TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Elida Villegas, a senior at Lennard High School, is a first-generation student. Just as important to her as earning her education, is helping families like hers: Hillsborough County’s Latino and migrant farming community.
“Everyone is a leader in their own way,” said Elida, who gives back to her community by volunteering with a number of local organizations.
She’s a volunteer at Nearly New in southern Hillsborough County. The thrift store not only provides an affordable place to shop, but it also funds grants and scholarships in the community. The Villegas family, which divided time between Michigan and Florida for seasonal agricultural work as Elida was growing up, shopped at Nearly New often.
Explaining the value of working with Nearly New, Elida explains, “I was able to be a bridge for people who spoke Spanish, the customers, and also the people who work there.”
Elida’s also a member of Latinos in Action at Lennard High. Latinos in Action is a non-profit, national organization that works to empower Latino students. Locally, Latinos in Action supports Wimauma’s Latino culture.
Elida also mentors younger students through the Redlands Christian Migrant Association, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides childcare and early education for children of migrant farmworkers and other rural, low-income families.
“Having the children see somebody that they know comes from the same struggles as their own parents makes them feel more comfortable with me,” Elida said.
Elida spent the summer as a paid intern, through Bank of America’s Student Leaders program, and had the opportunity to network with community leaders and other students, virtually, across the country. She also volunteered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Suncoast.
Elida has big plans for her future, too. After high school she plans to earn a college education, and, the self-professed “math geek” aspires to become an engineer.
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