. Local civic and corporate leadership? No; utilization of banking services (no); attending cultural arts performances in the region (no); teachers and school administrators (no) – the list would go on and on, being abundantly clear that this was a marginalized and isolated community. Something needed to be done and greater attention had to be focused on integrating the region’s LatinX and immigrant population into the full cultural, economic, educational and civic weave of the Community. 

How did you get involved?  How does your background/career lend itself to the founding of UnidosNow?

As Mayor from 2010-11, I had made it a focus of my period to celebrate our immigrant community and seek to draw a greater percentage of the population into civic conversations with their City government – in particular as it related to policing.

There was a natural evolution then in working with individuals like Luis Eduardo and CJ to encaminar (guide) the creation of UnidosNow. Having served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Guatemala where I lived and worked for close to four years; a Masters degree in Latin American Studies and a significant amount of time studying and working in Latin America, it was natural for me to work with this population. 

What did UnidosNow look like when it opened its doors?

For starters there were no doors. But let’s take a step back…If it weren’t for the initial vision and philanthropic support of CJ, UnidosNow would have never been created. CJ was the catalyst amongst our triumvirate to do something. I had started a non-profit in Guatemala but never in the US. Individually the three of us had understood for a number of years that something needed to be done to draw this community into greater civic conversations, but it was CJ that put up the dollars for many months to get it going.

What was the first UnidosNow project?

When I stepped down as Mayor, I took the lead as the first Executive Director and just as with the Peace Corps, it was an incredibly hard, but equally rewarding job. Our ‘offices’ were local coffee shops with free WiFi. I had a volunteer intern -Victor Yengle, a Dreamer who grew up in Sarasota and had to drop out of UF because they revoked his scholarship and in-state tuition the day he arrived to move in as a freshman and couldn’t prove his citizenship. (I’m proud to say that Victor is now a US citizen, a UF graduate and is in graduate school at Cornell University currently.)

Future Leaders Academy Class of 2015

The two of us were probably in a state of complete disorder trying to address as many issues in the region as we could at once, coupled with great energy and an unspoken understanding of the late John Lewis’ call for all of us to find the spaces in life where we are obligated to start “good trouble”. The biggest issue in our first year was addressing that “Show Me Your Papers” bill that the Governor promised he would make law in Florida when elected.

UnidosNow worked with a number of other immigrant/Latino-support organizations, Spanish-language media outlets, University of South Florida and its Institute for Public Policy and Leadership, New College, and southwest Florida faith-leaders for more than seven months, awakening the conscience of the state’s Hispanic/Latino community.

Through organized advocacy that led multiple groups to Tallahassee as well as local protests, the proposal never made it to the floor nor has it been brought up again since then. A number of individuals and groups throughout the state point to the work of Unidos in being critical to help stop that. 

UnidosNow at a community event providing books for children and information.

After defeating the “Show Me Your Papers” bill, what were your next steps?

Our vision has always been that UnidosNow would be a large-tent, immigrant-integration organization—working across the spectrum of education, culture, civics, and economics to better integrate this community into the full fabric of our larger Community.

After our first year, education emerged as our primary focus.  We were fortunate to partner with the former Sarasota YMCA Hispanic Achievers Program Director Estela Curiel on building the first cohort of our college-prep program:  FLA, which has evolved over time, particularly with the involvement of Hector Tejeda, and continues helping phenomenal students attend some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in this country. We hope and expect that these students will one-day return to their home in SW Florida and be these eponymous leaders of our region. 

How did you decide on the name UnidosNow?

Our current Executive Director, Luz Corcuera, has told me since I first met her over a decade ago that this concept of a melting pot in the United States is terribly flawed. There is no melting. What makes the US such a brilliant country is its diversity and the maintenance of customs and traditions from around the world that not only brings the world to a nation, but brings the enterprising, risk-taking spirit of an immigrant who leaves all that is loved and familiar to travel to our distant land to make a new life.

As such, Luz said the US has the most brilliant, complimentary fruit salad – where all immigrants represent their own, ripe, delicious, unique fruit and flavor profile – and together they make a perfect dessert. The creation of our name then sought to reflect that respect of richness, diversity; that multilingual is actually better than monolingual. It is also a play on words in that the United States in Spanish is “Estados Unidos” – so the fusion of Unidos with the urgent “Now” for an immigrant integration organization focusing on the LatinX community seemed to be about perfect. Uniting the community now – for the greater good of the United States is embodied in the name and our red, white and blue color palette. 

What challenges did you have to overcome in achieving your goals? How have you overcome these challenges?

When we first started, I think we confused many people. Some thought we were nothing more than a “flash-in-the-pan” political noise that would soon pass and fold.

Luz Corcuera, current UnidosNow Executive Director and fearless leader.

As a result, it was very hard to fundraise for our core programs, like FLA, with institutional funders. At some point in our second year, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation was the first large area foundation that felt they had done their due diligence on us and could invest in our work.

