When Addis Acay Hunter turned 15, her family could not afford to give her a Quinceañera, a Hispanic tradition celebrating a girl’s 15th birthday as a symbol of her coming-of-age.
Then, Onix Morera, a family friend and founder of the nonprofit organization Talent Artistic Juvenile, thought of a way to help girls such as Addis: Creating a program to develop girls’ talents and celebrate their Quinceañeras at no cost to them.
On Aug. 24, 1995, Addis and 14 other girls became the first Quinceañeras of the “Futuras Damitas de America” (“Future Ladies of America”) program.
“A lot of girls out there would love to have a Quinceañera party, but they cannot afford it,” said Hunter, now 34. “It was such a blessing for others to be able to have the same privilege.”
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The program ran periodically at the Milander Auditorium in Hialeah until it was demolished for reconstruction in 2009. Now, six years later, the program is returning to a different location, the Victor Wilde Community Center, also in Hialeah.
“I have never stopped thinking about it. I love to help the girls,” Morera said. “I am sure that we will continue the program now.”
To qualify, girls must be 13 to 15 years old and have good academic standing as demonstrated by a recent report card. There are 15 spots.
Applications are due June 30.
“We teach the girls etiquette, modeling and public speaking, and we discover each one’s talent to develop it,” Morera said.
The lessons will take place July to mid-August at the Victor Wilde Community Center and Goodlet Theater Performing Arts Center in Hialeah.
Samantha Hurtado, 14, is a young dancer and one of this year’s applicants.
“My mother never got a Quinceañera party,” Samantha said. “I have wanted to celebrate it since I was little because I get to share with my family and thank everyone for being a part of my life.”
Girls who will not turn 15 this year may complete the training now and celebrate later.
“The idea is to promote sisterhood,” Morera said. “Some girls need community hours for high school and they return the following year to help train the next ‘Damitas.’”
Anaiz Rodriguez, 15, will be a volunteer art teacher this year.
“It makes me happy to be able to support them with what they like,” Anaiz said.
Besides developing their artistic talents, the girls will practice their Spanish-speaking abilities and be interviewed on local radio and television stations.
“They should keep their roots because the Quinceañera is a Hispanic tradition,” Morera said. “I want the tradition to continue. I want the girls to help other girls.”
Hunter said Morera’s service to the community has motivated her, her husband and three children, ages 3 through 12, to help others.
“We are very conscious and aware of the importance of giving back to the community and to invest in other children’s lives,” said Hunter, who recently opened a jewelry store, Ipe Amarelo by Addis, and plans to donate jewelry to this year’s “Damitas.”
The program and party are free of cost to the girls. All expenses are paid through Talent Artistic Juvenile’s fundraisers, company sponsors and grant funds.
“This is a gift we are giving them,” Morera said.
At the party, each girl will have a table to seat her friends and family.
“It is nice to experience the Quinceañera with other people and share it with family,” Samantha said.
For more information
▪ What: Talent Artistic Juvenile
▪ Contact: 305-557-2407 or talentartisticjuvenile.com
▪ When: Applications are due June 30. Training will take place July to mid-August.
▪ Where: Victor Wilde Community Center 5405 W 18 Ave., Hialeah, FL 33012 and at Goodlet Theater Performing Arts Center at 4200 W 8 St. Hialeah, FL 33012
▪ Quinceañera Party: mid-August, date to be determined.