Latinas Rising would like to honor the following amazing  Latinx creating social change and de-stigmatizing mental illness in Latinx communities. Allilsa Fernandez personal story has resonated with so many locally, internationally, and on social media outlets.  Allilsa’s willingness to be  vulnerable about speaking on the issues of stigma associated with mental illness in our communities and academia is brace beyond measure. Allilsa is the epitome of a what a social change agent looks like and with intentionality helping marginalized communities to end the stigma.

Thank you, Allilsa for allowing Latinas Rising HTX  the opportunity to share your story!

Allilsa’s story: 

In 2011, after becoming severely ill and entering recovery, I asked a therapist “will I be able to return to school and finish my bachelors?” And she looked at me with pity and said “I think you should focus on therapy right now”. I insisted, “yes, but what about down the line?”. She continued to look at me with pity and this time she said “look….your condition just won’t allow it. You need to focus on getting SSI. You may never work again nor go to school and that is ok”. I felt so horrible!!!. I then was assigned another therapist and a psychiatrist and I asked them the same question, “would I ever be able to go back to school?”. They both told me no and the psychiatrist went as far as telling me “you are going to have to mourn this loss. Eventually you will have to let go of this idea, of this dream. It just isn’t for you given your condition”. I felt so little, so worthless, and I began to process the loss of my dream to go back to school. Therapy offices closed, some therapists moved, and for various reasons I switched therapists, psychiatrists and psychologist and every single time I asked the same question because there was this longing in my heart to go back to school. Each time I was told to forget about it and settle for less. Against all odds I entered school again. The first semester was my worst!. I had a break down and no therapy. When I asked my advisor for help she looked me in the eye and said “fill out this form”. I asked “what is this?”. She said “it’s a form to drop out of school. People like you, people with your condition, just can’t make it in a highly academic school like this one”. I was so offended but I believed her. I believed all the professionals and I felt like a total failure at that moment.

Crying I went to my professor and asked him to sign my paper so that I could drop out. That professor saved my life!!!. He chose to believe in me!. He said “get that paper out of my face!. You are going to go to a counselor on campus, you will get accommodations via the disability department and the deans of students. You are one of my best students!. I am telling you, you are not allowed to quit!!”. It took one person to change my life forever in a positive way. From there on I learned my rights on disability, I sought help and found an amazing therapist who I have almost 4 years with, I found how to study and work with my condition and today….wow!!!….today I accomplished this!. Today, I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Psychology, Magna Cum Laude, from Stony Brook University.

My hat represents the struggle with psychosis. The many times I was told I couldn’t because of it. The many times I heard voices during an important test, the many times I had a crisis but I had understanding professors who worked with me. It was not easy but it also was not impossible, as these professionals made it seem. The radio represents the voices I usually hear. I usually hear radio voices rather than one solid voice. I love sharks. Anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with sharks and their conservation. I love them!.

Photo description: My graduation cap. The background has sharks in white and grey swimming in blue water. There are gold letters that read “I did it with psychosis”. There are two colorful boombox around it. In the bottom it reads “#endthestigma”.



Allilsa Fernandez


Pearls of Change Wellness, LLC

Latinas Rising is excited about highlighting the following rising therapist, Glenda Demas a Licensed Professional Counselor and native Houstonian with a graduate degree in counseling from Prairie View A & M University, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., American Counseling Association member, and current Board of Director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Greater Houston (NAMI).

In her own words,

“I have been working in the Helping Profession for a little over 12 years with experience in education and crisis intervention. I found my passion to be Counseling/Mental Health Awareness from working with children in the education setting, and through my experience with children in the foster care system. Pearls of Change Wellness, LLC was established to provide support and services to those that are experiencing mental health challenges.

I am a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional specializing in PTSD, ART Therapy, Conflict Resolution, Crisis Intervention, Behavioral Health, and Anger-Management. I specialize in treating severe mental illness and mental health disorders by helping individuals work to establish healthy routines and coping skills that can be applied daily.

My overall goal is to expand my current experience, through education and research to help individuals from various socioeconomic backgrounds understand that mental illness is not a stigma, and your mental health is just as important as your physical health.”

More information:

Glenda Demas, MA, LPC
Pearls of Change Wellness, LLC
2717 Commercial Center Blvd E200
Katy TX 77494

“Vulval intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) is a condition where there are pre-cancerous cells in the skin of the vulva. The symptoms vary from woman to woman. Some have no symptoms and the area of VIN is noticed on a routine visit to the doctor. Other women complain of vulval pain or itching which can be quite severe. Others have irritation or painful sex. Some women even notice a lump or thickening of the vulval skin.

