Reflections of Cuba

As a country still living in the shadows of communism, Cuba represents a combination between an old and new life. This past summer, I received the opportunity to spend a week in the island’s capital of Havana for educational purposes. Before hopping on the plane, I had no idea of the many adventures that awaited me. In my mind, Cuba was an ambiguous mass in the Caribbean without form or meaning. I began the journey with the hope and desire of learning about a country that had always felt so close yet so far away.

When the morning of my departure quickly arrived, the weather was humid but a cool breeze softly traveled the quiet streets. I said “hasta la proxima” to the Cuban family that housed me for six days. They said they would see me again soon. Those words seemed to comfort them. The streets were calm and smelled of a mix of dust and salt water. Although grungy and tested by time, the large Capitol building had an air of power and importance. The rest of the surroundings were dark and the lights were off, an effort by the government to conserve energy in the city.

The street curved downward toward me, dotted on both sides by tall buildings with faded chipped paint that curled at the edges of intricate balconies. Those buildings stood as a reminder of what life used to be like before the Revolution. They are all that is left along with the memories of those with the courage to still live in them. Many of the people have left, but the buildings still stand holding their ground as the surroundings crumble. The buildings’ brownish cracks are like the wrinkles of old men symbolizing a wisdom that grows ripe with time.

As the taxi turned the corner and I held on to my luggage, I looked up and down the streets. I had so many memories on those streets. As you walk those streets, salsa music can be heard from the houses and the swift Cuban accent lifts upwards in the dusty air. You can smell the various spices of chicken, rice and beans. People watch the passersby from the streets and balconies, with pure fascination and awe.

The streets have a flavor and color that those that walk by can taste. Still, like the shadows of the buildings, the shadow of communism is a constant reminder. People in Cuba lack the liberties to do and be who they want. The tourists and foreigners like me can savor the city’s flavors and color, but have the liberty to go where we wish. The Cubans must stay and survive this system. For the Cubans, the tourists represent and embody freedom.

As my airplane raised towards the morning sunrise, I looked down and could see a different Cuba. That week I learned so much about Cuban culture and the society. I left the island with great memories, but also with many realizations. I was thankful for the freedom and opportunities that awaited me on the other side of the Gulf of Mexico. Now, the historic island of Cuba had taken shape in my mind. I had seen the many tragedies and beauties of the country.

Ytzel McDaniel

Cultural Background: Hispanic & African American
Classification: High School Senior

What made you decide to go to college?
In my generation in my family, I would be the first grandchild attend and complete college. Also, I have come to realize that I enjoy learning and hope to never stop learning. Though I am not currently in college I am incredibly set on majoring in Journalism and Public Relations. I have known since a small age that I needed a career that would allow me to never stop learning and continuously be writing.

What are some of your classes?
I have always been in an honors program with advanced placement classes. The only classes I don’t take AP would be math classes- simply not my forte. I have taken yearbook and a creative writing class which I enjoyed greatly.

What do you do for fun when you aren’t in school?
I enjoy reading and hanging out with my family. My weekends mainly consist of being with my friends or mother and trying to find new and fun things to do. I like hiking, ice skating, small road trips, or even just a day spent at Barnes N Noble.

What extra-curricular activities are you involved in?
I am the reporter for Skills USA. Also, I am a member of DECA and KEY club which focus on community service. When I am not at school, I keep myself busy by dancing which has always been a major passion of mine.

What volunteer or community service experience do you have?
For the most part, I have helped out my high school with registration before the school year begins. Also, I have gone to the animal shelter and helped clean up at the zoo.

What did you do to prepare for college?
I have taken a SAT preparation class as well as the pre-SAT. I have also researched and visited colleges that interest me. Currently, I am turning in what feels like millions of applications and working on essays.

What are your long-term goals for the next 5 to 10 years?
Finish college of course and immediately continue with my education for a masters degree. I hope to have a steady job with one of the networks. I currently have interest in and be working my way to becoming a reporter.

