Voice of OC Director of Photography Julie Leopo Named One of the Most Influential Latina Journalists in California


Voice of OC Director of Photography Julie Leopo is one of the most influential Latina journalists across the state in the 2021 finalists announced by the Latino Journalists of California.

Leopo is an award-winning journalist from Santa Ana who has developed Voice of OC’s visual journalism to document Orange County’s critical quality of life news issues in photos, essays and videos.

“Her images told the story of the pandemic in the Latino community. She captured struggle, fear and hope.”

Independent judges on Leopo’s nomination
In addition to working as Voice of OC’s photojournalist Leopo also has focused on opening up opportunities for others, working with Omar Sanchez and Jose Hernandez as developing young visual journalists.

Leopo stands among Latina journalists at Telemundo, CNN, NBC4, Good Morning America, the Fresno Bee, LAist and LA Taco. Finalists were selected based on work accomplished during the past year, the impact of that work and how many people in the community the journalists were reaching with their work.

“We recognize their reporting ranging from climate change to social justice, politics and many other topics that affect the communities they represent.”

Click here to read the full article on Voice of OC.

Education leaders serving Latino students rethink college equity post-pandemic
education institute sign at the entrance to California State University, Northridge on Jan. 23


As higher education leaders mark 25 years since the creation of Hispanic-serving institutions, they’re assessing how these colleges and universities can enroll and graduate more Latino students amid the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last fall, colleges saw a 5 percent drop in Latino undergraduate enrollments. The dramatic decrease came one year after Latino college enrollment had increased by nearly 2 percent, according to Deborah Santiago, CEO of Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit that analyzes how higher education institutions are enrolling, retaining and graduating Latino students.

“There was a lot of progress and accelerating enrollment. We were seeing increases in completion as well,” Santiago said during a virtual briefing on Hispanic-serving institutions held on Wednesday. “In one year, we saw a precipitous drop, scaling back some of the enrollment progress.”

While HSIs make up only about 18 percent of all colleges and universities, they enroll and graduate over 60 percent of the nation’s Latino college students. HSIs are defined as institutions where at least a quarter of the student body is Hispanic.

In the briefing, education officials and Latino members of Congress reflected on the growth of these institutions while discussing how they can step up to recent challenges.

“Equity is a big focus for us moving forward,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said during the briefing. “Institutions like HSIs play a major role in that. So when we’re talking about recovery as a country, we need to acknowledge HSIs and the important work that they do to promote equity and access for all students.”

In their 25 years of existence, HSIs have grown exponentially, from about 189 colleges and universities to 539 as of last year. This is due to an increase in Latino college students who are mainly concentrated in several predominantly Hispanic areas, cities and states.

In the last 25 years, over 835 unique federal grants, totaling $1.9 billion, have provided educational opportunities for over 1.1 million Latino students enrolled in HSIs.

Santiago said while federal funding is not parallel to the growth HSIs have seen over the last decades, there’s an opportunity to assess what kinds of investments should be done to meet the growing demand and ensure successful results.

Roadblocks, then Covid

While college enrollment among Latino students has been increasing over the past decade and reached a record high in 2017, Hispanics still lag behind in college completion, according to Excelencia’s research. At least 22 percent of Latino adults have earned an associate degree or higher, compared to 39 percent of the general population. High costs, a limited knowledge of college and trying to balance work, family and academics are the most common barriers preventing Hispanic students from finishing college on time.

But the panorama gets more complicated as the Covid-19 pandemic heaps great economic stress on Latino families.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

Afro-Latinx Artist Reyna Noriega Is Using Art to Uplift Brown and Black Women
Afro-Latinx Artist Reyna Noriega

By Shayne Rodriguez Thompson, Pop Sugar

In 2017, Afro-Latinx visual artist Reyna Noriega began her career as a full-time creator. Little did she know that in just a few short years, she would have over 100,000 followers on Instagram, would be working with huge brands like Apple and Old Navy, and would design a cover for The New Yorker. Born and raised in Miami to a first-generation Cuban father and a Bahamian mother, Noriega, who is best-known for her bold, vibrant, graphic work, was destined to be an artist.