In VIN, the pre-cancer cells are located within the epidermis or the very top layer and are only a millimetre or so thick. The abnormal cells do not penetrate deep down into the dermis so as a consequence, it is easy to see on the surface of the skin with the naked eye the affected areas. We use the word pre-cancer, NOT because the cells are cancerous or you have cancer, but because the cells MAY (or MAY NOT) develop into cancer over a period of years. The exact relationship between VIN and vulval cancer remains unknown because so few studies have been carried out.

Generally VIN is divided into three stages — I, II or III — depending on how abnormal the cells are. VIN III is the commonest presentation among women and this means that the abnormal cells are present throughout the epithelium (remember it is only a millimetre thick!). In VIN I only a third of the cells in the epithelium are abnormal, whereas in VIN II, two thirds of the cells in the epithelium are abnormal.

The symptoms do vary from woman to woman. Some have no symptoms and the area of VIN is noticed on a routine visit to the doctor. Other women complain of vulval pain or itching which can be quite severe. Others have irritation or painful sex. Some women even notice a lump or thickening of the vulval skin.

Again, like the symptoms, this is variable among different women. Some women notice thickening or hardening of the skin and others have splitting or breakdown of the skin. Some women feel there is nothing wrong with the skin.

VIN is diagnosed by a vulval biopsy where usually a small pea-sized amount of skin is removed from the affected area. Sometimes two or three biopsies are required. The procedure may be carried out under local anaesthetic in the clinic or your doctor may suggest that you come into hospital to have a biopsy removed under general anaesthetic.

A biopsy is essential so that the pathologists can see down the microscope to make sure the area is VIN (and not other skin conditions) and also to see exactly what degree of abnormal cells there are.

This remains unknown. There do appear to be two age groups who get VIN: women in their 60s to 70s and women in their 30s to 40s. In women in their 30s and 40s, VIN does appear to be associated with the family of ‘wart’ viruses (human papilloma viruses) which can cause change in the appearance of the cells down the microscope causing VIN to develop. VIN is noticed to be more common among women who smoke, but whether there is a direct relationship remains unknown.” -Vulvar Pain Society

Read the Story of a young Latina mom who accidentally found out she had VIN. Her story resonates with many women struggling with VIN. Time and time again doctors misdiagnose and some women don’t get treated in time before developing full blown vulvar cancer. We hope her story helps women do monthly vulvar checks and advocate for themselves during routine check ups with their doctors.

The Vulva Check: My Story

“On May of 2018 I was diagnosed with Vulva intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN). The first thought that came to my head is what the heck is that?! Turns out it’s abnormal cells growing in the surface of your vulva, that eventually can become cancer. Who would of thought your pretty flower can get cancer?! I couldn’t believe that the itching and a few dark spots would lead to that kind of diagnosis.

It all began during my third pregnancy. My labia began to itch pretty bad but it was very similar to the itch you get when you shave and your hair is growing. The itch didn’t go away, it was quite irritating I personally thought maybe it’s yeast. I did the over the counter treatment and it would ease the itching a bit but eventually come back. Then on August 2017 I had my stillborn. A month after I had my sleeping baby a small bump appeared on my labia, again it looked like a razor related issue. I thought, ok, this might be an ingrown hair because the itchiness was pretty intense. I went to my OBGYN with my husband. As my doc checked me, she said “it doesn’t look like anything to be concerned about let me swab it for herpes.” She swabbed away and stepped out the room. I took one look at my husband and said, “if that comes out positive your dead.” He looked at me with great concern and assured me he had not done anything. Poor guy, lol. The Dr. came back with results saying it was negative and that it might just be an irritation of some sort.

By December 2017 I had a few dark spots all over my vulva. I tend to look at my flower often and I’m aware how I look and those spots were never there before. Again I thought maybe this is just hormones from having a baby. February 2017 we move to Guam (Navy Wife) that’s when I went to the doctor and explained all my symptoms. She took one look at me and said, “I don’t think this is anything to worry about, but let’s take a punch biopsy of it just to make sure.”

The pain of a needle poking your labia is no freaking joke! It’s painful! After the results came in I went to a oncologist OBGYN. This doctor put me under to take deeper tissue biopsies and cervical biopsies. The results came back confirming not only did I have VIN3 which is one stage away from cancer, but I had HPV. Apparently HPV is connected with VIN3. Please keep in mind I’ve never had an abnormal pap and I had a pap done right after my pregnancy. So the symptoms of this disease where already appearing before I even knew I had HPV. Check you vulva! Please it’s so taboo to talk about your vagina and there isn’t enough awareness for women.

