future leaders academy Archives | UnidosNow

“Greetings from Ohio”

College Tour at the University of Florida in 2017. Jonathan Bruzon is on the second row, second from the right.

Jonathan Bruzon was accepted into the Future Leaders Academy in 2017. In these two years, we’ve had the honor of seeing him grow into the determined and talented young man he’s become, and he’s now emailing us from Oberlin College sharing how things are going now in his new chapter:

“Hello! I am currently speaking to you from Oberlin College and Conservatory; I wanted to first start off by saying I miss you all! I want to thank you all, once again, for always being there for me, because without you all I would have never even dreamed about attending such an amazing school as this, so thank you all so much for everything that you do! I wanted to take this opportunity to update you all on how my college experience is thus far, considering that I have almost spent a full month here (which is crazy to think about!)

“Now, where to start? After arriving on the 24th (after a two day drive in a pickup truck), my family and I immediately started to unload and move all my stuff into my dorm. Here’s a before and after picture of the place:

“The weekend involved participating in the Brenda Grier-Miller (BGM) Scholars program specifically targeted towards first generation students like us. We did multiple activities like workshops on what to focus on in college, how to manage time wisely, and much more useful skills, as well as family dinners, a scavenger hunt to get to know the campus better, bowling night, and much more. Oh, did I mention that this takes place in a building that resembles Hogwarts in a way? Peters Hall is absolutely beautiful:

“Then orientation week, which is where I got my first taste as to how busy college was going to be (and it gets BUSY). There were multiple activities and events throughout the week: some of my favorites involved the faculty panel where we got to meet some of the school’s amazing professors, The OC which was a play about serious college issues with an interesting yet fun spin on how to properly deal with them, the orientation recital, and especially Connect Cleveland. On Wednesday of that week we got to visit Cleveland and see its amazing sites like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Botanical Gardens, and Wade Oval, a large field where there were popsicle stands and live jazz from Oberlin alumni!

“I also learned many new things about myself during orientation. For one, I’m actually pretty good at ultimate frisbee! I’m now on the Flying Horsecows, Oberlin’s open ultimate frisbee team (I absolutely love the name). I also learned to reconnect with nature; I visited the conservatory’s koi pond and the arboretum which were both peaceful and beautiful ( I took a nap next to the koi pond once) as well as the observatory on top of Peters Hall where you can see the night sky and stars in all their glory. I also managed to take a look at the art museum located within the college (a mini Ringling Museum!) I also participated in the Social Justice Institute for two days in which we discussed how to properly engage with social justice and activism, and I gained a lot of passion throughout the entire event. It was a very discussion-heavy program, and we discussed immigration polices, Black Lives Matter, gender binaries, inter sectionalism, the meaning of diversity, and other very pressing topics which I truly want to learn more about during my time here at Oberlin. 

“Once classes started, everything took off from there. I’m in the Double Degree Program which involves receiving degrees from both the College and the Conservatory, so I am double degreeing in Horn Performance and Latin American Studies. Needless to say it is a MASSIVE amount of time to dedicate yourself to, but I really don’t mind for the most part considering how much I love my classes! For the conservatory I am taking Music History, Aural Skills, Large Ensemble (Oberlin Orchestra), Brass Ensemble, Private Lessons and Studio Class. For the college, I am taking a course called LEAD which involves continuing to help first generation students with their college experience, as well as a Seminar on American Theater (we did a poetry slam in class today which was truly amazing and powerful and I garnered a new love for writing poetry) and a Latin American Studies Intro class. These classes are all so much fun to attend and I find myself true invested and interested in the coursework we are assigned. 

“Hope everyone is doing well down there in Florida! I’ll leave you all with one more photo of me pictured with our school mascot, the Albino Squirrel (currently unnamed, but fingers crossed for Alfonso the Albino Squirrel); until next time, I hope you are all doing well and I wish you and the FLA class of 2019-2020 all the best!”

All the best,

Jonathan Bruzon

Mina Quesen, First 30 at Princeton, Gets Ready for Her Next Chapter

by Mina Quesen, Class of 2023

Three weeks ago, I was packing my things and getting ready to leave sunny Florida for Princeton University. Although I can’t seem to escape the Florida heat—even in New Jersey—I’ve found myself in a whole new world ready for discovery. I’ve met people from across the globe, found new challenges in classes, and even gotten rubber chickens stuck on the ceiling. My experience with Princeton’s Freshman Scholar Institute—a summer program for incoming freshmen who are connected as first-generation, low-income students—has been irreplaceable. 

The interim between high school and the start of fall term allows me to ease into college life and to learn about the campus before the rest of the students arrive. I’ve already learned the importance of using a planner and keeping a budget since events—and expenses—quickly add up. 

I’m learning to take things in stride and push forward when faced with challenges, especially when it comes to classes. My greatest challenge, thus far, is learning that it’s okay when I don’t understand something on the first try. My coding class taught me very quickly that there will be times when I’ll be totally lost, but there are always resources waiting to guide me out of the dark. I must seek them out.

Even after these last few weeks, I’m still excited. I’m excited about new ideas and memories I’ve yet to make. I don’t know if the allure of Princeton will ever wear off for me, especially when I hope to continue to be excited by endless possibilities.

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.

This Campaign has ended. No more pledges can be made.