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Latina honored with YWCA Milestones award

By Kevin Milliken for La Perensa


A Perrysburg Heights Latina who works tirelessly for the benefit of her neighborhood is one of the honorees at this year’s YWCA Milestones: A Tribute to Women luncheon held Thursday, March 15, 2012 at the SeaGate Centre in downtown Toledo.


Anita Sánchez-Serda was one of seven local women honored at the luncheon, recognized for her community service in the arts category.


Simeon Serda, Jr., Stephanie Serda, Anita Sánchez-Serda, Raquel Serda, and James A. Serda

“What an honor, how humbling, and what an inspiration!” she wrote on her Facebook page under a picture posing with her three grown children, two sons and a daughter. “I will treasure this day always!”


Ms. Sánchez-Serda is the co-founder of the Perrysburg Heights Community Association (PHCA), a non-profit organization focused on social and educational benefits for the surrounding community. She also is founder and event coordinator of Ohio’s South of the Border Festival, generating over $40,000 annually for the PHCA. It is usually held in mid-August.


“I had no expectations going into the ceremony, but you anticipate over time seeing other individuals receiving those accolades,” she said in a phone interview. “It was amazing to be a part of such a distinguished group of women. I think, truly, the opportunity, when you think about how other people see you, it was definitely portrayed on that day. I think it’s something I will remember forever.”


In her spare time, Ms. Sánchez-Serda works to promote the Ballet Folkorico Imagenes Mexicanas dance troupe, a program within PCHA that encourages dance as a means of self-expression, and teaches women a sense of commitment, leadership, and time management. The dance troupe, as well as many other PCHA programs, is housed at the Perrysburg Heights Community Center. She stated the Milestones award is wider recognition of the center’s efforts.


“I think it’s something that shows success at different levels, being able to know the concept you have to be able to help kids or help a community has gone beyond that,” she said. “We’ve opened it up to literally all of Northwest Ohio with the different kinds of programs that we’ve had. I feel blessed that my ideas, the collaborations we’ve made with so many other people have really been recognized and noticed. It’s a very humbling experience, but I give kudos to anyone who’s ever been a part of it.”


Ms. Sánchez-Serda, 49, takes particular pride in the award as an example of what young Latinas can accomplish. She has mentored dozens of young women over the years and hopes it will continue to show them the possibilities in their own futures.


“It does what has always been in our mantra and mission—to empower them,” she said. “Here’s somebody that they know—and they know by first name—that can achieve those goals. I’ve supported them, I believe in them. I’ve shown them that God has given us different gifts. I myself want to show them to not be afraid to show someone else that they have value. I think it’s part of my own personal ministry to be able to give them an incentive, something to focus on, even when they ask ‘What can I do here, how can I make this better?’ It’s always: ‘Never give up.’ I hope it’s something they can reflect on it and see I’m confident in whom I am.”


‘I Choose Me’ program


If those activities didn’t keep her busy enough, Ms.Sánchez-Serda currently is in the process of kicking off her “I Choose Me” program in partnership with the College of Nursing at the University of Toledo. The program is designed to teach adolescent girls the necessary tools to be able to transition into successful women through building self-esteem, confidence, leadership, and determination skills.


“It’s an individual mantra that I want each of these young girls to hold in their hearts,” she said. “I want them to be able to say that women have struggles—within their family, within their school, within themselves—and there are choices that they make for themselves. There are people who believe in them.”


Ms.Sánchez-Serda admitted some of those choices may not always be popular or what everyone else is doing—the “groupthink philosophy” as she called it—but the girls she works with should be able to make them from the heart as what’s best for them as individuals.


“We are so caught up in what society expects of us,” she said. “We come from a culture that expects you to raise children, care for children. I want them to be able to say they want to go into the sciences or possibly become a lawyer or achieve a goal. It’s never too late to start.”

Ms.Sánchez-Serda explained that “I Choose Me” will be a program run at the community center where the young women who participate will respect each other and their ideas will be respected as well. She wants young Latinas 11-to-16 years to be able to share their thoughts without worry. She hopes to encourage participants in a retreat-like setting, invite speakers, and take the young women on field trips. UT nursing students will act as role models and mentors to participants.

“I started to see a pattern where trade school was offered as the only option,” she said. A four-year college and other education should also be options. I wanted to see that change. I also see relationships that hold girls back and sometimes overpower them. I want them to be able to see that they’re equals.”

Ms. Sánchez-Serda’s entire family attended the Milestones luncheon, an important show of support to her.

“One of my greatest achievements is them and being a role model to them, to show and encourage them,” she said.

“I know this award recognizes what we do in the community as women for women. To me, being able to do that for my sons and teaching them about the value of people and expecting that what comes around goes around. I truly believe they were as proud of me as I am proud of them and their own achievements. It was such a good feeling to have them around.”

On January 10, CEO Lisa McDuffie announced the 2012 Honorees for the YWCA Milestones: A Tribute to Women annual award to also include: Susan Morgan – Business; Patricia Hogue – Education; Lenora Barry – Government; Margaret Danziger – Sciences; Charlotte Shaffer – Social Services; and Cindy Dana – Volunteerism.

This marks the 17th year that the YWCA of Northwest Ohio has recognized extraordinary women in the community who have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities and have demonstrated efforts contributing to the empowerment of women.

Established in 1996, the Milestones Awards recognize women from Northwest Ohio for outstanding accomplishments and contributions to the community. The purpose of the awards is to honor area women who have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities and who, through their efforts and accomplishments have opened doors for other women to achieve their potential, as well as actively contributing to the empowerment of women.


Copyright © 1989 to 2012 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 03/20/12 15:16:17 -0800.





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