August, 6, 2020
By Juan Arcila
I can remember the first time I was introduced to UnidosNow as if it was just yesterday. It was one of those rare and special moments in life where you feel you are at the right place at the right time. It was my first week on the job as a bilingual admissions counselor for the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus. My supervisor suggested I attend a closing ceremony for their Future Leaders Academy graduation they were having on campus. I’ve never heard about UnidosNow before and decided to do some research on the web prior to attending the ceremony. However, I could not find anything about the nonprofit. I went back to my supervisor confused and told him I was unable to find anything about the organization. He asked me how I was spelling it and laughed when I told him I mistakenly interpreted the name of the nonprofit as “YOU-NEED-US-NOW.”
He corrected me in his endearing American accent:
UnidosNow. It’s a name I will never forget.
When I attended the closing ceremony, I remember getting goosebumps the entire time. I was completely mesmerized by the speeches of the graduating “FLA Scholars.” Even though I’ve been in the organization for four years, it’s still one of my most vivid memories. Sitting in the audience for the first time and hearing the incredibly powerful stories of each of the scholars was moving beyond what words can describe.
Since that moment, I knew I wanted to get involved with the organization in some way.
My relationship with UnidosNow started as a volunteer in the Millennial Challenge initiative for the Giving Challenge that year. As a recent college graduate, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but with the support of our incredible UnidosNow staff, volunteers, and Board of Directors, we managed to win first place in the challenge.
I was then invited to serve in the Board of Directors, before finally transitioning to a full-time role in the proverbial UnidosNow “Dream Team.”
The rest is history as they say.
Every single day has been a privilege and an honor to serve in such a unique and special organization.
Even though there were challenges and frustrations along the way, I would not trade a single moment spent with Luz, Hector, Wendy, Lisbeth, Beatriz, Robin, Wil Colón, Cintia, Esther, and all of our incredible Board members, donors, mentors, volunteers, and all the partners and extended community that makes up the UnidosNow family.
Now it’s time for me to spread my wings and continue on to the next chapter of my life. It is with an aching heart that I say farewell to UnidosNow and the families we serve. However, this is not goodbye. Even though I will not be a full-time staff member, I will continue to work with our students and support our programs from afar as needed.
Thank you to everyone in UnidosNow for the experience of a lifetime.
I’m proud to say that UnidosNow is my family and will always be. It’s an understatement to say that I fell in love with the organization from day one.
That love for our students, families, and mission still burns as strong 1,459 days later, and will continue for many years to come.
As our beloved executive director likes to say “UnidosNow is like Hotel California. Once you check-in, you never check-out.”