Latina Youth Turns Painful Past into Activism

StoryMarch 08, 1996
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Ana-Maria Nieves

Founder of Urban X

Ana-Maria Nieves is a Latina youth activist who was born in The Bronx to a drug-addicted father and an institutionalized, schizophrenic mother. She spent time in the foster system until her father regained custody of her, only so that he could use her for his personal profit; renting her out to childless couples and transforming her welfare benefits into drugs. She was left alone to fend for herself for weeks at a time, until she met a young man who seemed to want to help. After moving in with him though, she was subjected to years of rapes and beatings, until she became suicidal. Nieves finally found help when she went to earn her GED and was asked to join a leadership program, where she met other young people with similar traumatic experiences, and was inspired to become active in her community. She proceeded to join every youth organization she could find, and helped form an outspoken youth advocacy group called Urban X. Nieves is also involved with Do Something, a national organization that provides resources and training to help young people improve their communities.

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