“My father is also an artist, and I became interested early on in just the magic of it all, being able to bring ideas to life on paper and communicate in a universal language,” Noriega told POPSUGAR in a recent interview. “I was always the ‘sensitive kid’ feeling a lot and thinking a lot, so art and writing were great outlets for me to get all of that under control and to be able to process my emotions.”

Now, Noriega’s art is being seen on a much wider scale and impacting thousands of people who follow her on social media or see her art on city walls and T-shirts. To get there, she had to put in a lot of work, including studying and learning on her own, despite the fact that she took art classes throughout high school and minored in art in college. Using the help of books and YouTube, Noriega honed her skills and eventually left her job as a teacher, with the full support of her parents.

“I was very fortunate that my family believed in me and my ability to make my passion a career and even help me make it happen! To this day, my mom is the person that helps me run my online shop, and they encourage me to strive higher,” Noriega told us.

By 2019, Noriega started doing brand work, after getting comfortable with her style and what she wanted to represent as an artist. It gradually became easier for her to align herself with brands that had the same mission. She is currently working on Amex’s “Always Welcome” design collective launch, which will provide businesses with signage for their storefronts and indicate their stance on inclusivity.

“Honestly, every time I get an email, I am honored and humbled that my name enters rooms I never thought would. From companies whose products I used to save up for at one point, like Apple, to legendary publications like The New Yorker, or having thousands and thousands of people wear a shirt I designed with Old Navy. It really is a dream come true,” she said.

Ultimately, it was Noriega embracing her culture and her commitment to advocating for Black and brown people through her art that got her there. She says her Afro-Caribbean culture is what brings “vibrancy and flavor” to her art. But we think it’s so much more than that. With just a single glance, it’s obvious that Noriega’s background informs her work. Her use of color, the way she showcases the female form, the various complexions and skin tones she celebrates in her work, and the stunning, tropics-inspired botanical scenes she often creates speak to exactly who she is and where she comes from.

“Art has always been a place I look to boost my mood, museums, galleries, [and] learning about art history. But unfortunately in those spaces, rarely did I ever feel I belong, because my story wasn’t told on those walls, and in the rare occasion it was, it only highlighted the struggles and traumas,” she said. “I wanted to create work that would lift moods and raise the self-efficacy of Black and brown women with positive representation and vibrant depictions of joy.”

Noriega describes the art she creates with a tremendous amount of care and respect. Her mission is to create art that represents and uplifts communities that are often left out of the conversation. “I focus on women because as a woman, I know all of the challenges and barriers we face,” she said. “Inequalities in pay, harmful messaging on body image, the ongoing fight for body autonomy . . . it can be really exhausting. Add on to that the challenges being a BIPOC, and it just magnifies. My art is meant to celebrate women, inspire joy, and a reclamation of peace and rest.”

Noriega recognizes how important it is to not only amplify voices like hers but also to use her gifts and resources to speak up for people who don’t have the same advantages that she does. Even as a Black Latina, she’s cognizant of the privileges she has and the responsibility associated with them. “For me personally, I often look at my identities as a privilege, which pushes me to amplify Black voices even more. I am all too aware of the advantages I have received being a Latina in Miami, and even being ethnically Caribbean, although my race is Black,” she said. “Being able to say where your lineage comes from is a privilege many Black Americans don’t have. I have been unfairly judged and treated and had some very hurtful comments said to me, but I must also be aware of how my skin tone provides privileges, how my heritage provides privileges, and how knowing more than one language is a privilege.” And in recognizing that, she’s able to leverage her position to empower others in really visible ways.

Click here to read the full article on Pop Sugar.

