Youth Academy for Latinx Leaders (Y.A.L.L.) or Academia Juvenil De Lideres Latinos
Part II: Implementation phase
Written by Javier D Rincon, UVMLCOM 2025
Despite initial challenges, months of dedicated work yielded successful student recruitment and program commencement. The first week focused on instilling leadership skills and financial literacy, empowering students through engaging workshops, team-building activities, and practical exercises. This approach aimed to mold students into influential leaders within their communities while providing them with essential skills they might not have been exposed to otherwise. During the first day, the students heard from Wilson Hernandez,
a local business owner, community leader, and native of Ecuador, about the importance of fostering leadership skills. The second half of the day, Elsabel Rincon M.Ed., originally from the Dominican Republic, taught the students about financial literacy. Elsabel works as a business development lending officer with a community financial institution and is the founder/director of the non-profit the Welcome Immigrant Network. The day concluded with a trip to the Savings Bank of Danbury, where the students continued to learn about financial literacy from Farley Santos, the bank Vice President and Connecticut State Representative, whose family hails from Brazil. As the day passed, the shy teenagers that had just met started opening up, actively engaging with the material and using words that many of them had just heard for the first time. And as administrators, we immediately began to see that the time and effort spent on creating Y.A.L.L. was more than worth it.
In the second week, the program’s curriculum delved into broader aspects of personal well-being and community engagement. With the help of Denisse Rodas RN BSN, a nurse at Danbury Hospital with roots in Ecuador, students explored general health and lifestyle choices, inspiring them to adopt healthier habits. We believe community service and engagement play a crucial role in fostering empathy and social responsibility, encouraging students to actively address community needs. Beyond academics, the program delved into Danbury’s history, forging a stronger sense of belonging and identity among participants. We hope that understanding their community’s past will foster deeper connections and a sense of purpose among the students. The students were introduced to these complex topics by Councilwoman Diana Merchan and Brigid Guertin, Executive Director of the Danbury Museum and Historical Society. Councilwoman Merchan is a Colombian native, a teacher, and the first Latina elected to the Danbury City Council. Brigid Guertin shared insights into the city’s rich history and its significance in shaping the community they call home.
With the second week behind us, what started out as moments of awkwardness with lots of room for growth for both educators and students, has transitioned into enjoyable moments that we all look forward to. Witnessing the students’ engagement and enthusiasm as they embrace new knowledge and skills has been incredibly rewarding. As we progress, we hope to continue developing the curriculum, fostering an inclusive environment, and providing opportunities for personal growth. One of the upcoming highlights is a student-led research project that will be presented at the Nuvance Global Health Conference. We aim to showcase the incredible potential and capabilities of these Latinx students, inspiring others within and beyond the community.
Throughout the implementation of Y.A.L.L., the organizers from the NGHA and DCC remain steadfast in empowering Latinx high school students as future community leaders. Imparting essential life skills, fostering leadership qualities, and cultivating community involvement are at the core of our mission, seeking to leave a lasting impact on students and the wider community. As Y.A.L.L takes strides towards bridging trust and empowerment, the curriculum will continue to evolve, catering to the community’s specific needs. Nurturing trust, inspiring student participation, and collaborating with stakeholders will help create a transformative program that empowers Latinx high school students, bridges gaps within the community, and paves the way for a brighter future for all.
We firmly believe that education is a powerful tool for uplifting individuals and entire communities. By empowering these young leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed, we hope to build a stronger, more united, and equitable society for generations to come. As we forge ahead, we are humbled and grateful for the opportunity to be part of this journey with the students, families, and the entire Danbury community. Together, we will continue to break barriers, shatter stereotypes, and build a future where every voice is heard, valued, and celebrated. Y.A.L.L is more than just a summer academy; it is a symbol of hope, resilience, and collective progress, embodying the spirit of unity that binds us together as a community.
Celebration for the First Class of the Youth Academy for Latino Leaders
There was a small celebration for the first class of the Youth Academy for Latino Leaders which was held at the DCC in Danbury on Sunday, August 20 at 3 PM.
Elvis Novas, Advisor for the Dominican Community Center and member of the Board of Directors of Housatonic Habitat for Humanity, Danbury, is presenting the certificate and scholarship to student Hermin Fernandez, one of the graduates of YALL program
Originally published in the Global Health eMagazine September 2023 Edition.
See the original article below.
eMagazine September 2023 (adobe.com)