Our Scholars and The Giving Challenge

Another silver lining of this pandemic has been the support we’ve received from our Future Leaders Academy Scholars and alumni during the 2020 Giving Challenge. We asked a few of our scholars why they wanted to get involved and what they got out of the experience. Here are two answers:

Leonela Tasé Sueiro, Future Leaders Academy Alumnus and student at George Washington University.

The Giving Challenge is a unique opportunity for community members to show how much they care for and appreciate local organizations, which do so much to empower, inspire, and encourage the next generation of movers and shakers

UnidosNow—being at the forefront of this unceasing, rewarding task—can and will always count on my support and participation. I especially enjoyed getting to be a panelist this year because I got to showcase just a sliver of what I have learned as a Future Leaders Academy scholar and UnidosNow alumna. 

I hope that through this experience and future ones, I can become a role model for younger teens. I want to show them the importance of giving back to the people and organizations that shape you and help you achieve your goals. In that way, The Giving Challenge is as much of a gift to me as it is to our wonderful Dream Team and UnidosNow programs. – Leonela Tasé Sueiro

Liam Ordonez, Future Leader Academy Alumnus, studying at Cornell University.

Because of COVID-19, I have had the privilege to come back home and connect with local nonprofits and other organizations that once served me. While I have been home, I have specifically extended a hand to UnidosNow. Their mission highlights my aspirations and passions; “to elevate the quality of life of the growing Hispanic/Latino community through education, integration, and civic engagement.” 

My passion for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and their promotion of higher education within minority communities has given me the motivation to support organizations such as UnidosNow. When helping during The Giving Challenge, I felt empowered as a past Future Leaders Academy student who was now supporting other promising Latinx students. Through this experience, I got to stand on the other end of the program as I promised to support this organization in any way possible. – Liam Ordonez

Our FLA Students Present at PINC

The PINC Conference, which stands for People, Ideas, Nature, and Creativity, hosted by Dream Large in Sarasota. Thanks to the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, two of our Future Leaders Academy Scholars were invited to attend along with their favorite teachers: Nicholas Coehlo, a junior at Riverview High, chose Ms. Es Swihart, and Nahyara Piedrahita, a junior at Sarasota High, chose Ms. Casey Garrett.

During a showcase at Dream Large, the participants shared their experience at PINC where they presented their work in front of their teachers, community, and sponsors. Nicholas created a song that he composed to illustrate the impact of PINC, and Nahyara, a drawing about her experience. They both were exceptional.

Below you can to read about the experience directly from our students. We thank the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, DreamLarge (organizer of PINC), the School District of Sarasota County, and, last but not least, our students for being amazing ambassadors of UnidosNow.

Nicholas Coehlo

“How do I present something completely original? There are no guidelines, or examples to follow, there’s no one to copy, the pressure is on. So, I made my own path, unique to me and my PINC experience.

On presentation day, I was ready to show PINC what they taught me. I walked into the Dream Large studio feeling confident and prepared. Then I saw the stage, so small and close to the audience, I imagined cameras pointed in my direction and 40 pairs of eyes looking back at me. I wasn’t feeling so good anymore.

Feelings of intimidation and worry flooded my mind, if I didn’t get a grip on my emotions, my presentation would be a train wreck. As the event began, the audience and presenters took a seat. I closed my eyes and prayed, I breathed deep, then I drank some water and breathed deeper.

Slowly, my confidence returned. In good timing too, because now it was my turn to present. I smiled at Mrs. Luz as she introduced me, making my way to the stage with a gulp of courage in chest. 

I started to speak:

‘Hi everyone! PINC was great! I learned so much from people I never thought I would meet. But my main take-away is the process of creativity. Creativity is a process that takes failure and perseverance until you reach the goal.

When I chose to write a PINC inspired song, I learned that failure was a great teacher. I also learned that inspiration was everywhere, in my everyday experiences. I was inspired to write about something we all have, problems. I could list so many and so could you. With that said, its normal to not be normal, which makes it normal.

When I feel the pressure of problems surrounding me, I pray and think of every good thing I’ve been given, then I feel peace unlike anything else. That’s what the song is about. Problems and how I handle them.’

The song played as I flipped through the projected lyrics. The presentation ended, and the audience applauded, I smiled. All I had to do was be was me and that was enough.”

Nahyara Piedrahita

“I am beyond grateful to be able to be part of the PINC Experience 2019, It motivated me in many different ways and there are no words to explain how great this conference is. 

They asked me if I could in some way or form describe my experience with PINC so I combined it with what I love most, art. I made an acronym of my own depicting what I obtained from this conference.

PINC originally stands for People, Ideas, Nature, and Creativity but as  I sat in the audience from my perspective I viewed the definition of PINC differently, the talented people brought on stage their Passion, the love for what they do or the talent they carry. 

Imagination, the way they created new concepts or ideas and made it their unique way.

Nurture, the speakers expressed a caring heart for the individual uniqueness and as an audience, you could observe the way they took care of it.

And finally, they brought Culture into their ideas whether it was their own culture or the culture we live in today but all in one they brought the audience in awe, and that’s what made 2019 PINC and unforgettable experience for me.”

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune wrote this article about the event.

Mock Admissions and Visit to New College

To be fully ready for what’s ahead, New College has helped the Future Leaders Academy to work on case studies and have a mock college interview. They also toured the campus, and met with students who shared what campus life is like and tips to succeed in college. All of them truly enjoyed the visit and shared this with us:

“I would consider attending New College because the campus made me feel secure and comfortable and it’s not a big as other colleges, so classes won’t be hard to understand.”

