As a Social Worker I have been working with low income youth for some years in my native country, Colombia. Being a low income youth has many disadvantages, as they are more vulnerable to many social issues including crime, prostitution, teen pregnancy and substances abuse. Therefore, the plight of Colombian youth really matters to me.
However, I have become more aware of these issues during these last three months of serving at the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), a Non- Profit Organization which mission is “to empower a diverse population of youth to achieve a successful transition to adulthood through multi-cultural, comprehensive, and innovative programs that address youths’ social, academic, and career needs.” In doing so, I have had the great opportunity to interact with many teenagers, most of them from Central America. This experience has helped me open my eyes about the current situation for Latin American youth.
Many of the current youth that we are working with that has just came to the United States, are fleeing violence from Central America. They face even more obstacles and challenges than other immigrants of different age and of different geography. Also, because of their migration, these youth are currently living in a different country with a different language, with different customs and are sharing their experiences and culture with many people from all over the world.
As such, along with a comprehensive integration process these youth need to be empowered because, some of them are learning from their relatives, friends and neighbors in an unconscious way, that being Latino is close to being “less human”. Therefore, those close to them need to be mindful and encouraged to be proud of being a Latino, Therefore, I am so glad of not just of having the experience of sharing with them, but also because as a Latina I feel I have the qualities to contribute for empowering our youth and help them to build Leadership skills. I feel so proud of my Latin blood and it is great that this fellowship has allowed me to spread Latin pride to other youth.