Who is Joann Diaz? FDNY’s first Latina Fire Lieutenant
Joann Diaz became the first-ever Latina fire lieutenant in New York City Fire Department’s 156-history.

By Brittany Valentine, Al Dia

On Wednesday, Oct. 20, Joann Diaz became the first-ever Latina fire lieutenant in New York City Fire Department’s 156-history. Diaz is a 43-year-old mother of three, who split her childhood between Puerto Rico and the Bronx. She has been a firefighter for 18 years, and joined the FDNY in 2003, after noticing there was little to no female representation. “I joined the FDNY because I wanted to demonstrate to my peers that women can serve here and I wanted to inspire other women to join the FDNY,” she said in a statement to joinFDNY.com

When Diaz first began her firefighting career, she was one of only a handful of women at the Bronx firehouse, and the only Latina.

“I was the only one when I came on the job, the only Hispanic woman,” she told the NY Daily News.

“And one of only 27 women. It’s very exciting and nerve-racking, and I’m ready to demonstrate to my peers that women are capable to work as lieutenants and to inspire others to move forward in the department,” she continued.

She is among the 13.4% of Hispanics who currently work for the FDNY on the firefighting operation side. On its Emergency Medical Services (EMS) side, the number is 25% of the workforce.

Lieutenant Diaz says it was a Broadway musical that made her realize that she was just as capable as any man.

“As a child, I remember seeing the play, ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ off-Broadway and the song, ‘Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better),’ by Irving Berlin has always stayed with me,” she told JoinFDNY.com.

Her three children, along with her family and colleagues, cheered for Diaz as she walked across the stage at the New York City Fire Department’s Promotions Ceremony on Oct. 20.

At the ceremony, Diaz praised the friendships that she made throughout her career.

“I have been a firefighter for 18 years and assigned to Engine 79 my entire career. The camaraderie that I have experienced as a member of the department and being the first Hispanic female to be promoted to Lieutenant is a dream come true,” she said.

Click here to read the full article on Al Dia.

Crisis Text Line to Support Spanish-Speaking Texters Experiencing a Mental Health Crisis
guy sitting on floor using smartphone

Crisis Text Line, the not-for-profit providing free crisis counseling via text message, will begin offering its service in Spanish on October 15, 2021. The organization is actively recruiting and training volunteers who are bilingual in English and Spanish to help support the underserved population of LatinX experiencing crisis.

The need for this service is high. Suicide among young Latinas is a major public health concern as they attempt suicide more often than any other group of female teenagers nationwide, according to the CDC.

The fact that LatinX people across the U.S. have a hard time finding mental health care services in their native language fuels this inequity. According to the recent data released by the American Psychological Association, only 5.5% of U.S. psychologists say they’re able to administer mental health care services in Spanish. Research indicates that language is a primary barrier preventing Spanish speakers in the U.S. from accessing mental health services.

“Our goal has always been to support people in crisis with the technology that is comfortable to them. Thanks to the hard work of our team and bilingual volunteer Crisis Counselors, we can also serve texters who feel most comfortable getting mental health support in Spanish,” said Dena Trujillo, Crisis Text Line Interim CEO.

Crisis Text Line is a free service powered by a community of volunteer Crisis Counselors who help individuals in distress, bringing them from a moment of crisis to a cool calm moment through de-escalation, problem-solving, and active listening skills. The organization is actively recruiting and training volunteers who are bilingual in English and Spanish. To apply to become a volunteer, visit https://www.crisistextline.org/palabras.

LatinX texters already make up 17% of Crisis Text Line’s texters, based on voluntary demographic data. English-speaking LatinX texters tend to be younger (56% were 17 or younger) and more likely to be female (79%) than all texters combined.

During the Spanish service pilot, Crisis Text Line had more than 1,000 conversations with texters in Spanish and observed that Spanish-speaking texters were more likely to discuss depression, anxiety, and relationship issues than the Crisis Text Line average during the same time. The majority of texters who used the Spanish service were from Texas, California and Florida.

