future leaders academy Archives | UnidosNow

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.

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.”

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!

Celebrating our Students on their Signing Day

May 25th was a very special date for our Future Leaders Academy Scholars. Families, friends, community partners, UnidosNow mentors, Board and staff gathered at Manatee Technical College to celebrate their graduation from high school and their acceptance into college. We are very proud of them and wish them success in their next adventure. It’s been a pleasure working with all, and we cannot wait to hear about all their future accomplishments.

College Tour Spring 2017

Our Future Leaders scholars and parents spent two days traveling around Florida, from college to college. On the first day, they visited Rollins College and the University of Central Florida; on the second day, they visited Eckerd College and Saint Leo University. This tour gave our students and their parents a better idea of where they would want to spend their college years.

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.

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