What advice would you give to younger girls?
Growing up is hard especially with television and magazines feeding young girls “what they should be,” self confidence is incredibly important. Love yourself fully and life becomes much easier. I have come to learn that the minute you decided that you no longer care the way anyone else looks or what they may say about you, life becomes easier. The only critic you have to impress is yourself.

Favorites:
I love reading novels. I would recommend Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the book The Perks of Being a Wall Flower.

Be a Mentor

For many young people, it seems hard to picture yourself as a mentor.

Being idolize by children and teenagers can be an eye opener to the role model and at the same time a little sense of pride. A pride that can make you feel important and can allow you to say “Yeah…I changed someone’s life today.”

Two Hispanic adult tutors have been looked up to as role models by their students and have taken the time to share their dreams with them, while inspiring them to set their own goals.

“It’s amazing, you know, we didn’t even know that our students looked up to us,” said Sandra Guzman,22, and Stephany Martinez, 21. These young women, who are currently students at the University of Texas at El Paso, work for Youth Teaching Youth at local housing community. These young women tutor young students with homework with subjects like Math and Reading. Yet, besides tutoring them, they have also become mentors to their students.

“When we were little, we looked up to our parents, teachers, our favorite singers, and actors,” said Martinez, 21. Now that they are old enough, these two young women are the ones being looked up to has made them feel proud. Both of them shared with their students their dreams, their struggles, and have gotten their students to pick and choose a career that they wish to achieve.

“When I was little, I looked up to my elementary choir teacher and Dr. Wilson and I thought for sure I would be a singer/choir teacher” said Martinez. Martinez told students that she had changed her dream to become a physical therapist. She told students the reason why she choose to study physical therapy was because she wanted to work with the elderly and deep down she knew that it would be challenging, yet very rewarding.

“As I got older I had noticed that achieving my dreams was getting harder and harder for me,” said Martinez. As she got older and entered the university she was looked down upon, not because of her ethnicity, but because she was a woman. However, she did not let this stop her and is currently in her third year studying on becoming a physical therapist.

“My mom has always been my role model and when I was little I had always wanted to be a doctor, but in high school I had a passion for Math,” said Guzman. While in high school and seeing several students struggling in Math, Guzman had realized then that she wanted to be a Math teacher. Due to her passion she had decided to become an educator to educate students on understanding Math and find simpler ways to solve for the answer.

“My first year in college was not as pleasant as I wanted it to be. Professors thought that I was a lazy because I would do shortcuts to solve the problem,” said Guzman. Yet, she proved her professors wrong and earned several A’s on her Math courses. Guzman is currently in her fourth year studying Math and is taking Calculus III.

“By sharing our experiences and struggles to our students, we must say that it allowed our students to be more open with us and at the same time an eye opener for us,” said Martinez. After sharing their experience with their students, they were shocked to hear that most of their students did not have any goals for themselves. Instead, their only goal was to finish school. After hearing this, these young women made their students write in their agenda a career that they would like to be when they grow up.

“When we read the students responses, there were several that said that they had wanted to be a teacher, lawyers, doctors, a nurse, and a contractor. Yet there was one from an eight year old that said, ‘When I grow up, I want to be like my tutors Steph and Sandra. They are smart, funny and they never quit on anything they do.’ We felt good about ourselves,” said Guzman. These young women never thought in their whole life that they would change a child’s life.

“It’s truly amazing. Every child should have a role model to look up to and set dreams and goals for themselves,” said Guzman and Martinez.

You can too become a mentor and make a difference in a young child’s life. You can help tutor students at an after-school programs. You can also volunteer yourself with clubs such as like Big Brother Big Sister Club, Girls Scouts, or YMCA. Make a difference now…Do not wait.