“I’m incredibly proud of the culturally competent, first of its kind, service we built to help the Spanish-speaking community in the way they deserve,” said Natalia Dayan, Crisis Text Line Localization Director.

Crisis Text Line is known for its innovative use of technology and data, leveraging machine learning to stack-rank incoming messages in order to serve the highest risk texters first. To increase access to the service for Spanish speaking texters, Crisis Text Line also launched a new modality: WhatsApp. Now, anyone in crisis can also reach a volunteer Crisis Counselor on WhatsApp, an app with over 32 million Hispanic and LatinX users.

About Crisis Text Line
Crisis Text Line has been providing free, 24/7, confidential support for people in crisis via text since 2013. Volunteer Crisis Counselors complete a 30-hour training and have 24/7 supervision by full-time Crisis Text Line mental health professionals. Text HOLA to 741741 or text to 442-AYUDAME in WhatsApp to be connected to a trained Crisis Counselor in Spanish. Text CRISIS to 741741 for English. Crisis Text Line currently offers its service in theUSA, UK, Canada, and Ireland.

Learn more at www.crisistextline.org.

First Latina American Airlines Captain Releases Book Of Poems By Women Pilots
Earhart’s previously unpublished poetry appears alongside works from other women pilots in Pauwels’s latest book, Beyond Haiku: Women Pilots Write Poetry.

By Laura Ray, Travel Awaits

A woman in the cockpit of a commercial aircraft is still a rare sight to see. Airline passengers have become accustomed to, “This is your captain speaking,” coming over the intercom in a baritone voice.

Flight safety instructions are most often announced by a female flight attendant. But the currents of gender in aviation have been shifting in the past few decades, and Captain Linda Pauwels has been at the forefront of the change.

Pauwels has been pioneering the industry since the early ’80s when she became the youngest cargo jet captain, flying a 707 for a military cargo contract carrier, Southern Air Transport. In 2000, at age 37, she became the first Latina to captain an American Airlines commercial flight. Currently, she serves as a check airman for American, instructing and evaluating pilots on the Boeing 787. Her most recent accomplishment is becoming the first person to publish poems written by storied aviatrix and fellow female flight pioneer, Amelia Earhart.

Earhart’s previously unpublished poetry appears alongside works from other women pilots in Pauwels’s latest book, Beyond Haiku: Women Pilots Write Poetry. That’s right, Pauwels is also an author! Her previous releases include Latinas in Aviation: Stories of passion, power, and breaking into the aviation industry and the first book of the Beyond Haiku series, Beyond Haiku: Pilots Write Poetry.

The first Beyond Haiku book came out of an internal forum hosted by the pilots union for American Airlines, where commercial pilots discuss different topics. While studying job stress in airline pilots for a doctoral program, Pauwels came across artistic expression, like writing poetry, as an outlet. This prompted Pauwels to start a poetry thread on the forum in 2015, called “Morning Haiku.”

At the outset, many of the male pilots turned up their noses at the thread dedicated to poetry, yet it began to take hold. Pauwels posted all types of poetry: old poetry, poetry about war, poems by men, poems by women. And the pilots began to participate by posting their own poems.

Click here to read the full article on travel awaits.

Five Latinas dominating sports
Amanda Nunes is currently the best female fighter in the world for the sports. Photo: UFC

By Erika Ardila, Aldia News

Sports in all its expressions is an activity with deep ties to passion that gathers people around the same team and is also the dream of thousands of women around the world.

Going to a national championship, the Olympic Games or any professional competition becomes the goal of Latinas who come to the United States to compete.

Here are five great Latina athletes who are making history in the country doing just that:

Amanda Nunes
Nunes is a Brazilian mixed martial arts fighter who competes in the bantamweight and featherweight categories of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, where she is the current champion of both divisions.