“I thought it was a fun and productive day. It gave me a feel of what being on a college campus is like.”

“It was pleasant. I learned a lot about college applications as well as colleges themselves. I also learned how dorms worked, as I previously had no idea about.”

“Great, I was able to get the feel of what I should do for the next two years to improve my transcript to show that I desire to go to this college from all the others.”

“My overall experience today very helpful in learning the important parts of the college admissions process.”



ACT Mock Test

A key component of the Future Leaders Academy is to provide our students with the tools to prepare them to succeed, reason why we mocked an ACT test.

The ACT mock test was proctored and the kids took their ACT with real example tests, and they were timed. It took place at New College and the purpose was to have a baseline, so that they could improve their scores with the ACT classes offered during the Rising Seniors program.

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Our Students Visit Sun Hydraulics & The Ritz-Carlton

On July 14th, the Future Leaders Summer Academy students had the opportunity of visiting both Sun Hydraulics and The Ritz-Carlton. These visits were very important to them, as they opened up their minds about new career paths, but also how careers that they may be thinking of can apply to different size corporations.

Sun Hydraulics

Thanks to Greg Glass from Sun Hydraulics, we coordinated this visit for our students. The group was divided in teams of 2 to 3 to visit the plant, which allowed them to learn and see more of their operation. These are some of the comments of our scholars after the tour:

  • Omar Urbina, Rising junior: “It was interesting observing how all of the machines worked to make a product.”
  • Osciel Urbina, Rising junior “If i didn’t do music, I would really consider working here because of the different opportunities this company has”.
  • Adrian Martinez, Rising junior: “Overall I was surprised and amazed by the tour today as I was able to be exposed more to the career of Engineering.”

The team of engineers were amazing with our students, so we couldn’t be more grateful for their time and insights.


The Ritz-Carlton

This visit was possible thanks to Haley Wulliman-Gomes from The Ritz-Carlton, and Lynn is a trainer from corporate office that was there to join Haley on the tour with our FLA Summer Academy students.

Lynn talked to the kids about the training The Ritz-Carlton gives to their employees and outside companies on how to stand out from the rest. She related to our scholars in explaining how this could be implemented in their daily lives, on how schools are looking for the students that stand out from the rest in a positive way.

Matt, the Human Resource Director, talked to the kids about his personal experience. He started school aiming for a music major and discover that he wanted music to be his hobby and not his career. He switched to Business and realized that Human Resources was his true passion.

Overall the kids had an amazing time discovering all the different opportunities they have, and that this is all about finding their passion.


The Future Leaders Academy at the Mote Marine and Science Labs

This year Future Leaders Summer Academy is filled with students interested in sciences, reason why we have been very lucky to count on Dr. Telang, Dr. Santa Maria and Dr. Penn, who inspired our students, both in and out of the classroom.

Dr. Santa Maria and Dr. Penn to provide these students with a unique experience and inspire them to pursue a career in the science field, helping our young people to find their passion and their interests hands on!

The passion for science and teaching of these doctors made our students more interested in the field, and they also shared with them their personal experiences and give them advice on the college admission process.

After the sessions at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium and the labs at University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, our the students share their thoughts:

“My overall experience was great, especially learning about the pH levels of acids and bases from real environment samples”

“Today was a really cool way to experiment and get a feel of what biology and chemistry are all about. My favorite moment was when we did an experiment about pH levels”

“I had a great day I was able to enjoying it I saw many different things that I never experienced before, and Dr. Santa Maria also helped with telling what classes I should take in high school and even later on in college”

“I had a lot of fun today and I learned about the fascinating sea life there is. My favorite moment was going out to the dock and catching plankton and other cool things”

“I have always wanted to go into science even before this experience, specifically in the medical field. This experience made me question if i want to minor in biology or some type of research”

Our Executive Director, Luz Corcuera, showed her gratitude saying: “We appreciate the unique opportunity for these young women and men to have hands on at such a special place”.

Here at UnidosNow we are so happy to see so many young people being inspired to go into sciences. Our future is in great hands!

IMAG0455Dr. Santamaria took students to a field trip to collect water sample to analyze it at the office labs.


Business Etiquette Class at the Future Leaders Summer Academy

At the Future Leaders Summer Academy we strive to provide all the tools available to make the best possible versions of our students.  Last week, Patty Persson, retired certified international etiquette consultant who believes in giving back to the community, accompanied us to teach our scholars about business etiquette.

Person conducted this segment to focus on interviewing skills and how to dress up for different occasions. The students came prepared for this class, and they all dressed professionally and practiced business etiquette during this session.

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Career Panel at the Future Leaders Academy

On Thursday, July 14th, the students and parents of the Future Leaders Academy enjoyed an exceptional career panel at the Selby Auditorium of the University of South Florida.

Inspiring professionals in Sarasota and Manatee counties shared their career journey and their passion: Kelly Rodenas, Attorney at Law; Mireya Eavey, President United Way of the Suncoast, Sarasota; Dr. Xavier Sevilla, Physician; Neil Comber, Corporate America Executive; and Martha Lopez, Musician.

The parents and scholars participation during the workshop was outstanding, and they came out of it with a new perspective on careers and how to follow your passion.