When Clarita first joined the HealthFinders team back in 2009, she did not know the impact she would have in the Rice County community.
Ten years later, Clarita now serves as a Youth Health Educator under the MESA Program (Mejorando la Salud de los Adolescentes.) This program is made possible by a grant from the Eliminating Health Disparities Initiative (EHDI) of the Minnesota Department of Health’s Center for Health Equity. MESA was created to engage the community in reducing the gap between non-Latinx and Latinx teen pregnancy, HIV, and STI rates in Rice County. MESA collaborates with Growing-Up Healthy, Northfield Healthy Community Initiative, Rice County Public Health, Northfield and Faribault Public Schools, TORCH – among others –working together to provide programs and services for Latinx youth and parents in the community. Clarita herself oversees the Compadres/Comadres prevention program which is specifically geared towards Latinx middle school students with the overarching goal of promoting healthy lifestyle choices. With parental approval, youth meet weekly afterschool to discuss topics ranging from sexual health to healthy eating. After eight sessions, Clarita then invites the students and their parents/guardians to a pool party for the youth while the parents share a meal and discuss the 8-week session conclusions. This program structure helps build communication and creates an environment for both parents and youth to seek advice and information.
Working with youth has taught Clarita the changing needs of every generation and newcomers. Simultaneously, Clarita is completing her master’s degree in counseling and psychological services with a concentration in addiction studies. She will be a certified LPCC and LADC. Her current studies reflect her passion and desired future work alongside youth living with trauma and addiction. She has mastered difficult discussions about challenges in and out of school throughout the years and provides a safe environment for youth to share their feelings. Discussions have ranged anywhere from school troubles to trauma (whether that be physical or emotional.) Clarita’s cultural sensitivity and identification as one of the Latinx community leaders has been a foundation for trust and compassion in her work with youth and families.
Even with the changing needs of the youth and being on-call to help in the community, Clarita still finds time for her personal life and other passions. At the end of the day, Clarita understands that many of the situations she encounters are not hers to emotionally carry, she instead better serves the individual by providing sound advice and a listening ear.
As a strong advocate for self-care, Clarita encourages everyone to have something that brings happiness outside of the work realm. Clarita herself finds this joy as the leader of the Northfield Aztec dance circle Kapulli Ollin Ayacaxtyl. This group ties her pride in Aztec heritage and love for fitness.
Clarita lives with her husband Bob in Northfield and is the mother of three similarly compassionate children: Brenda, Javier, and Andrew. She is also the proud pet parent of Frida the cat and a new golden retriever puppy, Bebé (He will be her future therapy dog,) pet grandmother to Peace the dog, and caretaker of an entire flock of chickens!