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Orlando Sentinel

Hispanic Students Look For Mentors To Counsel Them

Walter Pacheco

November 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

Enid Rosa said there was little hope for her escaping the poverty of Bronx, N.Y., if it had not been for the help of local Hispanic mentors.

"I grew up in a poor area of New York and needed someone I could identify with to get out of there and achieve what I wanted in life," said Rosa, who is of Puerto Rican descent.

Now Rosa helps students at Valencia Community College find careers that best suit their interests. She said Hispanic students still need Hispanic mentors.

"Students need someone who can relate to them and their culture," she said.

Jonathan Luquis, an 11th-grader of Puerto Rican descent at Winter Park High School, said he was more at ease with a Hispanic mentor.

"I could better relate to someone who was more like me -- someone who could speak both English and Spanish," Luquis said.

Hispanic mentoring programs across Central Florida, such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Yo sí puedo (Yes I Can), YMCA Hispanic Achievers and others, are recruiting Hispanic mentors who are in touch with their own cultures to help nurture Hispanic youngsters.

Some say the search is tough.

Danny Garcia, founder of Yo sí puedo, a Hispanic mentoring program in Orlando, said mentor recruitment is difficult because Hispanics often are unaware of how these programs help the community.

"Culturally, Hispanics don't volunteer, only during a crisis, and in Central Florida, our children are in a state of crisis," Garcia said.

Dean DiPaulo of Big Brothers and Big Sisters said local Hispanic community leaders are receptive to mentoring, but the organization lacks Hispanic administrators.

"We've had success in finding great mentors, but we still need Hispanic administrators in a program where many of the children are Hispanic," DiPaulo said.

DiPaulo said more than 20 percent of children in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters programs are Hispanic.

"Many of our Hispanic children do not have the network of affection that we grew up with. It pleases me that we can make a difference in someone else's life," said Nede Mansour, a Big Sister and spokeswoman for the Social Security Administration in Orlando.

Others said that as Hispanic student population rises, so does the need for mentors.

"Our Hispanic population is getting larger, and some of these kids need a little extra push so they don't get left behind," said Edna Rodriguez, who teaches English for Speakers of Other Languages at Oak Ridge High School, where she was named 2002 Hispanic Teacher of the Year.

Rodriguez mentors for Yo sí puedo and the Central Florida YMCA Hispanic Achievers.

"We've had such great success in both programs. We need mentors that these children can see their own future through the success of others like them. That is progress," Rodriguez said.

For information or to volunteer, call YMCA Hispanic Achievers at 407-895-4280, Yo sí puedo at 407-281-9495, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters at 407-788-7112.

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