By Claudia N. Oliva

Superstar: Ytzel McDaniel

<b>Age:</b> 17
<b>Cultural Background</b>: Hispanic & African American
<b>Classification</b> High school senior

<b>What made you decide to go to college?</b>
In my generation in my family, I would be the first grandchild attend and complete college. Also, I have come to realize that I enjoy learning and hope to never stop learning. Though I am not currently in college I am incredibly set on majoring in Journalism and Public Relations. I have known since a small age that I needed a career that would allow me to never stop learning and continuously be writing.

<b>What are some of your classes?</b>
I have always been in an honors program with advanced placement classes. The only classes I don’t take AP would be math classes- simply not my forte. I have taken yearbook and a creative writing class which I enjoyed greatly.

<b>What do you do for fun when you aren’t in school?</b>
I enjoy reading and hanging out with my family. My weekends mainly consist of being with my friends or mother and trying to find new and fun things to do. I like hiking, ice skating, small road trips, or even just a day spent at Barnes N Noble.

<b>What extra-curricular activities are you involved in?</b>
I am the reporter for Skills USA. Also, I am a member of DECA and KEY club which focus on community service. When I am not at school, I keep myself busy by dancing which has always been a major passion of mine.

<b>What volunteer or community service experience do you have?</b>
For the most part, I have helped out my high school with registration before the school year begins. Also, I have gone to the animal shelter and helped clean up at the zoo.

<b>What did you do to prepare for college?</b>
I have taken a SAT preparation class as well as the pre-SAT. I have also researched and visited colleges that interest me. Currently, I am turning in what feels like millions of applications and working on essays.

<b>What are your long-term goals for the next 5 to 10 years?</b>
Finish college of course and immediately continue with my education for a masters degree. I hope to have a steady job with one of the networks. I currently have interest in and be working my way to becoming a reporter.

<b>What advice would you give to younger girls?</b>
Growing up is hard especially with television and magazines feeding young girls “what they should be,” self confidence is incredibly important. Love yourself fully and life becomes much easier. I have come to learn that the minute you decided that you no longer care the way anyone else looks or what they may say about you, life becomes easier. The only critic you have to impress is yourself.

<b> Favorites: </b>
I love reading novels. I would recommend Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the book The Perks of Being a Wall Flower.

<font size=”1″>December 2010</font>

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<a href=”../teens/superstar”><b>Click here</b></a> to nominate a Latina Superstar.

Shattered Dreams

Graduating from college is many people’s dream. However, Janean Esparza*, a Radio Television and Film senior at a University in Texas, will not be fulfilling her dreams. Like many undocumented immigrant youth living in the U.S., Janean has been dreaming of the passage of the “Dream Act,” a bill which would provide a pathway to citizenship to immigrant youth.

The “DREAM ACT” was rejected by Congress in December 2010, affecting many students who would be benefited by this bill. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (The “DREAM Act”) is a piece of proposed federal legislation that was introduced in the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed, the bill would provide a pathway to legal residency for immigrant students who have grown up in the U.S. With this bill, youth would be able to reach their dreams of applying for temporary legal status, and to eventually obtain permanent status and become eligible for U.S. citizenship if they go to college or serve in the U.S. military.

Janean is one of approximately one million undocumented students that would benefit from the DREAM-ACT, if this bill passes. She was in class when she found out the bill had been rejected once again. She said she didn’t understand why it didn’t pass. Although Janean is upset that the bill did not pass, she still has hope. She is not letting this shatter her dreams.

“I haven’t lost hope. As I grow older, I believe this will happen soon enough,” Janean said.

Janean is excited to graduate from college this December, but her fear after graduation is not having an opportunity to pursue a career in her field in the United States. As an undocumented immigrant, she does not have the legal right to work in the U.S. .She is a Latina that is looking for options to continue with her “American Dream.”

“When the bill was not pass, things started coming into my mind: what am I going to do now?,” Janean said. “I’m going to have to look for other options.”

