Story by Cinthia Rivera, Puentes Youth Leader
On June 27, 2012, youth leaders from the Latin American Youth Center/Maryland Multicultural Youth Center’s Puentes: Bridging Youth to Healthy Behaviors attended a local event featuring Council member Will Campos. At the event Campos announced the next step in his public service career when his term as a councilmember concludes; he will be running for the newly formed Maryland District 47B seat. Puentes Youth Leaders have been learning about the councilmember, other council members, and other stakeholders in Prince George’s County.
For us, attedning this event was important because we were able to meet our local elected officials who have the power to make things better for our communities. At the event I had the opportunity to thank Councilmember Campos for his work in supporting the Latino community and encouraging youth like me to be better leaders. Puentes youth leaders were able to talk to him, hear his advice on how to be good community leaders and he inspired us to continue our work. We also spoke to Senator Victor Ramirez and Christina Waddler of the PG County Department of Family Services, Mental Health and Disabilities Department. Ms. Waddler works to improve mental health services to youth and is a long-time supporter of Puentes.
By attending these type of events youth can meet new people, learn about our community leaders and talk to them about the issues that affect us. It is important for youth leaders to buildi connections to local officials, because these could lead to professional opportunities in the future.
Vanessa, a Puentes youth leader that also attended the event, said “We should know who is representing our community and we should know who to go to if we have any concerns.” Before she went to the event Vanessa felt nervous and shy, but at the same time she said she felt excited. Now, she says she feels empowered to do it again. For those of you who may be intimidated by these types of events here is a tip: when I am nervous and shy I start thinking “what is the worst that can happen?” I start to relax myself and think about the good things that will happen.
Puentes: Bridging Youth to Healthy Behaviors is an initiative led by the Latin American Youth Center/Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers in collaboration with multiple stake-holders in northern Prince George’s County that strives to increase public understanding of and public support for mental health services to youth and their families, particularly for the Spanish-speaking immigrant community. Puentes is supported by the Consumer Health Foundation.