Rosella Nunez, 12, exhibited the versatility of Carson City's Hispanic youth Wednesday when she sang "Como la Flor" by Salena and Patsy Cline's "Walking After Midnight" at a special luncheon.
"We are truly a bilingual program," said Raquel Knecht, director of Nevada Hispanic Services in Carson City, after Rosella's performance.
The seventh annual "Salute to Youth" luncheon at the Governor's Mansion honored youth who have participated in programs offered by Nevada Hispanic Services.
The programs include Latin Energy, a dance group; Teen Girl Program for girls and Youth alliance for boys that discuss teen pregnancy, gangs and drug and alcohol abuse; Hola Carson City, a bilingual news program aired locally; and Uno con Uno, a mentor tutoring program at the middle schools.
Knecht said the programs serve as a transition into the real world.
"We're here to help them take those initial steps to get involved in other programs," she said. "They now can take the next step and be involved in any program in the community."
She said one of those steps would be to take over the programs in which they now participate.
Adriana Hernandez, 19, danced in the Latin Energy group and now coordinates the middle school dancers.
"They wanted to dance and I had some extra time, so I decided to coordinate them," she said. "I just teach them the dances and help them with fund-raising and stuff."
Knecht said that is how the program should work.
"This is the end result that we want," she said. "These kids will be taking over the programs."
Carson City schools Superintendent Jim Parry wants them to take over more than the youth programs.
"Go away from here. Go to college," he told students at the luncheon. "Then come back. We need you as teachers. We need you as principals. We need you as the superintendent."
Anel Ledezma, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Eagle Valley Middle School, said she participates in the programs as a way to celebrate her heritage.
"We're Hispanics. We're part of a community," she said. "We come from another country. I think it's a good thing to keep our traditions and let other people learn them as well."
Knecht said it is important to have the support of the community.
Mayor Ray Masayko agreed. He said he has attended the luncheon for the past three or four years.
"I have been an advocate and a supporter of the Hispanic community here in Carson City," he said. "I think it's important that I say, 'As the mayor, I appreciate your accomplishments and encourage further contributions.'"
The Latin Energy dancers from Carson Middle School also performed at the luncheon.