Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about where you were born and raised and where your family is from
Odette Figueruelo: I was born in Havana Cuba. I was raised in Spain. My brother, my mother and I became Spaniard citizens through my father to be able to leave Cuba. We lived in Spain five years and then when I was 15, we moved to the U.S.
Latin Times Magazine: Tell me about what you do for a living
Odette Figueruelo: : I am a college professor. I teach at Hillsborough Community College.
Latin Times Magazine: Tell me about what organizations you are a part of
Odette Figueruelo: I am past president of Tampa Hispanic Heritage Inc. I am also part of the Board of directors of the Migrants Foundation.
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about the biggest highlights of your career
Odette Figueruelo: : More so than an award received or a promotion, as an educator, a highlight for me is when my former students return to visit and they share how they have completed their education and they are professionals giving back to the community. Another highlight is when I have a student who is struggling and later you see their transformation. They overcame an obstacle and they reached their goals. It is so rewarding!! Also, with my community work I can help raise funds for scholarships to change the lives of many students. I love what I do every day. It is a huge responsibility to know that we can impact the lives of young people. We can inspire them!
Latin Times Magazine: As a Latina leader in community, business or other…what has been your biggest challenge and how have you been able to overcome it
Odette Figueruelo: I think that one of the biggest challenges sometimes becomes a great opportunity. There is a lack of Latin women representation in positions of leadership. For example, sometimes culturally speaking there is this hidden cultural presumption that Latinas are not supposed to be leaders. Personally, in my family I was encouraged to go to school, to graduate from college. Sometimes, a big challenge I encounter is to be able to inspire young Latina women that do not see themselves as leaders. When you spend time helping others, and they see you as an example, it is amazing to see that you are able to brake those cultural barriers and then see these women changing their path. I feel we need more representation of Latina women in leaderships’ roles, this really inspires me to work harder. It motivates me and to help our youth to believe in themselves and to reach higher!
Latin Times Magazine: How important is being a Latina to you
Odette Figueruelo: Being Latina is part of my identity; it is part of my soul. I always say, that I am a proud Cuban by birth, proud Spaniard by blood and proud American by choice. I am very grateful of the United States, but I love my Latin roots and how much I enjoy life due to those roots. I love everything about my culture, the language, the food, the literature, the music, the list it is infinite. I love to honor my heritage, my family, by being a Latina Leader in my community. It is a priority to me to make sure my son values his Latin Heritage. He was a great motivation for me to get involved in my community work at Tampa Hispanic Heritage Inc.
Latin Times Magazine: What is your favorite type of música and what is your favorite song?
Odette Figueruelo: : I really love all types of music, from Latin, to classical to rock. I have many favorite songs!
Latin Times Magazine: IF you can go back to let’s say 18-21, what are some of the pivotal decisions that you have made that you would do differently
Odette Figueruelo: I really believe that everything happens for a reason, there is a lesson behind every decision. I would not do anything different. As I look back to those pivotal decisions made, I can see clearly the lesson learned.
Latin Times Magazine: What do you think some of the best career choices are for young Latinas
Odette Figueruelo: It is so important to be happy with what you do. The best career choices for young Latinas are those that bring a sense of fulfillment to each one of them. I encourage young Latinas to pursue their college education.
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about what kind of projects you currently have going on
Odette Figueruelo: Right now, at Hillsborough Community College, I am working with three other Latinos to form a council on Hispanics issues within the college. We would like to be a voice for them and be able to communicate with the college president. We would like to present possible solutions at the state level. We are currently writing out bylaws, mission and vision. Hillsborough Community College has a Hispanic population of 33%.
As past president and current Vice President of Tampa Hispanic Heritage Inc. I proudly work with the rest of the board on our journey to help our community preserve and celebrate our culture. We also work countless hours raising funds for scholarships for our Hispanic students in our community.
Latin Times Magazine: What can we expect to see from you in the future
Odette Figueruelo: Everything goes as planned, I will be starting a doctoral program on January 2020. I will continue to contribute to the college with different initiatives and I will carry on with my community work.
Latin Times Magazine: What is your comida favorite
Odette Figueruelo: I love sea food! But I must admit that since I do not cook, I really appreciate the food that someone else makes for me.
Latin Times Magazine: What famous person do you most identify with and why
Odette Figueredo: A historical person who I identify with Jesus Christ. He spoke for those who did not have a voice. He fought against injustices. He was an example of integrity, compassion, commitment and service to others.
Latin Times Magazine: What did I miss? Tell me something you want us to know!
Odette Figueruelo: I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a nice, a cousin, a friend. I love every aspect of all those meaningful relationships in my life. I am grateful to God and his presence in my life.
I believe in leading by example. My entire family is involved with the community service I do. It is crucial to inspire others in this wonderful endeavor of service.