I’m proud to say that we have done everything we have said we would do not only for our friends with Gulf Coast, but all of our other funding partners, private donors and volunteers. That has grown the trust and level of credibility in the organization in the region and something we are very jealous of maintaining. 

Luz Corcuera’s leadership is foundational to this respect and credibility and we cannot begin to give her enough credit for how she has grown Unidos and our impact to levels that the three founders only dreamed of accomplishing in 2010.

Cómo reconocer los síntomas de Covid-19 en niños, según los consejos de los pediatras

Por Sandee LaMotte, Katia Hetter, Kristen Rogers y Ryan Prior, CNN

Actualizado a las 12:39 AM ET, sábado, 15 de agosto, 2020

Artículo de CNN, publicado originalmente en inglés

(CNN) – ¿Realmente se supone que los padres deben sentirse tranquilos con todo lo que se dice sobre casos “leves” de Covid-19 en niños? ¿Qué pasa con los “pocos” jóvenes desafortunados que han muerto o han contraído una extraña y grave enfermedad asociada?

Ningún padre quiere enfrentarse a las probabilidades de que su hijo sea la excepción a la regla.

“Ya hemos tenido 90 muertes de niños en los Estados Unidos, en solo unos pocos meses”, dijo el lunes el Dr. Sean O’Leary, vicepresidente del Comité de Enfermedades Infecciosas de la Academia Estadounidense de Pediatría (APP), a Anderson Cooper de CNN.

“No es justo decir que este virus es completamente benigno en los niños”, dijo.

A medida que varias escuelas y universidades de todo el país han comenzado las clases o están avanzando con planes para comenzar la instrucción en persona, total o parcialmente en las próximas semanas, los temores entre las familias van en aumento. Surge la pregunta: ¿Estarán a salvo nuestros niños?

Después de todo, ya ha habido un aumento del 90% en el número de casos de Covid-19 entre los niños en los EE. UU. En solo las últimas cuatro semanas, según los datos publicados esta semana por la AAP.

En Florida, donde la mayoría de las escuelas públicas aún no han abierto, siete niños han muerto, tres solo en el último mes. Las hospitalizaciones por Covid-19 entre niños en Florida aumentaron en un 105% durante el mismo período de cuatro semanas, de 213 a 436 casos.

Debido a que la mayoría de los niños se han refugiado en casa hasta hace poco, no es sorprendente que el número de casos en niños fuera bajo al comienzo de la pandemia.

“Los niños simplemente no han tenido tantos contactos”, dice el Dr. Sanjay Gupta, corresponsal médico jefe de CNN, en un evento de Facebook Live el martes. “A medida que vemos que los niños desarrollan más y más contactos, vemos que los números aumentan. Y están aumentando a un ritmo cada vez más rápido. Por eso me preocupan las escuelas.

“Tenemos que abordar esto con prudencia porque si tenemos brotes terribles en las escuelas, y si la gente se enferma (niños o profesores, quienquiera que enferme y muera), obviamente más allá del costo físico, existe el costo psicológico, así también en las comunidades “, dice Gupta. “Que es algo que realmente me preocupa”.

¿Cuáles son los síntomas?

Los síntomas de Covid-19 son los mismos en los niños que en los adultos.

“Si observa la larga lista de síntomas potenciales (congestión, tos, fiebre, pérdida del sentido del olfato), todos pueden ocurrir tanto en adultos como en niños”, dice O’Leary.

Otros signos clave incluyen cualquier dificultad para respirar; una erupción, especialmente una que se está extendiendo rápidamente; falta de energía; y problemas para mantener despierto a un niño, dice el pediatra Dr. Daniel Cohen, que ejerce cerca del epicentro del brote de New Rochelle, Nueva York, donde casi 2,900 personas se infectaron desde principios de marzo hasta finales de mayo.

“Es muy importante informar al médico de inmediato si realmente no puede levantarlos, si se quedan dormidos todo el tiempo y simplemente están agotados, si no beben, no comen, las actividades de la vida diaria.” Dice Cohen.

No dude en llamar al doctor

No preocuparse es demasiado pequeño para comunicarlo a su pediatra, dicen los expertos. Los padres son los mejores detectives porque saben cómo se comporta normalmente su hijo.

“Puede ser algo que no puedes comunicar, pero algo te molesta”, dice Cohen. “Siempre les digo a los padres: ‘Mira, si estás nervioso, yo también debería estarlo. Así son las cosas ahora'”. La única llamada que es incorrecta es la que no se hace”.

O’Leary está de acuerdo. Si los padres “ven que su hijo se ve particularmente enfermo o más enfermo de lo que esperarían con un resfriado o una enfermedad típicos, deben llamar a su pediatra para hablar. Cualquier cosa grave siempre es una preocupación”.

