Little Havana - Flagami

Former Carnaval Miami queens bring inspiration to young girls in Little Havana

Taking turns, about 60 young girls walked down a makeshift runway pretending to be pageant models behind the sound of music.

Marked with one-inch blue scotch tape, a T-shaped outline could be seen at the Kiwanis of Little Havana recreational center’s tile floor in Lummus Park on Thursday.

Organized by Crowns of Love, a community service group composed of former queens of Carnaval Miami. The event aimed to inspire, mentor and build self-esteem among the young female campers.

The girls, who ranged from 7 to 13 years of age, were rounded up by the eight queens and were asked to and imagine what they would like to be in the future.

“I want you all to promise me something,” Barbara Turbay said. “That anything you do in this life, you do it with love and passion.”

For Turbay, 22, who was crowned Miss Carnaval 2014 in February, being part of this event meant that she could help children aspire to achieve their life goals.

“Today, we planted a chip in their head. A chip which comes with motivation, full of dreams and learning,” said Turbay, a native of Colombia who moved to the United States when she was 8 years old.

“Whatever they want to become, they can do it. Nothing is impossible.”

Among the kids who participated in the event was 10-year-old Hialeah resident, Yalinda Gonzalez.

“When the ladies were giving speeches, it opened my heart and my feelings changed a lot,” said Gonzalez, who has participated in the camp’s talent show as a dancer. “I want to teach people how to dance.”

This was the kind of result Ivis Guerra intended when she helped found the Crowns of Love at the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana with her former queens, who she compares to sorority sisters.

“We have always been talking about going and giving back to the community,” said Guerra, who was awarded Miss Carnaval 1996 and is now the business relations manager at Baptist South Florida.

“Through the Kiwanis, we created Crowns of Love, and are focusing on literacy and mentoring.”

In order to fulfill their goal of teaching kids, the queens plan to start an after-school literacy program at Auburndale Elementary School aimed at helping third-graders improve their reading scores.

“A long-term goal is definitely to bring that school up to an A,” Guerra said. “We are not only going to be working with Auburndale, we want to help other Little Havana schools in the future. For now, that is our pilot school.”

Follow Matias Ocner on Twitter @matiasocner