CLEVELAND — A Cleveland woman is inspiring a new generation of young women through her Latina Leadership Program.
Yasin Cuevas, who is the director of the program, started it 10 years ago to give Latinas in the Northeast Ohio leadership skills, a sense of sisterhood and a boost in their self-esteem.
The program is open to 13 and 17-year-olds girls who have roots in Latino heritage.
Cuevas said the program for her is personal. Growing up, her mother made a lot of sacrifices and enrolled her in modeling classes when she was 11 years old. The classes she says changed her life and she wanted other young Latina girls to experience what she experienced.
“I am so blessed to be able to offer this in the community for free. It's great. And every year it's a new cohort and they become part of my life,” Cuevas said.
For Dariana Rivera Orta, who was crowned Latina Image 2022, going through the program helped her adjust to her life in the United States after moving from Puerto Rico.
“I did not know English. I had no friends here, so I was coming in fresh. This program really helped me a lot, especially being so shy to come out of my comfort zone and be able to, like, make new friends as well as provide me with new sisters,” Orta said.
Cecile Diaz-Hernandez, the first runner-up in Miss Latina 2022, said she was a shy person before the program. She gained public speaking and interviewing skills through the program.
“I've learned confidence, a lot of confidence. I was never confident and always doubted myself, Hernandez said.
Cuevas said the program is critical for young Latina women.
“Sometimes there are things that we learn from other people and I try to be a mentor as much as possible,” she said. “It's important to connect our youth with this kind of program.”
Recruitment efforts are underway during January and February. Cuevas said there are still not a lot of Latina girls who know about this free program.
The program is open to any Latina girl in high school, between ages 13 to 18. Cuevas said they don’t need to know Spanish and/or English. The girls also don’t need to be born in their country.
“I just want to say to the other girls that are out there and they're scared to try it, just to go for it. I mean, it does bring you a lot of understanding, a lot of maturity. So I matured a lot as a person as well thanks to the program,” said Orta.
Find more information about the program here.
The program is based out of the Julia De Burgos Cultural Arts Center, located at 2800 Archwood Avenue in Cleveland.
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