by Sandy Chase
Altruism is win-win for everyone—for those who receive a gift (beneficiary) and those who give of themselves (benefactor). It’s like a circle that can’t be broken—each group evolving into the other.
For example, benefactors (donors, volunteers, and sponsors) are rewarded—deriving satisfaction from knowing they have made a difference in others’ lives. And beneficiaries (receiving money and other contributions) give back—especially to the community—when they use their newly found gifts for improvement.
The 2018 Giving Challenge, sponsored by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and supported by The Patterson Foundation, the Manatee Community Foundation, the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, and the Herald-Tribune, exemplified that synergistic relationship for UnidosNow and Florida Studio Theatre (FST), two nonprofits that partnered to write, produce, and perform El Camino—a heart-wrenching play depicting the challenges, resilience, and dreams of Latino teens trying to live in two cultures.
As beneficiary, UnidosNow was most fortunate to work with Florida Studio Theatre (FST), under the supervision of Associate Artist Catherine Randazzo, who praises the Future Leaders Academy (FLA) for sharing personal stories.
Fifteen scholars were all-time beneficiaries because they learned so much more than playwriting, acting, and theatre. In this safe environment, many first-generation Latino students became role models for one another, learning about common challenges and ways to overcome them—striving to turn them into dreams.
Catherine was the ideal mentor, given her expertise and experience as a theatre educator in Manatee and Sarasota counties. “A large number of my students were Latino, drawn to the world of theatre—a discipline they didn’t have much exposure to—so it became my mission to introduce them to its importance. For some, it was life changing.”
Highlighting FST’s role as beneficiary, Catherine says, “I’m grateful that I could once again mentor a group of gifted Latino students. My gratitude goes to Executive Director Luz Corcuera, the UnidosNow team, and the students who made me realize how much I don’t know about their world. Their community-service project has changed me—for the better. That’s the POWER of theatre.”
And that power was evident when FST offered this poignant theatrical piece as a play reading to the public in May 2018. This performance helped “enlighten the audience,” to use Catherine’s words. Attendees learned about the unique experiences of Latino students and common issues faced as teens.
UnidosNow also helped FST promote its mission to create a public forum for the issues of our day that will foster positive change in our community and beyond—while FST helped to support UnidosNow in its efforts to empower Latinos—making a difference in this region.
Warmly, Luz remembers how an individual in the audience approached her after the show. “He said, ‘Keep doing this amazing work,’ folding a check in my hand—a significant donation to add to the Giving Challenge goal. He left as quickly as he came.”
UnidosNow received other donations. FST donated the proceeds of the evening to UnidosNow, and together they received Best Community Event Award during the Giving Challenge. The Latino organization reaped tremendous benefits from this experience.
The gifts UnidosNow gives to the community know no bounds. Dedicated to empowering low-income, first generation Latino students and their families, it also helps fortify the community—and beyond:
- 100% of its scholars entered college—40% to selective institutions—culminating in earning over 2.5 million dollars in scholarships and grants.
- Many high-school and college students volunteer at UnidosNow and elsewhere. Recently, a Princeton student interned at an Ohio nonprofit media thinkhub, and a high-schooler was chosen to spend a week at the Florida Capitol in the House Page & Messenger Program.
- Future Leaders Academy for Girls prepares younger students to explore different and careers, notably related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
Luz proudly says, “We are building the next generation of leaders through education, leadership, and community service.”
As exemplified by the 2018 Giving Challenge, benefactors and beneficiaries will evolve—for the better. Most important, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and The Giving Challenge partners, continue to be the catalyst.
Cultivating talent, intelligence, and hard work for the benefit of our community and beyond, UnidosNow looks ahead to the April 2020 Giving Challenge.