The Riverdale team dressed the part at the first annual Superhero Summer Health Fair, Saturday, June 4, 2016.
El Chapulin Colorado serves up popcorn to health fair guests.
Our Riverdale team hosted their first annual Superhero Summer Health Fair for over 150 community members Saturday, June 4, 2016. The health fair emphasized healthy living and wellness in our community during the summer months.
The youngest guests came clad in their favorite superhero costumes and enjoyed a moon bounce, bean bag toss, ring toss, popcorn, and great music.
Families received summer safety tips and health resources from health and community organizations including American Red Cross; Prince George's Police Department; Amerigroup; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; La Clinica del Pueblo; El Zol; and Maryland Physicians.
Health fair guest Yolanda Quintanilla and daughter Supergirl discuss summer tips with exhibitor T-Mobile.
"This was an amazing event! I was able to acquire several resources. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the costumes and skit," said health fair guest Yolanda Quintanilla.
The fair premiered Ameri-Con, an informational video cast with superheroes who need vaccines and their blue-haired doctor. The video was produced by MMYC Riverdale staff and AmeriCorps members. Enjoy!
The SevaTruck team from right: President and Executive Director of SevaTruck Foundation Sonny Kakar and volunteers Nidhi Gulati and Rebecca Cohencious at the May 24, 2016, event.
Is that a food truck in Columbia Heights? Yes, it is! But, it is not selling anything at all. In April of this year, LAYC partnered with SevaTruck Foundation to serve free vegetarian meals to LAYC participants with the highest need.
The LAYC-SevaTruck soft launch event April 14, 2016.
SevaTruck is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization established in December 2015 and represents the first food truck in the D.C. metro region that is exclusively dedicated to serving free meals to the community. With a mission to combat hunger, serve humanity, and build unity, SevaTruck's ability to be mobile and agile in serving hot food where and when it is needed enables it to supplement the metro region's many brick and mortar food banks.
"We are so grateful to Sonny Kakar and the SevaTruck Foundation for selecting LAYC as a partner in carrying out our mission. So many youth in our community do not have access to nutritious meals in the afternoons," said LAYC Community Wellness Director Mike Leon. "Many of the youth we serve really only get a solid meal while in school. Providing a warm, nutritious meal to a cross section of very hardworking young people who are often over looked in traditional meal programs, serves a very critical need for us," he added.
SevaTruckserved its first meal to the LAYC community in mid-April. The next meal date is Tuesday, June 14. SevaTruck will offer two services on the 14th: at Noon in front of LAYC's building on Columbia Road, NW, and at 3 p.m. in front of LAYC's Safe Housing office on 15th Street, NW. Youth identified by LAYC receive tokens to exchange for a healthy, delicious meal on the day of meal service.
"We are so privileged to partner with the Latin American Youth Center to serve free nutritious hot meals to their youth," says Sonny Kakar, President and Executive Director of SevaTruck Foundation. "It is astonishing to me that Washington D.C. has the highest rate of food insecurities among children. When I heard that, I knew immediately that we had to do our part to address the most basic, fundamental need of food for those in need right here in our back yard," continues Kakar. "More importantly, in the case of LAYC, we have the opportunity to mobilize our SevaTruck and make immediate impact to youth and children who may not otherwise have access to a hot, nutritious meal."
We are so thankful for our partnership with SevaTruck, and we are proud to recognize them as our June 2016 Champs for Youth Partner Spotlight.
Carmen Bonilla with her Peer Educator of the Year Award at LAYC.
by Lily Gage, Teen Health Promoters Assistant Coordinator
"Oh no, you didn't!" Carmen said to me when the Department of Health's speaker announced that she had been nominated and selected as Peer Educator of the Year. I told her, "no, I didn't do anything. It was all you!" Carmen's face flushed as she cautiously approached the front of the auditorium to receive her award, but underneath her blush, she was glowing. But this was not the first time Carmen had been called up to the podium at the Youth Sexual Health Awareness Celebration sponsored by HAHSTA (HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration), a branch of DC's Department of Health.
Carmen and two other Teen Health Promoters students, Tatyana Russell and Kendall White, submitted a video for HAHSTA's "Check Your Risk" Video Contest to encourage STI testing. Their video, "Scared and Unprepared: What You Should Know About STIs" addressed misconceptions about prevention, transmission, and treatment of STI's and was awarded first place in this competition!
Not only did each student win a shiny Visa gift card, they also earned the opportunity to work with HAHSTA to develop the official video for the DC school-based STI screening program. This program brings STI screening to high schools in DC and now it will also bring Kendall, Tatyana, and Carmen's bright faces and wise words! In addition, another THP student, Pedro Ramirez, is joining the video team to act out STI prevention with gusto! The students will have the opportunity to write the script, offer filming and editing suggestions, and act. This video will be shown in every school-based STI-screening presentation in The District!
When the students met with HAHSTA representatives last week to discuss the video, it was so obvious how much these students had learned through their work as peer educators.
"We should show a couple talking about having safe sex."
"Definitely! Make sure that they talk about using condoms."
"And don't forget to say that students can get tested for free!"
Making this video is indicative of a year of hard work by all the Teen Health Promoters to not only learn about sexual wellness and other health topics, but to conquer an even more daunting skill, how to teach their peers. As Carmen accepted her second award of the evening, I beamed, knowing how hard she had worked to earn the title, "Peer Educator of the Year." I had watched Carmen ask questions every THP class, always engaged and interested in whatever we were learning. Then, this spring, I watched her facilitate three workshops on sexual health at Anacostia High School for the students there. I felt like a proud Mama watching my students get recognized and knowing that they deserved it. My students were thrilled to win gift cards, but I know that the knowledge and confidence they have gained this year is worth so much more.