La pandemia está afectando la forma en que se practica la medicina. Pensemos en la fiebre, por ejemplo, un signo común de enfermedad en los niños que podría haber sido incluido en la lista de “ver y observar” en tiempos anteriores al Covid.

“Hoy, si vemos un niño con fiebre, hablo con esos padres a diario debido a la ambigüedad y el miedo que todos tenemos”, dijo Cohen. “No queremos perder a ese niño”.

No es solo el diagnóstico de Covid-19, dice. “Es observar la progresión de la enfermedad. ¿Este niño se enferma más rápido de lo que le gustaría ver? Y es entonces cuando quiere que lo atiendan”, agregó Cohen.

Esa guía también se aplica a la salud emocional y psicológica de los niños, dijo O’Leary.

“Los niños están más aislados, los niños muestran más ansiedad, más depresión”, dice O’Leary. “Esas son cosas, aunque no están directamente relacionadas con Covid, que necesitan atención”.

¿Puede saber si su hijo está enfermo?

Es una realidad especialmente aterradora para los padres que muchos niños pequeños son asintomáticos, lo que significa que no hay signos o síntomas de que sus hijos sean portadores del virus. Otros tienen un caso extremadamente leve con pocos problemas.

Eso debería ser un alivio para los padres cuando se trata de la seguridad de sus hijos, porque si un niño con Covid-19 está resistiendo bien el virus, los pediatras solo están apoyando y guiando a los padres durante la enfermedad, dice Cohen.

La preocupación luego se centra en proteger a otros, como hermanos, padres, abuelos y la comunidad.

“Los niños pueden ser una chispa y no queremos que el fuego se extienda”, agrega Cohen. “La mejor manera de deshacerse de un incendio es quitar el combustible, así mantenemos a todos separados”.

La única forma en que un padre puede sospechar una enfermedad asintomática es rastreando la exposición de su hijo con otros con Covid-19 y estar al tanto de lo que está sucediendo en la escuela a la que asiste el niño.

“Conocer sus hábitos, saber con quién estaba, saber que sus exposiciones son clave”, dice Cohen. “Sabe, un niño que no usa mascarilla en Georgia es diferente en este momento a un niño que no usa mascarilla en Nueva York, porque los casos están aumentando en Georgia”.

Si los niños asintomáticos deben hacerse la prueba de infección por coronavirus depende de “la frecuencia con la que los niños están expuestos a otras personas” y la cantidad de pruebas realizadas en sus comunidades, dice O’Leary.

“Lo más importante para que los niños vuelvan a la escuela es controlar realmente el virus en la comunidad circundante”, dice.

Las medidas de mitigación que funcionan para disminuir la transmisión del virus (usar mascarilla, lavarse las manos y distanciarse físicamente) son las más importantes, agrega O’Leary.

Enfermedad rara pero grave relacionada con Covid-19

Otra preocupación para los padres es el síndrome inflamatorio multisistémico en los niños (MIS-C).

Es una presentación rara e inusual en los niños que puede aparecer unos días o semanas después de que un niño haya estado expuesto al Covid-19.

“Se parece a algo conocido como Kawasaki, que también es un síndrome inflamatorio en el cuerpo. Y puede ser bastante devastador para los niños”, dice Gupta.

“Afortunadamente, es raro, pero sucede”, agrega Gupta. “Parece suceder en los Estados Unidos y en el Reino Unido, más que en otros países del mundo, y todavía no estamos seguros de por qué es así. Pero esto es algo que los médicos, pediatras y padres, todos, están manteniendo un ojo en ello”.

Hasta el 6 de agosto, los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades de EE. UU. Habían confirmado 570 casos de MIS-C en 40 estados y el Distrito de Columbia, incluidas 10 muertes. La edad promedio de esos casos es de 8 años y el 70% de los casos han ocurrido en niños latinos o afroamericanos.

El Dr. Kevin Friedman, cardiólogo pediátrico del Boston Children’s Hospital, dice que aunque podría haber aspectos del sistema inmunológico que predisponen a ciertos grupos a MIS-C, el efecto en las comunidades de color también podría estar relacionado con tasas más altas de condiciones de vida multifamiliares, padres que tienen trabajos como trabajadores esenciales fuera del hogar y mayores tasas de condiciones de salud preexistentes.

Las pistas de este raro síndrome

La primera pista de MIS-C es una fiebre persistente sin una causa clara, según la AAP. Si eso aparece en un niño que ha estado expuesto recientemente a alguien que pueda haber tenido Covid-19, debería “levantar sospechas”.

Otros signos a buscar incluyen dolor abdominal, diarrea, glándulas inflamadas, manos y pies enrojecidos o hinchados, labios rojos agrietados y ojos rosados o rojos, lo que se conoce como conjuntivitis. También puede haber respiración rápida u otros signos respiratorios, pero no son tan comunes.

