By JEFF CLEMETSON | La Mesa Courier
Ariana Montalto is a Grossmont High School student whose passion for helping others has led her to become a Latina leader in her community.
From a young age, Ariana demonstrated compassion towards others and has held multiple leadership roles in organizations she’s involved with, including being a committee member of UCSD’s International Day of the Girl Child and MANA de San Diego’s Hermanitas program. During her time with Hermanitas, she facilitated a mental health First Aid training from the National Council of Mental Health (NCMH) for 60 girls.
For all her continued efforts to make her community a better place, Montalto was recently selected to be a MANA de San Diego Scholarship recipient, which will go towards covering her expenses for her first year of college.
La Mesa Courier recently caught up with Montalto to find out what drives her passion to be a difference maker in he community.
How did you get involved with charitable work?
Since I was very young, my mom would take my brother and me to do volunteer work. I recall volunteering for I Love Clean San Diego to keep the environment clean.
At the age of 7 years old, I was walking in Downtown San Diego heading to my choir performance, and I noticed families with young children sleeping on the streets. That image haunted me because I couldn’t understand why there would be homeless children. So, when I was about to turned 8 years old, my mom asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, and I responded that I wanted to raise money for homeless children.
I connected with the San Diego Youth Services who serve homeless youth and did a fundraiser at Lake Murray asking people and friends to donate money for homeless children. I raised close to $2,000 that allowed funding for basic necessities including food items, clothing and personal care items for the homeless and foster children.
Describe the international work you do with the Day of the Girl Child.
It was around sophomore year when I came across a flyer about Human Trafficking. At that point I became aware of the plight of young girls who were recruited and sold into human trafficking.
I learned that UCSD was organizing an event “The International Day of the Girl Child” to empower young girls and to raise awareness about equitable treatment and human trafficking. So, I wanted to get involved and I contacted the UCSD organizer and asked if I could be in their planning committee.
I joined their committee — a group of seven girls — and we coordinated an event for about 200 young girls and 12 inspirational leaders who held high level professional and political positions. They spoke about the importance of equitable treatment for women including ending human trafficking and prostitution for young girls around the world.
What is your involvement with MANA de San Diego?
MANA de San Diego is a national Latina organization that empowers Latina women through education, leadership development and community service. MANA de San Diego has the Hermanitas Program for young Latina girls. Through this program young girls receive mentorship to attend college, develop leadership skills and provide community service.
Being part of this organization has been a big blessing in my life as I received mentorship and support. I improved my leadership skills, provided community service to help others, gained confidence in myself and made life time friends.
What advice or encouragement would you give to a young person who wants to make a change within their communities?
I would say get involved in your school activities or volunteer at one of the nonprofit agencies and never be afraid to speak up when you feel like your voice needs to be heard no matter you fear a consequence or judgment.
— Reach editor Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.