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Hermanitas brings mentors to students Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Dec 18 2010 12:00 PM

About 60 young women from local middle and high schools attended an educational seminar Dec. 11 at the Chula Vista Police Department sponsored by the Mexican-American National Association of San Diego.

The event was coordinated by Hermanitas program director Celina Caprio and focused on the hermanitas or "little sisters" one-on-one mentorship program.

MANA de San Diego is a non-profit women's organization that assists young girls and women by providing them with skills, tools and support through educational programs.

Hermanitas is a mentoring program that runs throughout the school year and is one of four the association created to encourage young women through mentoring, educational financial support, health and wellness and leadership development workshops.

Myrian Solis Coronel, 30, is vice president of programs and has been at MANA for five years.

"It builds self esteem and allows Latinas to link with mentors in their field," she said.

Vivian Moreno, 28, has been a mentor with MANA four years and currently advises 16-year-old Yaneth Mora, a junior at Sweetwater High School. Mora has been in the Hermanitas program since seventh grade.

Moreno said she became a mentor because she didn't have anyone to turn to as a youth.

"When I finished the university, I said I want to be that change," she said. "I followed my passion to become a mentor and it's opened up a door ... I'm fulfilling a passion and doing something positive."

Moreno said Mora continues to go through many self-discovery issues. "I allow her to make mistakes," Moreno said.

"I know I will see her realize things on her own."

Carol Trujillo is a deputy city attorne an talked about how she became a lawyer. "Anything that's worth having is worth working hard for," she said. "It's very rewarding to find something you like to do."

Chula Vista Police Department Public Safety Analyst Melanie Culuko, has been with the department six years and calls herself a social justice advocate. Culuko was the only person in her family who attended college and graduated and talked about bullying in schools.

"How many of you see bullying going on in your schools?" she asked. Most of the students raised their hands. "What I empower you to do is be a catalyst for change," she said. "Talk about not perpetuating a rumor or gossip."

Culuko told the girls to surround themselves with positive people who make the right choices. "If something doesn't sound right, feel right, look right - you need to stand up for yourself," she said.

Sarah Sharpe has been a Chula Vista police officer for nine years and talked about sexting, or sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, with adolescents and teens.

Sharpe is a school resource officer and member of the crisis negotiation team.

According to Sharpe, one in five boys and girls admit to receiving suggestive texts, while 50 percent of teens admit to it. Sexting under age 18 is considered child pornography.

"In other states, kids have been put in jail for that," she said. Sharpe admonished the girls about thinking twice before sending inappropriate texts, or even allowing others to send them.

California does not currently have any laws against sexting.

"Seminars help expose the consequences of making poor decisions," Mora said. "It makes you think twice - you get inspired."

Alicia Chudy is a traffic officer with the Chula Vista Police Department and judo expert.

Chudy is 4 feet, 10 inches and was constantly discouraged from becoming an officer because of her height, especially by men.

"If you want something, you're going to do anything you want to get it," she said.

No one in Mora's family has been to college and she said she wants to become a psychologist to help people who have grown up in unhealthy families become more stable.

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