Además de los síntomas comunes de fiebre, los síntomas gastrointestinales son más frecuentes en los niños con MIS-C, y entre el 80% y el 90% de los pacientes los padecen, dice Friedman, quien también es profesor asistente de pediatría en la Escuela de Medicina de Harvard.

Los niños con MIS-C se enferman rápidamente, dice la AAP, y pronto pueden mostrar signos de shock. Cuando son examinados, muestran síntomas de disfunción multiorgánica y niveles elevados de inflamación en sangre.

La mayoría de los niños con MIS-C necesitarán ir al hospital, dicen los CDC, y algunos necesitarán atención en la unidad de cuidados intensivos pediátricos.

Sin embargo, expertos como Friedman creen que hay una forma más leve de MIS-C que no aparece del todo en los informes de salud pública. “Probablemente solo estemos experimentando la punta del iceberg con esta enfermedad”, dijo. “También están ocurriendo algunos casos leves”.

MIS-C se puede prevenir de la misma manera que evitamos la propagación del coronavirus en general, agregó. Eso significa asegurarse de que usted y su familia se laven las manos con regularidad, cumplan con la recomendación universal de llevar mascarilla y practiquen el distanciamiento social.

Es una cosa más a tener en cuenta cuando los niños regresan a la escuela, pero la afección aún es muy rara.

“En cualquier lugar donde haya exposición a Covid, también habrá MIS-C. Es inevitable que veamos esto con la reapertura de las escuelas”, dice Friedman, y agrega que, según su experiencia, la gran mayoría de los niños con MIS-C mejoran y “lo hacen bastante rápido”.

¿No está seguro de que su hijo esté enfermo o simplemente estresado?

Algunos padres pueden estar preocupados por problemas de crianza más típicos, como si su hijo está realmente enfermo o si simplemente evita levantarse temprano. Debido a que estamos en una pandemia, los expertos dicen que es mejor asumir que el niño no está fingiendo síntomas.

“Muchos niños están teniendo depresión o reacciones del estado de ánimo a la pandemia, por lo que también pueden afectar el nivel de energía y la motivación”, dice la pediatra del desarrollo conductual, la Dra. Jenny Radesky, profesora asistente de pediatría en la Universidad de Michigan.

“De manera similar, si su hijo tiende a tener dolores de cabeza o de estómago en respuesta al estrés, o tiene un estómago sensible, utilice esa información para no reaccionar de forma exagerada ante nuevas quejas”, agrega.

Después de todo, todos estamos acumulando mucho estrés en nuestros cuerpos estos días. Cuando pregunte acerca de los síntomas, agrega, no haga preguntas directas como “¿Te duele la garganta? ¿Te sientes extraña la barriga?”

“Los niños responderán automáticamente si y no”, dijo Radesky. “En lugar de eso, pregunte ‘¿Qué te duele o molestal? Apúntelo. ¿Cómo te sientes?’ “

Finalmente, recuerde esto: “Es difícil fingir una fiebre. La fiebre no es psicosomática”, dice. “En caso de duda, llame al médico de su hijo. Ellos saben cómo diferenciar los síntomas orgánicos de las reacciones psicosomáticas”.

Todavía podrías enviar a un niño enfermo a la escuela

Aún así, no importa cuán cuidadosos sean los padres, “debido a que muchos niños con Covid-19 son asintomáticos, ciertamente es posible que envíe a un niño con Covid-19 asintomático a la escuela”, dice Radesky.

“Necesitamos más pruebas de vigilancia de estudiantes y maestros asintomáticos, de lo contrario, podemos sentir una falsa seguridad de que estamos enviando a un niño no contagioso a la escuela”, dice Radesky.

En un artículo publicado el martes en la revista JAMA Pediatrics, un equipo de pediatría de la Facultad de Medicina de la Universidad de Stanford recomendó que las escuelas sigan un enfoque de prueba de tres puntas, que se lleva a cabo en colaboración con los hospitales locales:

  • Todos los estudiantes con síntomas deben ser evaluados
  • Las escuelas deben realizar pruebas al azar para los estudiantes y el personal para identificar a los pacientes asintomáticos (importante especialmente para los niños)
  • Los estudiantes de hogares de alto riesgo se les debe ofrecer pruebas con más frecuencia

“Dado que muchos distritos escolares tienen limitaciones presupuestarias, las escuelas deben evaluar sus opciones e identificar las medidas que sean particularmente importantes y factibles para sus comunidades”, escriben los autores.

Jen Christensen, Rosa Flores, Melissa Mahtani, Lauren Mascarenhas, Christina Maxouris, Ray Sanchez y Sara Weisfeldt de CNN contribuyeron a este artículo.

Opening Doors. Our FLA Barancik Scholars Reflect on the FLA Program

Miranda Clapp: “FLA means getting connected with some of the most ambitious students in the area and watching each other grow over the course of the year. We are all brimming with potential.”

