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At 14 years old, Yamileydis knows she wants to be a leader in her community. She lives on Cleveland’s near west side and attends Garrett Morgan High School, a place she considers to be “another home.” Her mother was born in Puerto Rico and speaks only Spanish. “I grew up with a good family, including three older brothers. Boys are fun, so there’s always something going on, and something to laugh or joke about,” says Yamileydis.

One of her brothers enjoyed participating in the Hispanic Services Office’s summer drug and alcohol prevention program at the Catholic Charities Covenant Center. The artwork involved in the program inspired Yamileydis to apply and she was selected as a leader for the 2021 program. Alongside other teens, she worked with young children to encourage positive behaviors and attitudes, sharing messages about living drug-free and treating others with respect.

“We made posters for daycares and created a puppet show. The kids were amazing. We asked them questions about themselves, and they answered so maturely, at just five, six or seven years old,” she marvels.

Yamileydis feels the program helped her grow as a leader, as she stepped up to keep older teens on task. “And the positive messages helped me a lot, too. We made posters about bullying because that can be hard in the schools. Kids can be mean. But no matter what’s going on at home, you can be kind and positive. And we made posters about drugs, which I always tell friends and loved ones, that’s not okay, I don’t accept that.”

Her favorites classes include art, English and history, but she hopes to explore many different subjects and career options. “I definitely will help others in my community. I don’t yet know exactly what I want to do, maybe something environmental.” Yamileydis recommends the summer program for other teens who want to make friends, grow in leadership skills and learn to interact with younger kids. “I’m grateful to Catholic Charities Hispanic Services for a good program that helps our community.”

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