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.