Maria Prisila Enriquez Vega: “FLA means an opportunity for the future because I’m not only learning for myself, I’m learning for five. FLA has given me not only the information but the resources to be prepared for the future. And be able to help my family and others by sharing what I learned, so they too have an opportunity for a brighter future.”

Denny Lu: “FLA is an opportunity to grow, learn, and challenge myself. I have been so fortunate to be able to gain insight from such impactful community leaders and learn from my peers every step of the way. My goal is to contribute back to my community in the profession of service that I desire in order to serve to the best of my ability.”

Sebastian Martinez: “Well, to me it means a lot, It means getting information and tips from dedicated people and mentors. It’s an organization that provides a lot of information that I didn’t even know about nor that I knew I needed.”

Nicholas Coelho: “FLA means: an open door to college, hardworking students, life advice and guidance. FLA creates new possibilities and shapes young leaders in our community.”

Helen Cala: “FLA means having a community that brings you confidence in your abilities and chances at a college education. Oftentimes we look at those who sacrificed everything for us and question whether we’ll have the tools or information necessary during the college process to make their hard work pay off.”

Adriana Alvarado: “FLA means the ability to open my own doors after all other doors were shut on me.”

Joshua Segebre, replying to an email from Cintia Elnestar: “I have been wanting to write this for a while. The other day in an email you sent ‘What does FLA mean to you?’. While what I am about to say doesn’t specifically answer that, I want to write about my experience.

“This program has tremendously helped me focus on my goals and I have also seen a huge development in my character. I remember close to a year ago, I was sitting in class excited that I had a substitute teacher for my Aice Spanish class. Then I was suddenly requested to visit the College and Career Center, that is where I learned about UnidosNow and met you.

“I was highly interested in the organization. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get involved in the FLA program due to transportation issues at the time during the summer of 2020. Fast forward to March, and many global events later, I was able to apply thanks to Esther who reached out to me who told me that you referred me. I was relieved to hear that the program would be
taking online via Zoom.

“I remember in my interview for this program; I told the three Hector, Luz, and you my academic goals and thought I had it all together in terms of my future. However, I was proved wrong by the end of the first workshop. I remember Hector told us in a workshop to not be confined by what is around you, and not only dream big, but do big. I intend to do just that.

“While I know this program isn’t over yet, I want to thank you once again for this opportunity as well as your persistence to recruit me. No amount of words can express how grateful I am to be in this program. I have learned more than just University prep work, but also valuable life skills. With gratitude.”

Students Giving Back

Family Engagement Director Lisbeth Oscuvilca Rodriguez Highlights How the UnidosNow Tutoring Program Is Making a Difference

by Sandy Chase

During this pandemic, Future Leaders Academy Barancik Scholars (FLA) alumni and other college students have dedicated their time to help foster the UnidosNow mission of educating its youth—as scholars are giving back so others aren’t left behind. Other volunteers, like retired teachers, have also answered the call.

Lisbeth has been an insightful, compassionate advocate—meeting individual academic and psychological needs of those who need it most. A consummate educator, she’s passionate about education and empowerment. Tapping into her creativity and significant experiences as an educational director in her native Peru and the United States, Lisbeth continues to create opportunities for Latino children and their families.

UnidosNow Executive Director Luz Corcuera says, “Lisbeth is an educator who understands that every student is unique and needs a guiding hand.”

Luz highlights Lisbeth’s role: “Helping to implement tutoring to support our young students as they transitioned to online instruction was critical.  She effectively paired younger classmen with senior students—a successful way to benefit both.”

Read about Lisbeth’s story here and the following interview, and you’ll understand why the UnidosNow tutoring program is making a difference as scholars are giving back so no one is left behind.

Who originated the program? 

After spring break, the school lockdown forced students to have full-time online classes. Many children couldn’t adapt quickly, and their parents couldn’t help because they lack or have limited technology literacy. Others didn’t have time because of their jobs and other commitments.

After the first week of online classes, our parents of elementary and middle school children contacted us for academic support for their children. Our Future Leaders Academy of Girls (FLAG) and Future Leaders Academy for Middle Schoolers (FLAM) needed our assistance immediately—prompting us to implement a tutoring program to support our families.

What are the program goals?

We want to make sure that our students continue to develop critical skills during this time of uncertainly—and after.

It’s most important to provide support in the areas where students need to overcome challenges like demotivation, lack of understanding of online assignments, and completing and submitting homework. We don’t want our students to fall behind academically or be affected emotionally.

Will you be continuing the program once school begins?

Yes, we’ll start at the beginning of the school year. Our current FLA Barancik Scholars are getting ready to tutor our young students for the upcoming school year.

What challenges have you faced? Students? Tutors?

