What does being a Latina mean to you?:
Being unique and authentic, staying true to my roots and culture.
What do you identify as?
Share your movement, business, non-profit, dream, with us::
Simply Destinee Youth Center is a not-for-profit youth dance team and center that promotes suicide awareness in memory of my daughter Destinee, who I lost in 2010. We focus on anti-bullying by teaching them to learn to express themselves through music and art. We focus on self-love, self-acceptance, and promoting positivity in the world. We serve minority children and at-risk youth. We offer services and resources for their parents and guardians as well, as we believe in the importance of providing suicide awareness to the entire family.
After losing my daughter, we realized that there was a need in the community and so many children are suffering in silence. We felt that we needed to find a way to offer a safe space for the children that allowed them to express themselves, as well as, learn how to accept themselves for who they are. We have been in operation now for over seven years and have had several hundred kids go through our program. We also offer services through the after-school program on the east side of Aurora which is primarily minority students as well. Since that time we have helped several families and children in crisis.
What are some preconceived notions/stereotypes that you've faced in your business, movement, non-profit, etc?:
I think for us the greatest stereotype that we face is that if you say that you have mental illness, you are crazy especially in the Latino community. A lot of people also look down on our organization because they feel that since we are talking about suicide, we're implementing ideas in the children's head. When in fact we're here to celebrate life. We love celebrating each child that goes through our program during their birthday month. We talk about things that are going on in today’s world that are greatly impacting our youth. We foster a safe space for them so that they can learn to express themselves in a more positive light. There's so many other things that we do that are quite the contrary but people assume that because of the fact that were talking about suicide prevention, which is such a taboo topic, that that means it's very negative and dark.
Are you a US citizen? If not, could you share what your experience has been being an immigrant, and the process of becoming a US citizen, resident, etc:
I'm fortunate enough to be a US citizen however my mom would often tell me stories about how my grandmother would have to cross over to give birth in the United States so that her children would be US citizens. As my mom was growing up she also faced a lot of discrimination because she had darker skin.
Who are some of your Latino inspirations?:
I think that any woman or man that is of Latin descent that has a social position is an inspiration for our younger generation. I feel the biggest setback for most of our children is that we don't have those people to look up to as inspirations. I am 46 years old and I feel like it’s just now where I’m meeting so many inspiring latinos that I wish I had met in my younger years.
Is there something else you'd like to say or add?:
I'm very proud of who I am and where I've come from and I know that a lot of those struggles have made my family who they are. There's nothing I would change about my life. I'm here to be a leader, a helper and most of all of friend. I would have never imagined my life to be the way it is right now and I know the selfish part of me says that I would give anything to have my daughter back. However, the other part of me says that we are put on this world for a purpose and this is my purpose.