After the DREAM ACT was denied once again, she had to open her mind to other options. She plans to apply for Graduate School and pursue a degree in her field, but there is little financial help that could be offered to her. As an undocumented immigrant, she is not eligible for federal financial aid and many scholarships are only open to U.S. citizens.

“I haven’t looked much into scholarships because of my status,” Janean said. “I want to see if I can find a job and pay for my Grad School.”

The search of a job is hard enough for Janean since she is not a citizen. Janean’s dream is to have an opportunity to live and work in a place she considers her home. Janean was born in Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico, but was brought to the United States at eight-months. Her parents wanted a better life for their daughter.

“I’m here, completely undocumented. All I have is my Mexican passport and my matricula consular,” Janean said.

Janean believes she is living part of the “American Dream,” having the opportunity to study at the University of Texas at Austin. Now that she is about to graduate in December, she has to look for other ways of becoming a professional. Although the Dream Act did not come to pass, she believes that if one door closes there are many others that will open.

“I’m not giving up my dream, there is always a next time.”

<font size=1><i>*Name has been changed to protect identity.</i></font>

By Sonia Escot

Homecoming Memories

Who doesn’t remember their most memorable high school dance? While flashing lights, a high school gym, and a talented D.J. may set the mood, but friends, your favorite moves, and a good spirit make the event memorable. We asked some Latinitas to share their favorite memories from high school dances, and this is what they say.

“My most memorable high school dance moment was the first time I went to homecoming with all my friends my sophomore year. All my friends danced together in a big circle to every song. I was tired by the end of the night, but it was so much fun!” ~Helen Rodriguez

“My most memorable high school dance moment was when I danced in three different dances. I participated in a country, a salsa, and a hip hop dance. I will never forget it because I was with my friends doing something we enjoy. I love to dance in high school because it keeps me out of trouble. Dance saved me. It gave me an opportunity to change, and show the world what I’m about. I can show my emotions by dancing without saying a word. Once I dance, it feels free. Dance can change anything.”
~ Lyseldi Ortiz

“I’ve always coordinated dances behind the scenes. It’s so much fun when the student council officers and members get to relax and enjoy with everyone else. Last year, after the dance, we ordered breakfast at Village Inn. I ate blueberry pancakes and enjoyed the sweets. My school hasn’t had a prom because there hasn’t been a graduating class. Instead, we’ve had homecoming, Halloween, winter, and spring dances. This year we will have our first prom.”
~ Liz Gonzalez

“My most memorable high school moment was at the last dance of the year, in June. All my friends and I got into the bounce castle that we set up in the school auditorium. It was my first year at the school, and the dance seemed to cap it off perfectly. I’ll always think back and remember my sophomore year, not with grades or field trips, but with bouncing off the walls of a giant rubber castle with all the people I’d grown to love at my school.”
~Eliana Grijalva

By Ashley Nelcy Garcia

Living with Diabetes

Danielle, age 17, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was three years old. “I felt scared and did not know what to think. I was not aware of what it meant to be diabetic, but I had a feeling I was going to have it for a long time…” she said. Although she did not find it difficult to adjust because she was diagnosed at such an early age, Danielle’s lifestyle does interfere with her daily activities.

“I have to watch what I eat and make sure I am always putting some sort of exercise in my day, even if I do not want to. At school, if I am to take a test, I [have] to test my blood sugar to see if I am able to concentrate only on the test because if my sugar is too high I need to [take] insulin and wait [until] my sugar is back down to take the test. But if my sugar is low I need to go to the nurse and get a snack to bring my sugar back up to the right sugar, so I won’t be falling asleep while I am taking the test.”