Working with elementary-school students has been challenging for two reasons:

  • They weren’t used to studying or working on their own. They quickly fell behind, and some of them needed more than one or two sessions per week.
  • Because parents aren’t technology savvy, we first needed to teach them how to use Zoom, for instance, before tutoring our students.

Tutors found it challenging:

  • To make sure that students were on time for their online sessions because there was no bell or teacher to remind them “to get” to their classes.
  • To teach some subjects like math or writing because tutors aren’t able to see student progress so easily.

The following quotes highlight successful experiences for volunteers and young students:

Tutor Daisy Mendoza, a FLA alum and psychology major at Florida Gulf Coast University, says, “The experience was pretty good! I was able to connect with Jennifer, and we got along really well.

Daisy wasn’t sure what to expect when she first signed up, but she’s happy to have been able to get the experience. “I would be willing to do this again!”

Xena Meneses was recruited by FLA alumni Liam Ordonez (Cornell Class of 2023), another summer tutor.
“I enjoyed tutoring students online,” says Xena, a biology attending Florida State University, “because they were always enthusiastic about attending my sessions. I got to learn a lot more about individual students and was able to help them with homework or just listen to something new they were trying out.”

According to FLAG student, Melany Rodriguez: “I don’t feel behind anymore. I am doing better at school.”

FLAM student, Keira Monter says, “I’m doing well. I needed help and had someone to talk to.”

Parents are also very appreciative. Claudia Ortiz is indebted to the program:

“Definitivamente excelente ayuda y apoyo para los chicos, en lo personal mi hija Kitzia está encantada con la tutoría que recibe de parte de Denny Lu y yo como mamá se lo agradezco de corazón. Gracias, UnidosNow and Denny Lu.”

“Definitely excellent help and support for the children. Personally, Kitzia is thrilled with the tutoring she receives from Denny Lu.  And as a mother, I’m really thankful from the bottom of my heart.  I thank you, UnidosNow, and Denny Lu.”

Look for upcoming interviews with FLA alumni Liam Ordonez and Denny Lu, founder of the nonprofit Your Advance, which partners with UnidosNow.

“Thank you to everyone in UnidosNow for the experience of a lifetime.”

August, 6, 2020

By Juan Arcila

UnidosNow’s Future Leaders Academy college tour at the University of Central Florida in 2018.

I can remember the first time I was introduced to UnidosNow as if it was just yesterday. It was one of those rare and special moments in life where you feel you are at the right place at the right time. It was my first week on the job as a bilingual admissions counselor for the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus. My supervisor suggested I attend a closing ceremony for their Future Leaders Academy graduation they were having on campus. I’ve never heard about UnidosNow before and decided to do some research on the web prior to attending the ceremony. However, I could not find anything about the nonprofit. I went back to my supervisor confused and told him I was unable to find anything about the organization. He asked me how I was spelling it and laughed when I told him I mistakenly interpreted the name of the nonprofit as “YOU-NEED-US-NOW.” 

He corrected me in his endearing American accent:


UnidosNow. It’s a name I will never forget.

When I attended the closing ceremony, I remember getting goosebumps the entire time. I was completely mesmerized by the speeches of the graduating “FLA Scholars.” Even though I’ve been in the organization for four years, it’s still one of my most vivid memories. Sitting in the audience for the first time and hearing the incredibly powerful stories of each of the scholars was moving beyond what words can describe. 

2017 UnidosNow’s Board at our Future Leaders Academy’s Decision Day.

Since that moment, I knew I wanted to get involved with the organization in some way.

My relationship with UnidosNow started as a volunteer in the Millennial Challenge initiative for the Giving Challenge that year. As a recent college graduate, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but with the support of our incredible UnidosNow staff, volunteers, and Board of Directors, we managed to win first place in the challenge.

I was then invited to serve in the Board of Directors, before finally transitioning to a full-time role in the proverbial UnidosNow “Dream Team.”

The rest is history as they say. 

Every single day has been a privilege and an honor to serve in such a unique and special organization.

Even though there were challenges and frustrations along the way, I would not trade a single moment spent with Luz, Hector, Wendy, Lisbeth, Beatriz, Robin, Wil Colón, Cintia, Esther, and all of our incredible Board members, donors, mentors, volunteers, and all the partners and extended community that makes up the UnidosNow family.

Luz Corcuera, Wendy Barroso, Lisa Ramirez and Juan Arcila at a The Patterson Foundation’s No Margin. No Mission session in 2018.

Now it’s time for me to spread my wings and continue on to the next chapter of my life. It is with an aching heart that I say farewell to UnidosNow and the families we serve. However, this is not goodbye. Even though I will not be a full-time staff member, I will continue to work with our students and support our programs from afar as needed. 

Thank you to everyone in UnidosNow for the experience of a lifetime. 

I’m proud to say that UnidosNow is my family and will always be. It’s an understatement to say that I fell in love with the organization from day one. 

