Leadership program mentoring the next generation of Latin women

CLEVELAND — A Cleveland woman is inspiring a new generation of young women through her Latina leadership program.

Yasin Cuevas, who is the director of the program, started it 10 years ago to give Latinas in northeast Ohio leadership skills, a sense of brotherhood and a boost in self-esteem.

The program is open to 13- and 17-year-old girls who have roots in Latino heritage.

Cuevas said the program for her was personal. Growing up, her mother made a lot of sacrifices and enrolled her in modeling lessons when she was 11 years old. The classes, she says, changed her life and she wanted other young Latina girls to experience what she experienced.

“I’m so lucky to be able to offer this for free in the community. It’s good. And every year it’s a new cohort and they’re part of my life,” Cuevas said.

For Dariana Rivera Orta, who was crowned Latina Image 2022, taking the program helped her adjust to life in the United States after leaving Puerto Rico.

Yasin Cuevas—Director of the Miss Latina Image program.

Young women participate in the Latina Image leadership program.

“I didn’t know English. I had no friends here, so I arrived fresh. This program has really helped me a lot, especially being so shy about stepping out of my comfort zone and being able to, for example, make new friends and provide me with new sisters,” Orta said.

Cecile Diaz-Hernandez, the first Miss Latina 2022 runner-up, said she was a shy person before the program. She learned public speaking and interviewing skills through the program.

“I learned confidence, a lot of confidence. I was never confident and always doubted myself, Hernandez said.

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Yasin Cuevas—Director of the Miss Latina Image program.

Young women participate in the Latina Image leadership program.

Cuevas said the program is essential for young Latin women.

“Sometimes there are things we learn from others and I try to be a mentor as much as possible,” she said. “It is important to connect our young people with this kind of program.

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Yasin Cuevas—Director of the Miss Latina Image program.

Young women participate in the Latina Image leadership program.

Recruitment efforts are underway in January and February. Cuevas said there still aren’t many Latin girls who know about this free program.

The program is open to all high school Latina girls, ages 13-18. Cuevas said they don’t need to know Spanish and/or English. Girls also do not need to be born in their country.

“I just want to tell the other girls that are out there and they’re scared to try, just go. I mean, it brings you a lot of understanding, a lot of maturity. So I’ve matured a lot as a person through the program,” Orta said.

Find more information about the program here.

The program is based at the Julia De Burgos Cultural Arts Center, located at 2800 Archwood Avenue in Cleveland.

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Kevin E. Boling