I am an authentic, fun loving, determined, values-driven woman of faith. My life motivation is based on the Starfish Story and my experiences as a mother, friend, professional, community leader, teacher, and mentor.
I am a 48-year resident of Clark County with a strong love and loyalty to God, family, and community. I am looking to leave a legacy for my kids, and yours, to glean from for many years to come. I give my praise to God for His many blessings. I credit my family: Sam, Siboney, Dillon, and 4 grandchildren (who are my little slice of absolute heaven) for the many successes and piles of happiness that we have created and experienced together.
I have a diverse background ranging from construction management; to nonprofit management; to running 2 Congressional District offices in Clark County for former Congressmen Jon Porter and Joe Heck; and to now, the Founder, President, and Executive Director of Youth Leadership Authority (YLA)!
Alongside my extensive career above, God called me to fulfill my passion as a Starfish, to serve as a volunteer for the past 17 years as a Liaison Representative to the Southern Nevada Devil Pups Program. This volunteer service program became so great, I was moved to expand the already thriving organization, and to create my own nonprofit to help teens in even more ways. YLA was born in 2017 and proudly boasts 9 leadership programs within 3 series.
From my perspective, helping teens is not a choice; it is an honor and a responsibility. With one life to live, spend it wisely! I have always said: I did not pick my passion, my passion picked me. And I have one sentence and catchphrase that has carried me through the days when decision-making was not always easy; that is, “You can never lose by being kind and #EattheWatermelon.”
Why do I serve Youth Leadership Authority, their teens, and families? I believe is comes from not having a support system like what YLA provides AND not seeing a support system that molds a teen into a valued, productive, and whole member of society that YLA has accomplished in its years.
I grew up in a one-parent household. As I look back, I see that my mother has done the best that she could for me (which is great), but it did lack some values that we teach the youth here at YLA.
Then fast forward to 2019, when I first encountered 3 teens that going through YLA’s Southern Nevada Devil Pups program. I saw teens with confidence assisting Marie at the event and respecting adults they didn’t know (you rarely find that in teens). I have worked with teens at two separate churches and they had respect for people, but never on the level that the Devil Pups and YLA Eagles showed that night.
That became my why. Seeing teens being confident in themselves, loving people (“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ – Matthew 25:40 NLT) and creating a better community for everyone they come in contact with and instilling HRPKH in others.
I grew up in a home that taught me about self-reliance and a good work ethic. I have immigrant parents and grandparents that gave up their life dreams to raise me and my siblings in America. I saw the sacrifice needed for survival in this world. My parents’ example pushed me to never feel sorry for myself and to get things done. I developed the tools needed to be successful. I struggled immensely in academics growing up. My mother told me I had teachers claim I would never measure up to anything and to keep me behind. Knowing this was a struggle, and I fought diligently to dedicate myself as a student throughout my life to be accepted in physical therapy school and obtain my doctorate degree. I was resilient and persevered among raising a family. While raising a family I also served in the United Sates Marine Corps Reserve.
I developed a sense of duty and service over my ten years in the Marines. I continually found myself placed in leadership positions in all that I did professionally and personally. I learned to reshape my perspective over the years in leadership positions whether large or small. I was not a manager that managed, but a leader that inspired. As I decided to go into physical therapy, I realized how this position was no different than leadership because it inspires and empowers others to improve themselves through movement.
Having served in a variety of capacities, I have seen too many times how youth were lost simply because they had no one to look to for guidance. This is why I am here to give back. I want to be the mentor and hope for youth that struggle to find their way. I want to empower, enhance, and uplift others around me so we can be successful and thrive, not just survive.
Though it’s only been 8 years since I graduated from high school, I feel like it’s a lifetime ago. I had great mentors and teachers whose teachings still impact me today. I’m not sure you can under estimate the value of the years when you get out of high school. Even the most prepared young person will encounter the great hill of leaving what you know and finding your own place in life. That is why I come back every year with Youth Leadership Authority. YLA is one of few organizations that gives not only the most prestigious leadership training, but follows through even after to ensure our teens successfully launch into life.
I have been working with teens from various backgrounds for over 7 years. I am currently a school social worker with Clark County School District and work as a clinical social work intern after hours providing individual and couples therapy to adolescents and adults.
I have come to learn that the difference between wanting to help people and being able to help people comes from becoming educated. I have lead with that example as I completed both undergraduate and graduate studies in social work. Although my formal education is completed, learning can never stop. My goal with every teen is to help them become a lifelong learner. My success with them isn’t defined by their completing the various programs, but by their being able to go farther than I ever could.
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