That love for our students, families, and mission still burns as strong 1,459 days later, and will continue for many years to come.

As our beloved executive director likes to say “UnidosNow is like Hotel California. Once you check-in, you never check-out.”


Juan Arcila

It’s Time to Register!

By Leilani Monterde, Student Ambassador, Mi Voto, Mi Futuro Campaign 

Incoming voters! It’s time to registe: the deadline to register to vote is October 5th! Luckily, there are two ways you can register to vote. One is through an online form and another is through a hard copy form. Both are easy and quick to fill out. All the information you need is your Florida Identification Card (Florida ID Card)/Florida Driver’s License and the last four digits of your social security number.

First Things First

Before we get into how to register to vote, we must first establish the eligibility requirements. In order to vote in Florida, you must be a:

  • U.S. citizen
  • Florida Resident
  • 18 years old or older. (However, if you are over the age of 16, you can still pre-register to vote.)

You will not be eligible to vote if you do not meet any one of the above requirements, and/or if you have been:

  • Convicted of a felony and do not have your voting rights restored
  • or have been found to be mentally incapacitated by a court and do not have your voting rights restored

What’s Next

Okay! So now that we know you are eligible, it is time to register! The first way to register is through an online application. Here are the steps to register in Florida through this method:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on “Register or update”. It is a blue button that should be in the center of your screen under “Welcome!”.
  3. Here, you will find the Eligibility portion of the application. This part double checks to make sure you are eligible to register to vote. Then press “Continue” when finished.
  4. Under the “This Is” part, you will want to check off “New Registration”.
  5. Follow the instructions given and fill out the “Personal Identification Information” part.
  6. When you are finished, press “Continue”. Fill out the following sections and press “Continue” when finished.
  7. Review to make sure all of your information is correct. Read over and check off the “Oath” to submit. If you want to edit anything before submitting, do so by clicking the “Edit” button.

If you do not have a Florida Identification Card/Florida Driver’s License you can still use this application, the submission process will just be different. The first 6 steps are the same as before, but the highlighted portion is different:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on “Register or update”. It is a blue button that should be in the center of your screen under “Welcome!”.
  3. Here you will find the Eligibility portion of the application. This part double checks to make sure you are eligible to register to vote. Then press “Continue” when finished.
  4. Under the “This Is” part, you will want to check off “New Registration”.
  5. Follow the instructions given and fill out the “Personal Identification Information” part.
  6. When you are finished press “Continue”. Fill out the following sections and press “Continue” when finished.
  7. Next, review the information, and press “ Print Paper Application” when finished. 
  8. Print out the form and make sure you sign it in the “SIGN/MARK HERE” box.
  9. Lastly, you will need to either mail or hand deliver your application to your county’s Supervisor of Elections office. 

Here are the addresses and contact information for the Supervisor of Elections offices in Manatee and Sarasota counties:

Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office

600 301 Blvd. W., Suite 108, Bradenton FL 34205

Mailing: PO Box 1000, Bradenton FL 34206-1000

Tel: 941-741-3823.

Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office

Terrace Building 101 South Washington Blvd, Sarasota, FL, 34236

Tel: 941.861.8600

One More Very Important Thing

If you are a first-time voter in Florida, and have not been issued a Florida Identification Card/Driver’s License, then you need to add one of the following to your application:

  • A COPY of an identification card you own that has your name and a picture of you (Ex: Student ID, passport, credit or debit card, etc.).
  • Or a COPY of an identification that includes your home address and name (Ex. Bills, checks, government document)

You need to send one COPY that proves your identification to your county’s Supervisor of Elections office (above).

The second way to register is through a hard copy form. If you live in Manatee County, the Mi Voto, Mi Futuro campaign can send you a form, directly, in the mail. The form will come with a stamped and addressed envelope to Manatee County’s Supervisor of Elections Office, so you can mail in your registration. If you would like us to send you a hard copy application, email us at requesting this. If you live in Sarasota County, you will need to pick up a hard copy at the Supervisor of Elections office.

That’s all there is to it! You should receive your Voter Information Card in the mail soon after registering. To find more information about registering, voting by mail, and election day click here: 


UnidosNow Fights Back

by Sandy Chase 7/25/2020

Scholars and alumni have answered the UnidosNow call for help during COVID-19 because they understand the difficulties Latino youngsters and their parents face.

Almost immediately, scholars and guest college students registered to tutor one or two younger Latinos. Tutors are meeting once or twice weekly, helping students with homework and online learning.

Look for interviews from Future Leaders Academy (FLA) scholars and alumni who selflessly donate their time to “educate” students and their families.

Also, look for upcoming interviews from young students (tutees) continuing their education, even though schools are closed. Because these youngsters have been receiving academic assistance, they too can become the next generation of leaders.

Together, UnidosNow will win the fight.


