More than 50 young participants were acknowledged for their academic achievements at the May 25th event. Fifteen high school graduates achieved 100 percent college acceptance and collectively earned approximately $4.5 million in college scholarships and grants.
(Sarasota-Manatee; June 1, 2023) More than 50 young participants in UnidosNow’s Future Leaders Academies programwere acknowledged for their academic successes on May 25 at the Harvest House’s Life Enrichment Campus in Sarasota. During the event, UnidosNow Executive Director Cintia Elenstar announced that of the group, 15 high school seniors achieved 100 percent college acceptance and collectively earned approximately $4.5 million college scholarships and grants. The graduates will attend MIT, Wake Forest, University of Portland, UF, New College, USF, Ringling College of Art, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, among other schools. The Future Leaders Academy (FLA) is a rigorous year-round program offered primarily to low-income, first-generation Latinx high school students and their families in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
The UnidosNow event brought together community partners and mentors to recognize and applaud students of all ages who participate in the Future Leaders Academies program. Several students and parents provided personal testimonials about how UnidosNow and the Future Leaders Academies program have positively impacted their lives.
“UnidosNow assisted me in achieving its slogan: ‘To dream big!’ I have been empowered by the UnidosNow team to seek a degree in computer science studies, and I will be participating in the University of Florida’s Gator Engineering Program,” explained Ariem P., a graduating senior from Sarasota High School.
Norma C., the parent of an elementary student in the FLA program, told the audience that it has not been easy for “immigrants like us to start over in another country. There are many cultural and linguistic barriers. But thanks to UnidosNow, my family and I have been discovering the opportunities available to us for integrating into this community.”
The event also celebrated alumni who have graduated from college, as well as past FLA graduates who are enrolled in college and work as college coaches for the current cohort of high schoolers. Isabella M., a UF student enrolled in MIT’s summer astrophysics program shared, “When someone asks me how UnidosNow has impacted me, I always say that without them, I would be flying aimlessly into space, lost in the darkness between the stars. They have provided me with the fuel to lift off and coordinates to lead me to another galaxy full of accomplished dreams.”
Elenstar challenged the graduates to “make epic happen” and offered them four suggestions for doing just that:
“1) Stay true to your values, that’s a matter of integrity and self-respect.
2) Speak up: your voice matters. Stand up for yourself and for what is right.
3) Be compassionate. Embrace yourself and the world with loving-kindness.
4) Believe in the power of collaboration. We can achieve so much more when we work together.”
Elenstar also thanked the UnidosNow funders, which include Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, Bank of America, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, The Patterson Foundation, William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, The Bishop Parker Foundation, the Cook Family Foundation, Evalyn Sadlier Foundation, the Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation, Scheidel Foundation, and the Louis & Gloria Flanzer Philanthropic Trust.
- Future Leaders Academy senior Maria Prisila E. and her parents. She will be attending New College of Florida.
- Future Leaders Academy for Middle School graduate Santiago B. and his family.
- Executive Director Cintia Elenstar announcing that this year’s seniors collectively earned over $4.5 million in scholarships and grants.
Founded in 2010, with a mission to elevate the quality of life of the growing Hispanic/Latinx community through education, integration, and civic engagement, UnidosNow has established itself as a leader in the field of postsecondary education attainment. To date, through direct service programs, advocacy, and coalition-building, UnidosNow has served over 3,500 low-income Hispanic/Latinx students and their families through its elementary, middle, and high school programs, and has assisted high school students in earning more than $18 million in scholarships and grants.