Inspiring Latina: Girl Scouts Young Woman of Distinction Laura M. Robert Rivera

At just 17-years-old, Laura M. Robert Rivera is a truly accomplished and inspiring Latina.

The teenager has been a member of the Girl Scouts of the USA since she was just three-years-oldand this year, she's set to receive the highest scouting honor. She's been named one of the 2014 Young Women of Distinction by the Girl Scouts. 

Rivera, who lives in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, spends her time after school working in a shelter for abused young women. She created various recreational and motivational workshops to help these girls regain their power and build their self-esteem. She also spearheaded an awareness campaign about child abuse, which spread to 36 schools in Puerto Rico and Florida. 

Rivera chatted with us about her volunteer work, her plans for college (and the future!), and her advice for fellow Latina teens: 

Can you tell us about your volunteer work? 

Four years ago, I started visiting a shelter for abused girls. In this shelter, there were about 10 to 12 girls between the ages of 11 and 17. There were girls that had been removed from their homes, so they were living here full-time. I would visit them every Saturday with speakers, so they could work on their self-esteem and really work towards getting over what had happened to them and become leaders. That was my first goal while visiting them.

I started to do that to complete my Silver Award with the Girl Scouts, but I wanted to reach my Gold Award. So, I started to spread awareness at my school. I brought a speaker from the Department of Social Services, so they could speak about awareness and really create an impact on these students. I started that with only two schools in my community.

Have you expanded your project? 

Yes! After I achieved my Gold Medal Award and my Silver Medal Award, I wanted to keep working with these girls, because I had already gotten to know them and saw the impact of the program on them. So, the next year, I decided to do a week-long campaign in my school about prevention. 

So, I gave teachers in the schools information about child abuse, and I put banners up in the school. I gave out stickers with the blue ribbon, which is the symbol of child abuse prevention, so that everyone was aware of the problem in our society. After developing this week-long campaign at my school, I then decided to apply for a grant. I got the opportunity to duplicate this week-long campaign in 36 schools throughout Puerto Rico and one school in Fort Lauderdale, Florida! 

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Cristina Arreola, Editorial Assistant

Originally from El Paso, Texas, Cristina earned her degree at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University before moving to BrooklynNew York. In her downtime, you can usually find her scouring the city for the most authentic Mexican food (still looking...), scaring herself silly watching horror movies, or baking her favorite sweets. You can follow her on Twitter at @c_arreola

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