When you walk into the offices of the Crystal Insurance Agency in Adams-Morgan, the first creature you encounter is not a person. It's a small white poodle named Chispa.
"Chispa" means "sparky" in Spanish, and there's no doubt that Crystal's Chispa lives up to her name. She sniffs. She scours. She prowls around as if she owns the place. She growls if anyone approaches the CEO, Margarita Dilone, in the wrong way.
"Chispa is the conscience of this place," says Dilone, who founded the agency 31 years ago. But Dilone has become, in many ways, the conscience of the neighborhood.
Hers was the first Spanish-speaking bilingual insurance agency in the District of Columbia, Maryland or Virginia. Under her leadership—some might call it sparky leadership—the company has grown to 4,500 clients, seven employees and $4 million in sales last year. By any measure, Margarita Dilone, who grew up in nearby Mount Pleasant, is a notable success story.
But she feels that her success is only as good as the success of her neighbors. That's why she has been a regular annual donor to the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC).
"One of the things I'm passionate about is educating our youth," she says. "The only key to economic empowerment is education. LAYC, without a doubt, has embodied that."
Dilone, who has four children and will soon welcome her sixth grandchild, is especially attracted to LAYC's emphasis on family. Many recent arrivals in Adams-Morgan and Mount Pleasant are children who come without their parents or parents who come without their children. "It can take a good five or ten years for these families to come back together," Dilone says. "A lot of these kids feel abandoned. They hear the siren call of gangs. That's why we need LAYC—to have another gang, so to speak."
For Margarita Dilone, burrowing into the daily life of the community began at an early age. Her parents owned and operated Casa Dilone, a food store that was located on Mount Pleasant Street NW. At the age of four, Margarita was propped on a stool, working the cash register. She never considered living or working in any other neighborhood.
Mount Pleasant and Adams-Morgan have changed greatly since the 1960s, Dilone points out. Residents of Hispanic descent now hail from many different countries rather than just a handful, and both neighborhoods are now more multi-ethnic than ever. "That's why LAYC's approach—to serve all ethnic groups—is so good and so necessary," she says.
Margarita Dilone is especially positive about LAYC's realistic programming. "They never claim that anything is easy," she says. LAYC emphasizes "persistence. If you get knocked down, dust yourself off and get right up. That's right for every child.
"Intervention is where it's at," says Dilone. "These children need mentors at that critical time. LAYC fills that gap for them. That's why they get my support."
LAYC honored the founders and leadership of TheDream.US, a national college access fund for immigrant youth. Pictured are Don Graham, Amanda Bennett, Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, and Program Director Gaby Pacheco with LAYC President and CEO Lori Kaplan and LAYC participants.
The Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) welcomed over 500 friends and supporters at its annual Gala on Wednesday, May 4, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. The theme of Gala 2016 was Today's Dreamers, Tomorrow's Leaders. The event featured exciting silent and live auctions; a VIP reception hosted by lead sponsor Capital One; and an inspiring program featuring LAYC youth, including a performance by Ma. Teresa Ebarita who wowed the crowd with her rendition of "The Climb". Erika Gonzalez, reporter and anchor for NBC4, returned to emcee the evening's program.
The theme Today's Dreamers, Tomorrow's Leaders celebrated the resilience and perseverance of young people who come to the U.S. as children and don't have immigration status that allows them to pursue their dream of going to college. The Gala also honored the leaders in education who lift them up. Gala 2016's honorees were the founders and leadership of TheDream.US Donald Graham, Amanda Bennett, Henry Muñoz, Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Candy Marshall, and Gaby Pacheco.
"As founders of TheDream.US, Donald Graham, Amanda Bennett, Henry Muñoz, and Secretary Carlos Gutierrez heard the DREAMers' call and created a scholarship fund for DREAMer youth. They have raised millions of dollars for DREAMers to pursue their educational goals," said Lori Kaplan, LAYC President and CEO. "As the President of TheDream.US, Candy Marshall's extraordinary leadership will ensure TheDream.US will thrive for years to come. Gaby Pacheco is a leader in the DREAMer movement, having walked from Florida to Washington, DC, to call attention to this issue. Gaby continues to fight for DREAMers at TheDream.US. We were proud to honor all of them at Gala 2016."
"The Latin American Youth Center is the gold standard of DC nonprofits and Lori Kaplan is, simply, the best. To be their guest is such a joy," said Donald Graham, founder of TheDream.US.
"TheDream.US is proud that we help amazing DREAMer students pursue higher education, and we hope to serve many more."
"When I was 18, it was people and organizations like Lori and LAYC that helped me unlock the doors of opportunity," said Gaby Pacheco, TheDream.US Program Director. "Today, I stand on the shoulders of those who believed in me just as LAYC youth stand on the shoulders of their LAYC mentors."
Special guests included Capital One Treasurer Tom Feil, Capital One Vice President and LAYC Board Vice Chair Simon Fairclough, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield President and CEO Chet Burrell, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, and DC Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1).
Gala 2016 celebrated 48 years of service to the community. Each year, LAYC supports about 4,000 youth and families in the District of Columbia, and in Maryland's Montgomery and Prince George's Counties. Since 1968, LAYC has served over 70,000 youth and families.
Proceeds from Gala 2016 will support LAYC's operations at each of its sites.