Thursday, April 17, 2014

Jolted Back to Life

By Tico Baez, Intern

This month’s edition of AARP The Magazine features YES Institute's CFO, Eva Leivas-Andino and her son Paolo Andino. The article showcases brave people who have endured a traumatic moment in their lives only to bounce back feeling more capable than ever. 

Growing up, Paolo felt like he did not belong within his own family. Paolo shared his orientation with his family, but it was a subject that wasn't talked about for eight years. Eva was worried about what others might think of her if they were to find out that Paolo was gay. Once Eva and Paolo were able to have open and constructive communication, their relationship completely changed. 

This is a struggle that many families experience. Being at the center of a challenge often stops us from seeing a solution. When Eva walked through the then blue doors of YES Institute in 1996, she did not know the communication skills she was about to learn. She took Communication Solutions™ and soon became a speaker with YES Institute. This course profoundly impacted her life and the people in her life. 

Read the rest of Eva and Paolo's story at

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How to Belong in High School

By Tico Baez

Growing up, I was always compared to my three masculine brothers. My siblings criticized me for caring about my appearance whereas my brothers could wear the same shirt everyday for a week and not be criticized. I was constantly pushed to join a sports team but my siblings were never asked to join an artistic or academic club. In high school, they played on the football team, while I performed in drama classes.

These comparisons made me feel like I didn’t belong in my own family. It seemed like no one around me was listening to me, about what I wanted. The arts became my outlet. I felt I could be myself in drama club. By my senior year, my friends accepted me just as I was. Most importantly, I felt like I could be myself regardless of others’ criticism or comparisons.

Recently, YES Institute was invited to Florida Atlantic University’s Alexander D. Henderson High School. I decided to tag along as an observer. YES Institute facilitators spoke to the entire freshman class about the expectations we all learn about gender and the assumptions we make about orientation.

During the dialogue the students were very active in the discussion.

These were some of my favorite quotes:

“I learned that people are bullied and targeted based on gender expression, not orientation. I’ve never thought of that before.”

“I have a friend who is transgender, and when Sam was talking about when he wanted to kill himself, I understood how my friend felt.”

“Your body does not decide your gender.”

“Our society is very eager to place labels on experiences that are universal. The YES Institute dialogue impacted me to think about my words and thoughts.”

I never had a discussion like this when I was in high school. It inspired me to think about all the students who may be feeling the way I did growing up, and now have a new way of thinking about gender and orientation.

These students have the opportunity to be themselves, and not have to follow the expectations set by society.