Gerardo Arias, a member of our Mentoring International team in Panama, shares with us the memorable event of the closing ceremony, as well as an inspiring true story by one of our guest speakers.

On the morning of December 5th we closed our school year with the students and mentors from Centro Súperate Fundación Motta in a highly thoughtful and encouraging session. Yelitza Norse,the Community Affairs Coordinator from Manzanillo International Terminal in Panamá, was our guest speaker for this session. Yelitza was by far one of our best speakers this year and she shared with us her personal and inspirational story.

Yelitza was born and raised in Colón, Panamá’s second largest city with the highest crime rates in the country. Her parents were both teachers, living on a limited income and her dad worked five jobs during a period of time to ensure that Yelitza and her brother could receive a good education. Through this challenging upbringing Yelitza was made aware of the importance of family and she learned that with hard work and dedication anything can be accomplished.

After graduating from high school, Yelitza decided to study journalism, for which she had to move to Panama City. It was the first time she experienced what it meant to be away from home and living on her own. Renting a small room with the very small allowance her family could provide her, she managed to make ends meet. The loneliness of being away from her family, the long hours of study and the challenge of living on her own with a very tight budget made her want to quit at times, but she resisted and found strength to instead embrace it as a learning experience and opportunity to build resilience and succeed.

Soon after graduating she encountered difficulties in finding a job in the field of journalism. Frustrated, she moved back to Colon where she started to proof read papers to earn some money on the side while figuring out what to do next. Through a public employment program she ended up working as an assistant at Manzanillo International Terminal in Colón, wondering what was she doing there, as the job had nothing to do with her training and journalistic career aspirations. Through an internal promotion, she was appointed as the Community Affairs Coordinator and has been working there for 13 years now. By adapting to changing realities, building new dreams and finding alternative ways to success, Yelitza is now truly proud of being able to give back to the community that has seen her grow.

Yelitza shared her inspiring story with the students from Centro Súperate Fundación Motta. No matter where you come from and the obstacles on the road, with hard work, dedication, love for our families, strong values and by embracing opportunities, all things are possible. She reminded the students that no matter how far they get to never forget where they came from and always go back to the roots. As she described how she learned to drive an old car to only go forward without knowing how to use the reverse, our lives are the same way about always moving forward where the sky is the limit.

It certainly has been a challenging year, but truly rewarding when there are people that can be of inspiration to others.