She is the first woman in UFC history to be champion of two different categories simultaneously. She is currently ranked number one in the UFC’s official rankings of the top pound-for-pound female fighters. Nunes has an overall record of 19-4.

Monica Puig
Puig is a Puerto Rican tennis player, champion at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games in the women’s singles competition.

She is Puerto Rico’s first Olympic gold medalist and was also a gold medalist at the Central American Games in Mayagüez 2010, Veracruz 2014 and Barranquilla 2018, and a silver medalist at the XVI Pan American Games in Guadalajara 2011.

Puig is currently ranked No. 44 in the World Association of Women’s Tennis (WAT).

Diana Taurasi
This American basketball player is of Argentinean descent and plays for the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA and UMMC Ekaterinburg of the Russian League.

Given her great track record, she is usually recognized as one of the best basketball players in history. In June 2017, she became the top scorer in WNBA history surpassing Tina Thompson.

In addition to being a professional athlete, in 2021, she participated in the movie Space Jam 2, voicing the character of ‘White Mamba.’

Laurie Hernandez
Laurie is of Puerto Rican descent and was a 2016 Olympic champion and runner-up in the team all-around and balance beam gymnastics competitions.

On Aug. 30, 2016, Hernandez was revealed as one of the celebrities who would participate in the 23rd season of Dancing with the Stars. She was paired with professional dancer Valentin Chmerkovskiy, with whom she won the competition. At 16 years old, Hernandez is the show’s youngest winner.

Click here to read the full article on Al Dia Social.

What Is Hispanic Heritage Month—And How Is It Celebrated?
Hispanic heritage month traditional dress

By Robyn Moreno

Hispanic Heritage Month highlights the achievements and contributions of Latinxs across the United States—and beyond.

While most people know about pop icons including Jennifer Lopez, Selena, and Demi Lovato; political powerhouses like Sonia Sotomayor and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, legends like EGOT winner Rita Moreno; sports heroes including Oscar de la Hoya and Mariano Rivera, and other famous Hispanic Americans, Hispanic Heritage Month shines a light on the broader (and lesser-known) accomplishments of Latinxs across genres. From Latinxs lighting up Hollywood (in front of and behind the screen) to books penned by LatinX authors, to diverse Latin foods and music and so much more, Latinxs have contributed to every facet of American society. Read on to learn more about what is Hispanic Heritage Month and how Latinxs have helped define American culture.

What is Hispanic Heritage Month?
According to the Hispanic Heritage Month official website, it is observed: “by celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.” For generations, Latinxs have contributed to the food, music, business, science, and culture that we know as American, and the 30 days that make up Hispanic Heritage Month each fall is just one opportunity to showcase these achievements.

Latinxs are the country’s second-largest racial or ethnic group, behind white non-Hispanics according to the latest 2020 census. Latinxs now account for 18.7 percent of the U.S. population up 2.4 percent in the previous decade with 62.1 million Latinxs living across America with big concentrations in New York, California, Texas, and Florida.

When is Hispanic Heritage Month?
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated annually from September 15 to October 15. Its timing coincides with the Independence Day of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua which are all celebrated on September 15. Mexico, Chile, and Belize also celebrate their respective independence days in that same time frame. In addition, on October 12, (Columbus Day/Indigenous People’s Day in the United States) Mexico celebrates Día de la Raza (Race Day) “in recognition of the mixed indigenous and European heritage of Mexico.”

Hispanic Heritage Month is similar to other months of recognition and celebrations like Native American History Heritage Month in November, African American History Month in February, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, and LGBTQ Pride Month in June.

What’s the history behind Hispanic Heritage Month?
Hispanic Heritage Month first started as a week when it was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. According to Congressional history, the week was created to bring attention and awareness to “Hispanic-American contributions to the United States,” along with networking opportunities for “grassroots and civil rights activists inside and outside the Hispanic-American community.”