Covid -19 continues to wreak havoc on this country—infecting us, killing people, and closing schools, businesses, and our favorite places to eat and play. But UnidosNow will not surrender to this virus, especially when it comes to our community.

UnidosNow is fortunate that its tutors are dedicated to strengthening educational opportunities—a cornerstone of its mission.

To quote Executive Director Luz Corcuera, “We are grateful to our scholars who have added their talent, energy, creativity, and tech skills to support our younger students and parents as they adjust to online instruction.”

For almost 10 years since UnidosNow began, this organizations has been empowering Latinos to achieve their American Dream—through education, integration, and civic engagement.

COVID challenges UnidosNow. But because of staunch supporters, the organization won’t give the virus a chance.

On Both Ends: Our FLA Scholar is Now a Mentor

By Reynaldo Claro, Future Leaders Academy Scholar

As you may be aware, UnidosNow mentors students of all ages from graduating seniors all the way down to elementary schoolers. I have happily been on both the receiving and giving end. This past year, UnidosNow helped me pass my own feat, college. With their expertise, I gathered endless knowledge on every small detail that goes into a college application and can with pleasure say that I will be attending Vassar College for the next 4 years.

I am solely an end result. A proud product of all the hard work I put in and all the help I received along the way. I was a mentee, and that is why now, I am a mentor. I recently have been mentoring middle schoolers and future high schoolers on my experience including the ins and outs to college. It’s great to see the small smiling faces listening contently to what you have to say about the stages that lead up to college and college itself.

Above all, I have taken as much from the interactions as they have because, as a prospective college student, I as well noticed I should follow my own advice. Among my advice comes simple things such as sleep early, learn to manage your time, make study habits, and primarily don’t procrastinate. These are only some of the things we talk about, but they all reach the same place. The overarching theme arrived at every time is each and every one of them ARE leaders and all in all, if you wish it and work towards it, you’ll accomplish it.

We each have passed this moment in our lives; the moment where we believe anything is possible. That is why the work UnidosNow is doing is amazing. They reinforce this thought through education, boost it through the countless support, and ultimately inspire the students to not only DREAM BIG, but most importantly DO BIG.

Thank you UnidosNow for the opportunity you provided me and the opportunities you continue to give. This wonderful group is truly dedicated as they say to EMPOWER!

A 4th of July Message

By Kelly Kirschner, UnidosNow Board Chair

On behalf of the UnidosNow Board, our staff, dedicated volunteers, students, and families, I want to wish you a happy and safe 4th of July holiday. Never in my lifetime has there been a more sober period in our national experience to honor and celebrate Independence Day. 

The celebrations in 2020 will be muted as public fireworks performances, festivals, and parades are cancelled, and we all wrestle with the pain of the ongoing pandemic; the global financial and unemployment crisis; and a reckoning with our long-held myth of American exceptionalism, in particular as it relates to our neighbors of color being able to equally participate in such an exceptional land.

With the backdrop of the current Black Lives Matter protests and the tumbling of statues around the country, it is a good moment to reflect on the history of the Statue of Liberty–our nation’s most iconic and recognized statue and its intersections with our current national challenges and the work of UnidosNow. As documented in this 2019 Washington Post article, the Statue of Liberty was originally conceived in 1865 to celebrate freed slaves, not immigrants. 

The plaque with Emma Lazarus’ poem—“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” was not added to the base until 1903, not too far from the broken shackles of slavery that lie at Lady Liberty’s feet, but rarely do we see included in images of her. The same French benefactors who beat the bushes to raise money to make the statue were also eagerly raising money to support recently freed slaves, who had been set forth into a land without a penny in their pocket, much less any benevolent-aid organizations to help them adjust to such a radically different life. 

African slaves were immigrants—not of choice but by brutal force. Yet in many ways, the Lazarus’ poem does apply as much to the descendants of slaves as it does to today’s immigrant community: this nation, founded on the premise of Liberty, stands out amongst all others in the world, as you will breathe free here and share in the equal opportunity to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. 

Amidst these uncertain and tumultuous times, there is a latent sadness many of us share with how our nation’s ideals continue to be elusive, if not an outright scam for so many of our fellow citizens of color. Maybe this was best encapsulated on July 4, 1936, when President Franklin Roosevelt honestly reflected on our nation’s Founding Fathers during an Independence Day celebration at Monticello, the former slave plantation of Declaration of Independence author and President Thomas Jefferson: “Theirs were not the gods of things as they were, but the gods of things as they ought to be.” 

As a supporter of UnidosNow, helping us raise an astounding $282,000 during the recent 2020 Giving Challenge that now supports over 400 of the region’s most vulnerable families bridge our current crisis, it is with utmost gratitude and appreciation that you are here with us and support us in this effort to build and make things as they ought to be in our community today – continuing to call into being the promise of our nation that was laid out on July 4, 1776. 

Please enjoy your holiday, be safe and thank you for your continuing support.