2019-20 Southeast Youth of the Year
Born in Cuba, Leonela came to the United States when she was 11 years old. A shy girl who did not speak any English, she struggled to make friends. Then she found the Boys & Girls Club, where she rediscovered the feeling of community she missed from Cuba. The Club provided Leonela with a sense of belonging and quickly became a second home.
Through her Club, Leonela found the power of her own voice. The STAR (Students Taking Active Roles) Leadership Training taught her the importance of being a community leader. She is a voting member for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Sarasota and led her high school’s UnidosNow Club, a service group for Latino and Hispanic students who plan to go to college. Leonela is an advocate for mental health services and for leading a healthy lifestyle free from drugs and alcohol.
Leonela is a freshman at the George Washington University studying psychology. She plans to pursue a career as a pediatric psychiatrist.