Almost 20 years later, Representative Esteban Torres of California, a proud Mexican-American, submitted a bill to expand it into Hispanic Heritage Month in 1987 saying supporters of the bill “want the American people to learn of our heritage. We want the public to know that we share a legacy with the rest of the country, a legacy that includes artists, writers, Olympic champions, and leaders in business, government, cinema, and science.” That bill didn’t pass, but Senator Paul Simon of Illinois submitted a similar bill that President Ronald Reagan signed into law in 1988 creating now what is Hispanic Heritage Month.

Click here to read the full article on RD.

Amara La Negra Wants to Encourage This Generation of Latinxs to Build Generational Wealth
Amara La Negra wearing pink during a photoshoot


Amara La Negra is doing the most these days. Not only can we expect to see her in season four of Love & Hip Hop Miami, which returns on Monday, Aug. 23 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, but the Dominican-American artist who hails from Miami, FL, has been exploring quite a few new projects lately.

Many of us first learned about Amara in 2018 with her breakout role on the reality show. The singer not only drew us in with her musical sound — which includes a mix of R&B, hip-hop, and reggaeton influences — but she also won our hearts with her commitment toward advocating for Afro-Latinx communities and boldly speaking out against the lack of representation, colorism, and anti-blackness that still permeates Latinx culture. While her activism and music career still take center stage (she also recently started a podcast with iHeartRadio called Exactly Amara), this renaissance woman has added a new venture to her plate — real estate. After weeks of teasing us on Instagram about the news, she recently announced on Instagram the development of her new real estate business, Amara Residences, in the Dominican Republic. But Amara isn’t just trying to make business moves; she wants to inspire Latinas to build generational wealth.

Located in Las Terrenas in Samaná, Dominican Republic, Amara Residences features 48 apartments and 12 penthouses at the starting price of $175,200 for a two-bedroom, one-bath. Shortly after deciding to embark on real estate, she partnered with her real estate investor Allan Chavez of Soluciones Allan to develop Amara Residences. The two are not only business partners but have since become a romantic item — you can catch a sneak peek into their relationship on the new season of Love & Hip Hop Miami. Her mission behind it all is to build the generational wealth and financial stability the previous generations in her family couldn’t provide.

Investing in real estate and homeownership is one of the best ways to build generational wealth in this country. In fact, according to the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), more and more Latinxs are buying and investing in property with more than eight million Latinx new homeowners contributing $371 billion into that national gross domestic product. However, historical barriers still result in wide generational wealth gaps existing between Latinx and non-Latinx Black communities in the U.S. Not only are most Latinx and non-Latinx Black families less wealthy than typical white families but they are also less likely to own financial assets like homes. There are so many things that contribute to that from immigration status and low wages to historical legislation barriers like redlining and institutionalized racism. But this generation of Latinxs is understanding that in order to gain wealth for their families and generations to come, they need to educate themselves on financial literacy. They are understanding that financial literacy is crucial to our well-being. In order to truly be well, our finances need to be in order. Because struggling to pay the bills and being overwhelmed with debt isn’t at all good for our overall well-being.

Click here to read the full article on Popsugar.

Kassandra Garcia, the Latina fighting for representation in the NFL
Kassandra Garcia, football management analyst for the Los Angeles Rams. Photo: LinkedIN

By Natalia Puertas Cavero, Aldia News

Kassandra Garcia is a first-generation Mexican-American who is making history in a male-dominated world. At just 27 years old, Garcia is the highest-ranking Latina in the NFL as a football management analyst for the Los Angeles Rams. She joins Natalia Dorantes, who was named the NFL’s first female chief of staff earlier this year.

The world of sports, even at the administrative level, is predominantly male. However, some Latinas, like Kassandra Garcia have arrived to diversify the industry.

Garcia’s rise began at the University of Arizona, where she pursued her degree in business administration and was a recruiting intern for the Wildcats. Her skills helped her become an analyst, and as she explained, the influence her family and culture played an important role in her career.

