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Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Claribel Bocanegra

Posted at 6:58 PM, Oct 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-02 18:58:24-04

FORT MYERS, Fla — It's Hispanic Heritage month and we want to continue to highlight members of the Hispanic community right here in Southwest Florida who are doing some amazing things.

Today we are introducing you to Claribel Bocanegra.

If you step inside of Porto Fino Dental in Fort Myers, you'll meet a woman who wears many hats.

"I've been running this business for 25 years," said Claribel Bocanegra, the practice manager.

But of all the titles that Bocanegra answers to, she says, "mom" is the one she's most proud of.

"They are my legacy," she said.

But don't let her family photos fool you. They may only show four kids, but she's "mom" to many more kids, as the founder of Lead Like a Girl Southwest Florida.

"After having kids, this is the thing I'm most proud of," she said.

Over the last four years, the organization has brought hundreds of local girls together to learn about leadership and self-development and introduce them to successful women in the community.

"The purpose of lead like a girl is to create a safe space for girls to come and share their struggles, their hopes, their dreams. To talk about real issues that affecting them on a day to day basis," she said.

To understand why Bocanegra does this work, you have to take a trip back to her past, when she was attending Fort Myers high school, after moving from Puerto Rico with her mom and stepdad.

"My mom didn't know the language well. She knew the basics, but it wasn't like she was able to guide me through the process of like 'let's start filling out applications for college,'" she said, "I found myself alone, and that's what really inspires lead like a girl."

But her desire for representation and better role models didn't stop there.

Bocanegra is also the founder of the Hispanic American Doctor's Association, which, among other things, connects local Hispanic doctors to Hispanic patients.

"People say 'Oh my gosh, I didn't know there was a cardiologist,'" said Bocanegra.

Recently, she also started a growing Facebook page to highlight Hispanic and Latino community members who are doing pretty big things.

"You will find that there are doctors, lawyers, physicians, artists. Our unsung heroes that work in the farm fields of Immokalee, our service workers," she said.

It's a lot of work, and Bocanegra knows it.

But she says it's all part of walking in her purpose.

"If my life makes somebody else's life a little easier and it makes people feel like somebody else was holding their hand along the way, it was all worth it," said Bocanegra.

Esta historia también está disponible en español.

Si entras dentro de Porto Fino dental en Fort Myers, conocerás a una mujer que lleva muchos titulos.

"He dirigido este negocio durante 25 años," dice Claribel Bocanegra.

Pero de todos a los que Bocanegra responde, "mamá" es del cual se siente más orgullosa.

"Ellos son mi legado," dice Bocanegra.

Pero no dejes que estas fotos familiares te engañen, podran solo mostrar cuatro hijos pero ella es "mamá" de muchos mas, como la fundadora de Lead Like a Girl Southwest Florida.

"Después de tener hijos es de lo que mas me siento orgullosa," dice Bocanegra.

Durante los últimos cuatro años, la organización ha reunido a cientos de niñas locales para que aprendan sobre cosas como liderazgo y auto-desarrollo. Y para que conoscan a mujeres exitosas en la comunidad.

"El propósito de lead like a girl es crear un espacio seguro para que las niñas vengan y compartan sus luchas, sus esperanzas, sus sueños. Hablar sobre problemas reales que las afectan día a día," dice Bocanegra.

Para entender por qué bocanegra hace este trabajo, tienes que hacer un viaje a su pasado. Cuando asistia a Fort Myers high school, después de mudarse de puerto rico con su mamá y su padrastro.

"Mi mamá no conocía bien el idioma. Sabía lo básico, pero no era como si pudiera guiarme a través del proceso de comensar a completar solicitudes para la universidad," dice Bocanegra, "Me encontré sola y eso es lo que realmente inspira a lead like a girl".

Pero su deseo de representación y mejores modelos a seguir no se detuvo ahí.

Claribel también es la fundadora de La Asociación de Médicos Hispanos Americanos, que entre otras cosas, conecta a los médicos Hispanos locales con las communidades Hispanas.

"La gente dice 'dios mío, no sabía que había un cardiólogo,'" dice Bocanegra.

Y recientemente, empezó una página de Facebook para destacar a los miembros Hispanos y Latinos de la comunidad que están haciendo grandes cosas.

"Encontraras que hay médicos, abogados, artistas. Nuestros héroes que trabajan en los campos agrícolas de Immokalee, nuestros trabajadores de servicio," dice Bocanegra.

Es mucho trabajo y Claribel lo sabe.

Pero dice que todo es parte de su propósito.

"Si mi vida le hace la vida de otra persona un poco más fácil y hace que la gente se sienta como si alguien más estuviera tomando su mano en el camino, valió la pena," dice Bocanegra.