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UnidosNow’s Board Chair, Education Winner at the Unity Awards

UnidosNow’s Board of Directors Chair, Kelly Kirschner, received the Unity Award in the Education category this year, because he “sees education as the ticket to self-improvement, productivity and democracy.” Read the full article from Biz941 here.

The award was received by Executive Director, Luz Corcuera, on Tuesday, January 24th, at the Unity Awards event at Michael’s On East. Corcuera gave a heartfelt speech, having in mind all of our Future Leaders Academy Scholars:

“Education is a basic right for everyone, but it is also a responsibility that the community has to take at heart. We are all responsible for our children’s education and we must look at them as ‘our’ children.

Kelly understood this early on and during his studies at Georgetown University and his involvement with the Peace Corps, he immersed himself in the richness of the culture and the language of the people of Guatemala.  During his tenure as a Mayor of Sarasota, he realized very quickly that the Latino community was the fastest growing  group in Sarasota-Manatee and had the vision to create UnidosNow as the center to empower Latinos in Sarasota and Manatee to achieve the American Dream.

It is now up to all of us to continue promoting education in an environment that fosters love, kindness, and hope.  We celebrate the Unity Awards and the inspiring people they honor today because of their contributions to continue to make America the great country it is with its rich diversity.”

Our Youth is the Future

By Luz Corcuera

Almost exactly one year ago, in February 2016, I had the pleasure of meeting with a delegation of Japanese students who were visiting St. Stephen’s Episcopal School as a part of an exchange program. Mr. Patrick Whelan, Head of Social Studies, invited me to speak with the students, and our discussion centered on social justice, peace, poverty, immigration, marginalization, education, and social determinants of health.

After that encounter, some students kept in touch with me, including Akisumi Nouguchi. Akisumi is an impressive young man who really wants to use science to help humanity. He has now prepared a brochure (please see below) to explain what happened in Kumamoto (Japan) after two earthquakes struck this place in just two days. Akisumi shared his project with me and asked me to share it with my network. I hope you find his work and passion as enlightening and inspiring as I found it.

This will be the generation to bridge divides and create a just and peaceful world for subsequent generations.

Thank you, Akisumi, for sharing your work with us.

With Gratitude

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The UnidosNow team would like to extend our sincere thanks to – and deep appreciation of – all of our generous, committed volunteers, funders, supporters and partners who make it possible for us to empower our young people to Dream Big and Reach High! Learn more about this day here: #GlobalApplause.

#Madewithlove Visit

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Pictured here are the #Madewithlove ladies and UnidosNow supporter Herb Moller.

We were surprised and delighted to receive some wonderful, unexpected community support from Megan, Amanda, and Sonia, who generously baked and delivered homemade cookies to the UnidosNow team in November! They just wanted us to know that we are thought of and cared for. Many thanks to this thoughtful trio for making our day brighter through their #madewithlove campaign!

Herb Moller, a long time supporter and mentor of UnidosNow, was in the office and gladly accepted the gift from these talented ladies.

Volunteers of the Month, Kathy and Tom Cook

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UnidosNow is incredibly fortunate to have this dynamic couple sharing their many talents, time and resources with us! Kathy is a retired educator and Tom is a retired software engineer who worked for NASA. They decided to get involved with UnidosNow four years ago because they believe in education, giving back to the community, and sharing their talents, especially with young people. During the last several years, Kathy and Tom have generously provided myriad types of support, as needed, from event logistics to student mentoring.

Tom currently has three mentees, all of whom are either sophomores or juniors, and are interested in the engineering field. Jonathan Barroso, Nicholas Gonzalez, and Daniel Paredes have noted that their mentor, Tom, affirms in them their desire to pursue engineering. With a Ph.D. in physical chemistry, Tom is a role model and his mentees aspire to have as rewarding a career as he has.

Given her breadth of expertise as an educator, Kathy, who has worked with vulnerable children, understands that every student has potential and that teachers are tremendously influential in their lives. She has witnessed how encouragement from a caring teacher can help a young person pursue their dreams.

Kathy and Tom believe in and embrace UnidosNow’s college prep initiatives. We are so deeply grateful for their ongoing support of our students. And for their heartfelt belief in Dreaming Big, so that young people can explore their potential and be empowered with the tools they need to succeed in life!

