By Ana Castillo Muñoz
When Danielie Rivero began her senior year, she was demotivated by a family situation. According to her, she was always a reserved young woman who could not hold a conversation with someone she had conflicts with in the past. Danielie was a girl with few or no friends, but one day she met her best friend Nashalie and everything changed.
For her, Nashalie is a fundamental piece. “She gave life to my life. I did not talk to anyone, I did not go out, I did not have quality time with anyone and it was not until my senior year that I met her. One day, my Converse broke and she gave me hers, “she says. That pair of shoes, which she still has, accompanied her until graduation and also helped her overcome the depression in which she was immersed, she defines them as “the shoes that have been with her in the good times and not so good times.”
In addition to those tennis shoes, Danielie has a pair of stilts with which she feels like another person. Her love for stilts was born in middle school. She thought it was wonderful to see other girls wearing them, so one day she said she wanted to try, but few payed attention to her. After a while, a classmate pleased her. She climbed on the stilts. And from there on she began to see the world differently. She saw it from a different perspective. “When I climbed on, I felt a chill. I felt like something was telling me ‘you’re scared about something silly, but you’re climbing on here and you’re not afraid,” she said with a big smile on her lips. Evidently talking about stilts excites her. Her current stilts are about five feet high. For her it is a beautiful experience to climb up, to dance, to see people having fun and laughing.
Today, Danielie has become an outstanding leader, which led her to become the Youth of the Year that represents the Residential Luis Llorens Torres in Santurce. She came to the clubhouse six years ago for some friends, she came up with the idea of receiving help with her assignments, she also knew that she would not get involved in any of the programs, because she was not interested in them. Over time, she made a commitment to the center and her community. So much so that along with other young participants, they made the first community newspaper “The Voice of Llorens”, in which they highlight the positive things that are happening in the community.
“Many times the media highlights the negative things that happen in Llorens Torres. We wanted to change those stereotypes, presenting the other side of the coin, to teach people, and the young people of the community that Llorens does have a group of people who want to change that branding, “she added.
Danielie has lived through more than many people what it is to bear the yoke of discrimination. She comes from a different type of family. When she was a child, her younger brother died in a car accident and her father was murdered. “My dad was a drug trafficker, the biggest of our residential area and because of that people placed stereotypes on his children. Those things affected me at a certain point in time, but the Club was helping me, they told me not to let that dictate who I was … we are going to help you go through a different path, we have better things for you to do and you have the potential to do so…”
“Being Youth of the Year is an experience that opens doors and fills you with knowledge. Being Youth of the Year involves many challenges, that exceed your own expectations and that you can change that branding, because people think that because you are the daughter of a delinquent or because you are from Llorens you will not prosper … it is to change those stereotypes”, she said.
If Danielie is aware of something, it’s what her mission is. For her the most important thing is to make clear that the youth are the only ones that can change the direction of this country. Her aspiration is to make this a safer place with equal opportunities. “If I am going to be the Youth of the Year in Puerto Rico, I would like to change the stereotypes that people have about our community and about the youth of our residential community. That is the most important goal I have set for myself, apart from being able to bring a visionary message to the youth of the country. I understand that every young person deserves to have a free education and must be educated …” she said.