It’s Good to be a Latina…

Meriden Record-Journal

It’s good to be a Latina, group to tell middle school girls, moms
By Jordan D. Jones

Promoting cultural pride and healthy lifestyles is one of the main goals of Soy Unica! Soy Latina! (I’m Unique! I’m Latina!) and that’s just what will happen at Washington Middle School on Saturday.

Soy Unica! Soy Latina! is aimed at girls 9 to 14 years old. The program is designed to help both daughters and mothers through these critical years.

“I really want the girls and the mothers to feel good about themselves and feel they can accomplish anything,” said Christelle Aubé, prevention coordinator for the Meriden Wallingford Substance Abuse Council, which co-sponsors the event with the Meriden Board of Education with funding from the Multicultural Leadership Institute.

“We not only have a workshop for the girls, we have a workshop for the parent/caregiver as well,” said Aubé, who is organizing the event along with a committee of 14 community members from organizations around Meriden and Wallingford.

The program runs from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Workshops and programs will focus on healthy lifestyles and self-esteem and will encourage girls to make the most of their lives, Aubé said. In addition to the workshops, a wellness festival will include 13 local outreach, charitable and health organizations.

Various community members and public health professionals, including senior mental health counselor Eileen Cardona from MidState Behavioral Health System will head up workshops.

Cardona said young Latinas need positive role models and self-esteem building images. Education is important for Cardona and she wants girls to explore all possible educational opportunities.

“Education is a very big part all around, not just a high school diploma,” Cardona said. “They need to try to further that.”

Viviana Camacho, assistant principal of Wilcox Regional Vocational-Technical School, will give this year’s keynote address. The Hamden resident moved to Connecticut from Puerto Rico at the age of 15 and completed high school in Branford. She went on to complete her undergraduate and graduate studies at state universities.

Camacho has a strong background in education and is currently enrolled in Southern Connecticut State University’s educational leadership program.

Other participants include former Youth Officer Carol Prats Alvarez, Dr. Sandra Escalera from New Haven, and nurse practitioner Margarita Rios from the Medina Medical Practice in Wethersfield.

The second annual program will also feature entertainment. Middletown attorney Hector Rivera and his wife Mildred will dance to Latin salsa rhythms and demonstrate salsa moves. Also, percussion group Mikata will perform a variety of Caribbean songs.

Similar rallies are held around the U.S. and Aubé believes this is the only such program in the state.

Through all of the programs and activities at this year’s Soy Unica! Soy Latina! rally, Aubé said she’d like to see all the girls leave with a positive outlook.

“I want the girls to feel good about themselves,” Aubé said. “I want them to get the tools, so they can know how to become healthy, successful, young adults.”

The event is free and open to all Meriden and Wallingford girls, ages 9- 14, and their caregivers. To register for the program contact Christelle Aubé at MAWSAC at (203) 294-3591 or Maria Serrano-Palazzo at Family Resource Center at 630-4440.

Jordan D. Jones, Record-Journal

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