Jasmeliz Rivera pratices to break free from the hold of Mary Mendez-Rizzo during a self defence workshop at Soy Unical Soy Latina Rally on May 18 at Robert Wesleyan College.(EMC Photo by John Haeger) Jasmeliz Rivera pratices to break free from the hold of Mary Mendez-Rizzo during a self defence workshop at Soy Unical Soy Latina Rally on May 18 at Robert Wesleyan College.(EMC Photo by John Haeger)

Annual rally for Latina girls focuses on health and wellness

Latina girls ages 7 to 18 from across the Rochester area recently had the opportunity to learn more about healthy living as part of the annual ¡Soy Unica! ¡Soy Latina! rally.

The rally, which was hosted by Latinas Unidas, took place at Roberts Wesleyan College May 18. The madrina for the event was Sandy Fisher, director of inclusion, diversity and equity at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

The theme for the rally was Salud y Bienestar (Health & Wellness), and workshops and activities focused on the importance of being healthy. The areas of wellness and mental and physical health were highlighted.

During the event, girls were invited to participate in a pep rally that featured music, dance, workshops and entertainment activities. High-school students also received a tour of Roberts Wesleyan College before lunch.

During the “Bright Smiles, Bright Futures” workshop, volunteers from Eastman Dental School used molds of teeth and a paper tooth craft to teach first-, second-, and third-grade students about the importance of dental hygiene.

Trillium Health offered workshops for the older girls on such topics as health and wellness and safe social media use, and a self-defense workshop was taught by Mary Méndez Rizzo.

Méndez Rizzo, who is a second-degree black belt in karate, said she has always enjoyed working with woman and being able to empower them through her classes.

“Every woman should know how to fight efficiently,” said Méndez Rizzo, whose younger brother instilled in her the importance of learning how to defend herself.

Méndez Rizzo not only encouraged participants to use their time in her workshop to practice raising their voices and saying no, but also taught them a disarm technique that would allow them to break free from a simple hold.

The rally concluded with raffle drawings, a fashion show of quinceañera dresses and the awarding of a $500 scholarship for academic success to Emiliana Martinez-Nobrega, a contestant in the 2019 Miss Puerto Rico of Rochester pageant. Emiliana was awarded the Excellus-sponsored scholarship for demonstrating excellent academic performance in the 2018-19 school year.

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