García atributes her accomplishments to her grandmother and mother, as they are the ones who gave her the strength to pursue her dreams. Garcia’s grandparents were second-generation Mexican-Americans, leaving Mexico with three children and no English.

Despite everything going against them, and with a lot of hard work, they managed to build thriving Mexican restaurants in Tuscon, Arizona. It was this example that inspired Garcia to build her own career.

She admits that becoming the highest-ranking Latina in the NFL didn’t happen by accident. Garcia has always been very rebellious and it has helped her pursue goals she thought impossible.

“I’m very stubborn. When someone tells me I can’t do something, it’s game over. The fire inside me burns to prove them wrong. I don’t know if that’s being stubborn, narcissism, ego — and I think about this all the time – but it’s gotten me this far,” García told USA Today Sports.

According to the NFL’s 2021 Diversity and Inclusion report, as of February 2021, there have only been four Latino (male) coaches. In addition, it noted that only 2.7% of all team vice presidents were women of color.

On the other hand, women in administrative positions in sports declined from 35.9% in 2019 to 32.3% in 2020, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) of the DeVos Sports Management Program at UCF. Of those, only 7% of women in all professional management positions were non-white women.

It is inspiring and hopeful to see that women like Garcia are blazing a trail for other Latinas who dream of having a career on the business side of professional sports.

Click here to read the full article Aldia News.

Miss Teen Nebraska Latina, first to represent Peru in national competition
Ferreyra is the first Miss Teen Nebraska Latina representing Peru in the Miss Teen U.S. Latina Pageant. She says she has spend hours and hours of practice, stepping over obstacles and breaking down stereotypes of the Latina community.

By Danielle Davis, 3 News Now

OMAHA, Neb. — “When I wear my crown and walk across the stage, I feel empowered,” said Alexa Ferreyra, Miss Teen Nebraska Latina.

Ferreyra is the first Miss Teen Nebraska Latina representing Peru in the Miss Teen U.S. Latina pageant. She says she has spent hours and hours of practice, stepping over obstacles and breaking down stereotypes of the Latin American community.

“At school I have honors. I am in the gifted program. This shows that when Latinas are given the opportunities they will thrive and achieve,” added Ferreyra.

This platform has given her the opportunity to make a difference in her passion project, which is stopping animal abuse and increase pet adoptions.

“Puppy mill animals are severely abused animals. These facilities that they come from, they don’t care about their mental and physical well-being. These animals are in a cage 24 hours and it is all about making money for them….never able to find homes after that,” she said.

She currently has seven kittens and two dogs.

Her mom, Dawn Ferreyra added, “She has grown so much from her platform. She is looking at careers where she can help the environment and help animals and I am just so proud that she has found her passion so early so that she can really succeed in life.”

An exciting part of the program is the cultural aspect.

“I just want to make my dad proud, he loves his culture and he has instilled that into me. The Peruvians in Nebraska are so proud of me, that I have this title and I am the first Peruvian. People just assume I am Mexican, when I say I am from Peru, they are like where is that?” explained Alexa.

Mom is there every step of the way, even giving advice to others looking to represent their heritage in pageants.

“Now, where diversity is both honored in the country and misunderstood, I think it is important for people to see all people represented in all aspects and have someone give back to their community, working hard both academically and serving others, it is important to see Latinas doing that kind of work,” said Dawn.

Alexa says she has learned what true beauty actually looks like.

“I think what people stand for is what makes them beautiful. I stand for animals, that is my cause and I think it is really important for someone to believe in something,” she said.

Crown or no crown, she says her hard work has already made her a winner.

“It’s not only for me but for them to feel represented. It would just feel amazing. We represent a small portion of Latinas in America but, we are here. We are strong and we are united,” Alexa said.

Click here to read the full article on 2 News Now.

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022