Danielle is aware of the complications that can come from not managing her diabetes. “My mom passed away because she did not take care of her diabetes and went into a diabetic coma,” she said. Like her, her sister also suffered from diabetes. “My older sister had a pancreas and kidney transplant. She had kidney failure because of her high blood sugars and she was close to dying so she was put on a transplant list in Phoenix, Arizona. She also got a pancreas as well which is why she is no longer diabetic and is doing much better…”

Blood sugar monitoring is a vital part of treating diabetes and it can save a person’s life. Danielle herself has experienced complications due to unstable blood sugar levels. “I have gone into diabetic reactions [when] my blood sugar goes way too low and I am unconscious. I have gone into DKA [or] diabetic ketoacidosis [when] my blood sugars were way too high and we were not able to get them back down,” Danielle said.

In situations like these she stresses it is important to remain calm. “The thing to know is that you should not panic if your friend is right next to you and faints…find someone who knows what to do…look in their bag, see what sugar you can find… Sugar is the most important thing to get into the body if [glucose] is too low… whatever you do, don’t panic,” Danielle recommended.

She also encourages people who know someone with diabetes to help through positive support by accompanying them to the doctor or to tests. “[Help your] friends out if they need it, give them smart advice and encourage them along the way …” Most importantly, Danielle believes the best way to help a friend with diabetes is to be normal. “Treat them as you do everyone else. Don’t change just because you found out something new about them, unless they need your help.”

As a young girl with diabetes, Danielle says it’s important to be optimistic if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with the disease. “[Don’t] be down and depressed about it because, yes it puts stress on you, but I mean, you’re still living life, if you take care of yourself you will grow old and be able to see you kids, grandkids, and great grandkids grow.”

November 2010

Diabetes – The Silent Killer

Like many other Hispanic families, my family has its battle with diabetes. My mother was the first to be diagnosed. Her diabetes was set off by her first pregnancy. It later developed into a permanent condition. Afterward, my uncle and my maternal grandmother where diagnosed with diabetes. A few years ago my paternal grandmother was also diagnosed with the same condition. Having so many members of my family suffer from diabetes makes me a potential candidate to suffer from it as well. Unfortunately, there are many young people like me who are at risk.

In the year 2007, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention reported that approximately 24 million people in the U.S. had diabetes. Of this staggering number about 10% were Hispanic. That means that in 2007 about 2 million Hispanics in the U.S. suffered from diabetes. As a matter of fact, diabetes is mostly prevalent among Latinos.

What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a medical condition that causes levels of sugar, or glucose, to rise in the body. The problem starts at the pancreas, an organ under the stomach that makes the hormone insulin which helps regulate glucose levels in body cells. Insulin also helps the body turn glucose into energy. When the pancreas is unable to make enough insulin or the body cannot use the insulin, the insulin starts to accumulate in the blood resulting in diabetes. The reason this can be dangerous is because it could lead to health complications such as blindness, kidney failure and amputations.

Both genetics and the type of lifestyle a person leads can affect a person‘s probability of having this disease. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. When a person has type 1 diabetes, the body produces very little or no insulin at all. It is usually diagnosed in children and teens and is believed to be genetic. Type 2 diabetes is more common and has been linked to excess weight and inactivity. People who suffer from type 2 diabetes either do not produce enough insulin or their bodies reject the insulin they produce.

Spotting the Symptoms
The main symptoms of diabetes type 1 and 2 are frequent urination, increased thirst and increased hunger which are caused by the increased levels of glucose in the body. Other symptoms might include fatigue, blurred vision, wounds that don’t heal, skin infections, and numbness or tingling in the hands and feet.

“We ask that you learn to identify differences in your body. If all of a sudden you’re experiencing [symptoms] and you know it’s not normal then you should check yourself,” Ms. Krasey said, Marketing Coordinator at the Diabetes Association.

