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What makes you special? 

By Liana “Cadia” Wiley


We each have individual and unique stories that make up who we are.  We experience very different lives that are motivated by a myriad of factors.  But usually the universal feeling is, “I want to do something,” or “I want to make a difference.” 


The question is: What mark will I leave on the world?


I don’t believe that ones mark has to be a global thing; it can be an improvement to a community or a school; it can be standing by a friend or helping a complete stranger.  It sounds so small, but showing a little consideration and kindness can make all the difference. 


Sometimes people get so wrapped up in their own lives and problems they inadvertently show it; sometimes we take it out on others without even saying a word. Of course, everyone is entitled to their “bad” days. I know I take full advantage of mine! 


But we must remember that we aren’t the only ones going through experiences. Everyone has their own baggage, so why add to it when it is so easy to relieve it.  Even if it’s only a little bit.  Trust the power of a kind word or smile and its impact on someone.


I learned these attributes are positive by using them.  But I really learned about them by watching mamí, abuelita, and my tias.  These Latinas are always greeted warmly if not lovingly when they see people they know.  They are greeted that way because that’s how they act towards others.  They are also greeted with respect, because they’re involved in their corners of the world.


So I have also learned to be involved from them and from some of you here.  I don’t remember, but I know I have been attending things such as Cleveland’s Convención since I was two or three.  I know I was at City Hall in 1993 when the Latino community got approval to change Ward 14 so we could someday elect a Latino councilperson. 


I know this and the importance of these events because my parents have instilled in me their significance.  An as I grew and watched, I became more and more aware of just how involved these ladies and my family were.  My Titi from Orlando has been involved in politics and helped with the development of their Latino community center.


 I know my abuelita was a major influence on young people in high school who were looking to go to college.  My mom has been on boards, given speeches, and supported community organizations, events, and businesses in our community.


It was from my family that I learned the meaning of the extended Latino family – the friend that you help and helps you – even the stranger who shows you a kindness and that you show kindness as well. 


I became involved because my Latina upbringing taught me to care, to support, to try to change things – out of love for my people and to respect the work of the Latinas who came before. 


It’s why I joined LATINA in the 7th grade.  It’s why I became so involved in school, activities, especially community service programs.  Working with others is something that I have come to know very well, it has become a big part of who I am.


Being Latina has influenced me in so many ways.  It not only makes me unique, but it gives me a whole other point of view that most of the girls who go to my school do not have.  I believe being a Latina is not determined by where you live, what you wear, the music you like, or by what you do.  I live in the suburbs; I like to wear silver more than gold; and I think it’s really fun to have picnics in the metro parks with all my different friends or stay in and watch movies. 


Being a Latina is a feeling – a feeling of passion, pride, and love towards our ethnicity and our beginnings.  We come in all shapes and skin tones and from different geographic locations, but we are connected by one united feeling of being Latina in the United States.


Anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  LATINA is such a group – thoughtful people, who have the capacity to make change in our challenging world.  Many if not all of you work to support and inspire Latinas to succeed.


Because of my parents, my brother, my sister, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my friends and people of the Latino community, I have been able to achieve what I have today.  They have shown me that I can do what I set my mind to.  It’s never going to be easy, but, in the end, it will be worthwhile.  If we all could extend that support to others in and out of our Latino community, we could make changes, and while we do that, show the next group of Latinos that they can do what they set their minds to.


This summer I attended the Esperanza Fiesta of Hope where the speaker wanted to leave the students with a dramatic visual of the fact that they are not alone.  The speaker asked Latino community organization leaders to stand and stay standing.  The past scholarship winners were asked to stand and stay standing.  Finally the speaker asked the students’ parents to stand. 


The students were able to see clearly, from all those people standing, that they are not alone – that there is a community of extended Latino family to support and encourage them during this next phase of their lives and to welcome them back to the community when they return from college.


This kind of support and encouragement does occur throughout our neighborhoods.  There are small groups of thoughtful people working to change their corners of the world.  There are successes throughout our Latino community, some are sitting here today, and others are out there doing their part.  Whether we see them or not, they are being successful.


As my dad’s coffee mug said, “They are a success who strive to make their little corner of world a better place.” 


Editor’s Note: Remarks of Liana “Cadia” Wiley at a LATINA Symposium held October 24, 2008 at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation House. Cadia is a senior at Magnificat High School in Rocky River, Ohio. LATINA is an organization of Latinas, which strives to support Latinas in their personal and professional development.







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