What is your Hispanic Heritage: Mexican
What area of Florida do you live in: Ocala, FL
What is your profession: Registered Nurse
Meet Virginia and other Lideres at the Hispanic Heritage Celebration at 3rd Annual FORD Taste Of Latino Festival on Sunday, Oct 17th @ Centro Asturiano! (www.TasteofLatino.com)
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about what you do for a living and how you got into it.
Virginia: I am the Director of Nursing at a Residential Juvenile Facility. I have always desired to work in the medical field. While obtaining my Nursing degree, I personally experienced the challenges of having my sons in the juvenile justice system. Upon completion of my degree the opportunity to work with incarcerated juveniles was presented and I felt a calling to help this community.
Latin Times Magazine: In your industry, what would you say separates you from your competition
Virginia: I believe my personal struggles and challenges with my own sons in the juvenile justice system allows me to not only be an advocate for the youth, but also for their parents.
One way of being an advocate for the youth, especially the Latino youth in this community is ensuring the language barrier is broken. I have personally seen the difficulties these youth & parents have had not being able to communicate and comprehend due to the language barrier. There have been multiple youth that have come to these juvenile facilities with no grasp of the English language. Also, I have witnessed parents of these youth who don’t speak or read the English language. When we, as the juvenile justice system, reach out to these parents to be notified about medical treatment their youth are having these parents cannot understand us. Because of that reason, I translated ALL medical documents in the Juvenile Justice System into Spanish. Thus, enabling our notifications to be sent out to the Latino community in their native language. Therefor giving the parents an opportunity to understand procedures, treatments and evaluations that are happening with their youth.
I also, was the first staff in the Department of Juvenile Justice System in Florida, to ever implement an event celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. I am proud to say we have now continued this tradition for 3 years and I’m excited for many more. I feel it is important to continue this tradition to educate all youth, staff and administrators of the amazing accomplishment that Hispanic Americans have done in this country.
Latin Times Magazine: During Covid-19, tell us about your Biggest Challenge/obstacle and how you overcame it/or are overcoming it
Virginia: My biggest challenge during this pandemic, being a Nurse, I knew from day 1 that COVID-19 was a real threat and present danger to our community. I also realized that with my work community it would be extremely difficult to maintain social distancing. Very early in the pandemic I implemented and created strict COVID-19 protocols for my facility. Knowledge of shortage of PPE Gear, meant I had to become creative and think outside the box. I used resources at hand such as heavy-duty rain gear, Hazmat gloves, duct tape, shower caps, and heavy-duty plastic bags to ensure our staff and youth were protected against any possible contamination. I contacted local and statewide breweries to obtain and use hand sanitizer produced by them during these times of shortages. I also made contacts out of state to create & make 3-D prints of headbands to be used with clear plastic for facial coverings. Because of these strict protocols and thinking out of the box for PPE Gear our Covid-19 cases are extremely low in comparison to other juvenile facilities, the state and country. We have a revolving population of up to 48 youth and we have only to date 3 cases of Covid-19.
Latin Times Magazine: What is your opinion of the state of affairs in our nation?
Virginia: We need to stop thinking about what people will think of us, stop worrying about our social media status, instead we need to unite and make our nation a better place to live for all Americans
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about your biggest achievement, and how you achieved it (Covid or non-related)
Virginia: My biggest achievement has been being a voice for the Latino youth and parents. kids. I have seen kids that were undocumented, others that did not speak the language, others that felt alone. I been able to provide them a voice to them and their families. I was part on brining clothing fairs and educational fairs to these kids so they can have a better future when they get out
Latin Times Magazine: What is next for you? What can people expect to see from you?
Virginia: I believe the biggest challenge we face is the lack of information and education, especially with the families of these kids. I am working on implementing an information program that will provided these families with all the tools to make sure their kids do not come back to this facilities
Latin Times Magazine: What does being a U.S. Citizen mean to you?
Virginia: I was very fortunate to have been born in Texas and an American by birth. I feel extremely blessed to be a U.S. Citizen. I have spoken with and heard life stories of friends not native to America and I am always in awe by their perseverance to achieve the status I was born into. I admire those who have such courage to leave their native country, family, friends and all they are accustomed to.
To begin anew in any situation is always intimidating, much less adding a possible language barrier, decrease in finances and lack of personal support. I believe it demands a certain level of respect for such a feat.
Latin Times Magazine: What words of encouragement can you offer?
Virginia: Every day given is an opportunity to learn. Know that the worst anyone can ever tell you is NO. If you don’t ask, you already have a NO. So, with that knowledge, you have already experienced the worst. NOW go after the Best.
Latin Times Magazine: What is YOUR comida Latina favorita?
Virginia: It is barbacoa and carne guisada tacos from Texas