Ongoing FAFSA Outreach & Support Efforts

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The UnidosNow education team and partners have been crisscrossing Manatee and Sarasota counties in the last month, working to ensure high school seniors have the critical information needed to complete their FAFSA. We conducted numerous outreach activities to inform students and families about FAFSA labs, where volunteers help families fill out their FAFSA forms. Our outreach efforts included, for example, classes or lunch hours where seniors were in attendance at Palmetto and Bayshore high schools, a college fair at Palmetto High, an information session at Sacred Heart Church, the Hispanic Festival at Holy Cross Church, an info table at the Remote Area Medical event at MTC, and electronic outreach via our Remind system, which sends text notifications to students who are registered with us. UnidosNow engaged over 1,000 seniors through this outreach. Find pictures of all these events in our Facebook page.

Subsequently, in partnership with our community partners, FAFSA labs were offered at Sarasota Military Academy, North Port, Sarasota, Booker, Palmetto, Lakewood Ranch and Bayshore high schools, where trained volunteers assisted approximately 254 families to complete the FAFSA. Our invaluable partners include Talent for Tomorrow in Sarasota County – comprised of United Way SuncoastSarasota Education FoundationGreater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and CareerEdge. – and the Local College Access Network (LCAN) in Manatee County – comprised ofthe Manatee Community FoundationUnited Way of ManateeThe School District of Manateethe Manatee Chamber of Commerce, USF Sarasota-Manatee, Manatee Technical College, Take Stock in Children of Manatee County, and CareerEdge. UnidosNow is a member of both collaboratives.

We believe these partnership efforts are significantly impacting FAFSA completion rates in our area, as evidenced in the below data charts from the US Department of Education for Manatee and Sarasota counties:

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For information on upcoming FAFSA labs or information sessions, click here.

2Gen Partnership Empowers Parents

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Thanks to the support of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s 2Gen initiative, UnidosNow and Tuttle Elementary School are partnering to implement an innovative engagement program for parents of Tuttle students. The curriculum, targeting English Learner parents, includes a national parent engagement model, Padres Comprometidos, and ESOL classes.

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Tuttle parents are participating in Padres Comprometidos, a field-tested parent engagement program developed by NCLR, which has met with great success throughout the United States, and which UnidosNow has been trained to implement. Its goal is to create a culture where children are expected to graduate from college by receiving support from their parents and community. The program helps parents build relationships with the school and other parents, as well as their own children; it also helps them develop goals for their children, from the early education years through high school, so that they can attend college.

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In addition, parents are attending on-site ESOL classes, with the goal of improving English speaking and listening skills. The adult learners all share a common interest in learning English to help their children, to communicate in society (teachers, doctors, shopping), and to improve employment opportunities.  Since the classes launched in October, participants have accomplished a strong understanding and pronunciation of the English alphabet, cardinal/ordinal numbers, pronouns, and personal information. But perhaps, most importantly, they are building self-confidence to speak and understand English.

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“Myths & Facts” Presentation at Healthy Teens Coalition of Manatee County

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In November, UnidosNow’s Executive Director Luz Corcuera spoke to the Healthy Teens Coalition membership about the myths and facts associated with applying to college for low income, first generation high school students.

Some of the myths, which UnidosNow programming directly addresses, include the notion that college is too expensive to consider; it’s unattainable; the student doesn’t have “what it takes;” and/or studying out of state is too costly.

The truth is that these students underestimate their own potential, so that, without the appropriate support to help them realize that potential, they often drop out of college. However, statistics show that a significantly higher percentage of these students graduate when they attend smaller, more selective colleges than most large public universities in Florida.

Merit-based scholarships are often more substantial at such institutions. In order to access these opportunities, students need to take the first step, which is completing the FAFSA. This will determine if Pell Grant money is available to them and will allow them to apply for private scholarships, which require FAFSA completion.

“Inspiring Latinos to Achieve the American Dream” Presentation at AAUW

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The American Association of University Women invited UnidosNow to speak about our work last month. Executive Director Luz Corcuera and FLA Scholar Gabrielle, jointly, presented at this special meeting.

Luz discussed UnidosNow’s mission to empower and inspire young Latinos and their families. Gabrielle spoke about the impact of the programs in which she has participated, in particular, the Future Leaders Academy, and how it motivated her to revamp her resume and essay and apply to selective colleges.

Gabrielle, whose dream is to become a pediatric surgeon, will graduate from high school with an associate’s degree in 2017 and has been accepted to UCF and USF. Exploring all options, she is applying to other schools, as well.

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