About UnidosNow

Volunteer of the Year

This year the unanimous decision was to nominate Kathy Schersten as our Volunteer of the Year.

Kathy is one of our board members, a woman known for her exemplary leadership and support of education, arts, and civic programs in the community. Kathy was the co-founder of the Women’s Resource Center, and her leadership was instrumental in the planning and implementation of the St. Jude Hispanic-American Center.

As an educator, Kathy values the importance of empowering our youth to succeed through education. She has served on several boards including the American Association of University Women, the Senior Friendship Center, the Sarasota Education Foundation, and the Van Wezel Arts Hall Advisory Board.

During these years, she has received many awards and recognitions. Kathy is highly regarded for her visionary and philanthropic spirit. She is a role model for many of us as she brings her innate talents, wisdom, hard work, love, and passion to every task she takes on.

Just recently Kathy led a committee to work with her to successfully organize the Hispanic Heritage Celebration month for UnidosNow. The event raised over $50,000 thanks to Kathy’s leadership. We are so grateful to have Kathy in the UnidosNow family.

She is One, a True Passionarie

Empower women and the world will be a better place.

That is not a new idea, but it unmistakably is an action we still need to work on, in every corner of the world, and Sarasota and Manatee counties are not an exception, especially not within the growing Hispanic/Latino community. But every change needs to start on the inside.

UnidosNow is now lucky to have in their team incredibly accomplished women (read about the Dream Team here), and it all began thanks to the leadership of Board Member Kathy Schersten. Mrs. Schersten has a strong background in women’s issues, being part of the movement to secure passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in Florida, co-founding the Women’s Resource Center, as Campaign Manager of women running for office, and more (you can read Kathy Schersten’s complete biography here). It was Mrs. Schersten who encouraged the UnidosNow Board to increase the female representation on the Board and to hire its first female Executive Director.

These changes on the inside made it easier to practice what she preached, and now it was time to empower the students UnidosNow serve, and their families.

It is a trend often seen in universities around the country, where the number of female students is higher than the male students: it is not different in our Future Leaders Academy, and Kathy Schersten has been instrumental in mentoring many of these young women to reach their dreams of higher education, and enabling them to not settle for “what has always been”. This has opened a whole new world for them and their struggling families.

However, if UnidosNow was truly looking for a greater impact, the work needed to start much sooner and expand its range, and thanks to the willingness and leadership of our committed Board, and a variety of grants from local foundations, UnidosNow launched two programs that could define the future of our community: the Families Together program, which 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; and the Future Leaders Academy for Girls, which enables low-income elementary students and their families learn about the path to higher education and develop critical skills. The confidence, empowerment, and knowledge built in these parents to instill in their children, and in the children themselves to believe in a future of possibilities, has already shown its influence. Don’t miss some of those stories here.

And none of it would have been possible without the focused leadership of a woman who has always had women and the Hispanic community in her forefront.

Yes, we live in a community full of passionaries, term coined by Barbara Metzler describing people who are impacting the lives of people through their philanthropic actions. Yes, Sarasota and Manatee counties are full of passionate people caring for the causes they sincerely believe in. Yes, it is true. Passionaries is a word we use often in this community to describe one of a kind individuals working to create change in our community. And, yes, without a shred of doubt, Kathy Schersten is a true passionarie.

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.

Neil Comber shares his reflection on why he became a mentor

“As the first person in my family to graduate from college, I have long appreciated the value of a college degree. Coming from Mexico, it served me well to open doors to a successful global business career.

What is different today for students is that the application process is much more complex and competitive. When I met with Luz, I quickly signed up to be a mentor. Part of the reason was I was so impressed with the comprehensive process at UnidosNow.

In my experience, it as unmatched in its ability to help Latino students understand that college is necessary, and help them take the steps to make it a reality for them.

Once I started, I found my students to be eager and open to receiving help. For me, it was a wonderful opportunity to give advice, motivate and encourage. All of them are from immigrant families with all the attendant difficulties of living in a foreign land and having to assimilate. When I heard that each of them had been accepted to college, I felt a huge sense of pride and super excited for their futures.

I will definitely mentor again. The experience with UnidosNow has shown me that while my one-on-one coaching with my students may have only been a little ‘granito de arena’ (grain of sand) in the process, it is so important to help these young people take a very big step in their journey of success in life. Anything I can do to help in their journey is worth the time and commitment. Enhorabuena to all the students and their families who embrace this journey.”

We are grateful to Neil Comber for mentoring three students that have been successful in their college attainment. We are still in the process of recruiting new mentors. We hope you will consider mentoring a student this year. Please do contact Luz Corcuera if you feel inclined to help: luz@unidosnow.org or call (941) 840-0266.

Gabrielle Barroso, Volunteer of the Month

Our volunteer of the month is our scholar Gabrielle Barroso. She is a senior at Sarasota Military Academy and, in addition to her high school diploma, will be receiving her AA degree.

Gabrielle is an exceptional young woman and, as one of our ambassadors, has accompanied our Executive Director Luz Corcuera to community meetings and schools providing inspirational presentations to peers and community partners. She has assisted students in Sarasota and Manatee with FAFSA applications and helps the UnidosNow team with community fairs at schools and in the community.

Gabrielle is the President of the UnidosNow High School Club at Sarasota Military Academy. In addition to her academic load, she holds leadership positions with the JROTC.  She has been accepted into several universities and has decided to join the University of Florida with the goal of becoming a pediatric surgeon one day.  She is also the recipient of the Comcast Scholarship and just finished serving as a juror for the first time.

We are proud of Gabrielle’s accomplishments and grateful for her volunteer work.

Leadership in Practice

We are extremely proud of the scholars that have taken the lead as officers of the UnidosNow High School Clubs. They have been offering workshops, assisting their peers with FAFSA applications and, in some of schools, working on fundraising events for a college tour. The Palmetto High club is planning a trip to visit Florida State University in Tallahassee.

New Addition to the Board

UnidosNow is delighted to announce that a new member is joining our Board of Directors: Amy K. Kenyon has accepted to serve on the board and we welcome her willingness to contribute to the improvement of opportunities for the Latino community in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

As a consumer attorney, her career has been spent educating the public on a broad range of financial matters and empowering people to pursue a more stable financial future.

Her knowledge and experience will prepare students for reaching long-term educational goals that result in pride and prosperity, in the individual leader, and in the Latino community.

Juan Arcila Joins UnidosNow Board

Since July 2016, Juan Arcila, Admissions Counselor at USF Sarasota-Manatee, has been involved with UnidosNow and the Future Leaders Academy. He is helping us with this year’s Future Leaders Summer Academy, and he was also instrumental during last year’s Giving Challenge and engaging the millennials involvement in our fundraising efforts.

Juan holds a BA in Public Health and is now pursuing his Master’s Degree in Education. He is the perfect example of UnidosNow core mission: a first-generation Latino in the United States who comes from a low-income family and is the first one in his family to go to college.

His passion and dedication to our organization and scholars is palpable in everything he has done with and for UnidosNow, and it hasn’t been unnoticed by our leadership. Kelly Kirschner, Board Chair of UnidosNow, invited Juan Arcila to join our Board of Directors last February. We now have  the benefit of his knowledge, enthusiasm, and commitment. Welcome to the team, Juan!