Treating the Disease
It’s important to diagnose and treat diabetes early. “Diabetes is called the silent killer. Usually what happens is that you fail to identify the symptoms and as time goes by there can be complications,” Ms. Krasey cautioned. The sugar accumulated in the body can cause damage to blood vessels. Kidneys are made up of tiny blood vessel clusters and can be damaged severely which can require a transplant if diabetes is not treated. High blood sugar levels affect the eye blood vessels which can eventually lead to blindness. Diabetes can also increase the risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

Eating well and exercising regularly are essential to maintaining control of sugar levels and having a long life. Diabetes has no cure, so a person diagnosed with it who wishes to live a healthy life must commit to lifelong changes in their lifestyle. Blood sugar monitoring is a vital part of treating diabetes and it can save a person’s life. Changing glucose levels can be dangerous. Blood sugar monitoring is the only way to keep track of blood sugar levels which can change suddenly even with a strict diet. When a person’s blood sugar levels are at an extreme high or low, the person must seek immediate medical attention; seek an adult’s help or call 911.

For all type 1 and some type 2 diabetics insulin injections are essential to survive. However, oral insulin is also available for type 2 diabetics who are able to successfully control their insulin levels. There are many groups, such as the American Diabetes Association, that provide classes and support groups to help people learn how to treat diabetes and maintain a healthful lifestyle. If you think you might have diabetes, they can also provide low cost exams.

Living with Diabetes
Maria Teresa Cerqueira, Chief of the U.S.-Mexico Border Office for the World Health Organization stresses that the key to prevent diabetes is to maintain a healthy weight. “People should find a way to move, to keep active.” She recommends people exercise for about an hour a day, by either walking more or doing other activities they enjoy. Group activates are a good way of keeping active while having fun. “You don’t have to be a supermodel, just be healthy.” Ms. Cerqueira also mentioned that to keep a healthy weight, it is important to maintain a good self-esteem and drink plenty of water.

Although diabetes is a serious condition, Ms. Krasey also stressed that diabetes is not contagious. “Some kids hear diabetes and they get scared.” There is no way to contract this disease from other people.

November is diabetes awareness month. Let’s help raise awareness by wearing blue on Nov. 14. Eat well, be active and encourage others to do the same. It’s the only way to prevent and stop this disease.

November 2010

Indira Ortega

Age:18
Grade:Freshman in college

Tell us about a cause that you are passionate about. Why did you pick this issue for your service project?
Violence in Juarez. I chose it because I have friends that have been going through tough times because of the violence over there.

What is the community need or problem? Why is it important?
The need is to feel safe around each other because now you can’t even walk to the store without feeling unsafe. It’s important to come together because we can’t fight this alone.

Describe your community service project. What it is you do to help your community?
I came together with my family to have reunions in a park to talk about the different issues that are going on in Juarez and how we as teenagers can make a difference by changing our ways of looking at things.

What was your plan of action? What planning or preparation did you do to complete your project?
Since my friend was killed, I found out his brother got depressed, so I wanted to show him I was with him. So I gathered with my family and asked them for ideas to help the teens in the Juarez community. We thought about these gatherings and invited everyone.

Who benefited from your service project?
Several of my friends, neighbors of my family. Those who I’ve grown up with and also some of their friends.

What other volunteer projects do you participate in?
I just graduated from the Mayor’s Top 100 Teens and I want to get involved with community service opportunities in college.

What do you do for fun?
I love to hang out with my friends. Go dancing and get on the go-karts and also sometimes go partying. Right now, it’s been hard to have an extra-curricular activity, but I’m part of the Society of Women Engineers.

How can others get involved in this issue and help make a difference?
I was thinking about creating a blog in which people can share experiences and things like that. Just sharing and giving some type of advice can make a big difference.

November 2010

SB1070

We came here from Mexico
To look for Freedom

We crossed the border with
Scratches
And scrapes
Burns
And blisters

Everyone seemed nice
Everyone was friendly
Everything was fine

The govenor changed
The law
Now we’re like prisoners
Stuck in our homes
Scared to come out

We’re like turtles
Stuck in our shells

We work hard
We do it right
We don’t know
What we did wrong

By: Kimberly Garcia-Jordan