I hope my story can encourage you to take a mirror monthly if not weekly and look at your pretty vulva making sure all looks good. Get to know her because you are your best advocate. There’s no regular check ups for doctors with this disease, it’s something you have to be aware and communicate to your doctor.”

About the Author: Marcella Restrepo Cevallos is of Colombian descent. She was born on September 5th, 1990 in Cleveland, Ohio. She was raised in New Jersey. She is currently living over seas in Guam with her husband and children. She prides herself in being a Navy wife and a former homeschooling mom. She identifies herself as a child of God who wants to make her Father known through the love and works He does in her life.


Latinas Rising is privileged to highlight the following Rising and Fierce Latinx therapist, Ana Valenzuela, LPC, LCDC-Intern.

Ana was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, at the age of 15 migrated with her family to the United States. She currently holds a Master of Science degree in Mental Health Counseling from Walden University. Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor-Intern to practice professional counseling in the state of Texas. She has a Bachelor’s degree in both Psychology and Sociology from the University of Houston Clear Lake (UHCL).

Since graduating from UHCL in 2009, Ana has worked for the Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, formerly known as MHMRA of Harris County and currently a Clinical Team Lead. In addition, Ana works at Clearhope Counseling and Wellness Center in Pasadena, Texas as a contract therapist.

In her own words:

As s a bilingual (English /Spanish) clinician I am privileged to have the opportunity to give back to my community, by being part of a growing multicultural community to break the barriers and taboos associated with mental illness. I am honored to be part of the solution and be able to contribute to the transformation of mental illness in the Latino/ Caribbean community in the Houston and surrounding areas.

En Español:

Como Terapeuta bilingüe (inglés / español), soy privilegiada de tener la oportunidad de devolver a mi comunidad un poquito de todo lo que he recibido después de llegar a este país desde mi hermosa Republica Dominicana, Soy parte de una comunidad multicultural en crecimiento que está rompiendo las barreras y los tabúes asociados con las enfermedades de salud mental. Me siento honrada de ser parte de la solución y poder contribuir a la transformación de la ayuda y educación que mi comunidad recibe sobre enfermedades de salud mental en la comunidad latina / caribeña en Houston y las áreas circundantes.



Latinas Rising is excited about our next rising Latina and therapist, she provides terapia in both en español y ingles.  Flor A. Guebara is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in the Houston area. In 2011, she received her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Houston.

Through her years of experience, she has worked with various age groups from children, to adults. She has journeyed with clients as they struggle with chronic illnesses, life threatening situations, grief and loss, accidents, and various traumas.

In her own words:

As your therapist, I would be honored to be your companion throughout your journey. I believe in assisting my clients as they navigate through life’s transitions and challenges. I use an integrative and individualized approach in therapy catered to my client’s needs. My goal is to foster a safe, supportive, and collaborative therapeutic environment for my clients through the use of open and honest communication.

En español:

Mi misión como terapeuta es de ayudar y acompañar a mis clientes en la navegación de las transiciones y desafíos de la vida. Mi deseo es de proporcionar a mis clientes un espacio seguro, lleno de apoyo y respeto durante la terapia.

Contact: 832-510-9205

For more information:



Brenda Moreno is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) psychotherapist in the Sugarland/ Fort Bend area.  In 2012, she received a Master’s degree in Community Counseling from the University of Houston-Victoria.

Brenda has over six years of clinical experience working in the community and school setting by providing  mental health counseling services to children, adolescents, individuals, and families. Brenda has led parenting groups and completed trainings in the Gottman Method to help couples heal from emotional wounds, affairs, and trauma.

In her own words…

As a Houston native, I am proud to be part of a multiculturally diverse community. My mission as a bilingual counselor, fluent in English and Spanish, is to provide services to clients of all backgrounds. I provide Marriage, Couples, and Individual Counseling. I’m bilingual and fluent in Spanish and English.

For more information visit
Contact: 832-420-8680
Evening and weekend appointments available.
Address: Sugar Land- 120 Eldridge Rd Suite D, Sugar Land, TX 77478.


So much to know about the Isla Hipañola popular known as La Republica Dominicana. I spent my childhood years learning what “America” wanted me to learn-lies upon deceit mixed with some truth via their public books they approved of. When I could have been learning about my own land’s truth about colonization, massacres, wars, victories, rich history and the list goes on. I’m grateful for what I was taught in my Dominican household and frankly, Dominicans were everywhere in NY, so the cultura, music, and food was always part of my lifestyle. Bigup to the bodegas y los salones. However, I wish more time was deposited in teaching the nitty gritty truths of the Isla Hispañola. It may have also been the “American dream”, of my mama to show us the land of opportunity and what it had to offer.
Either way, I’ve been in this journey of learning the truth of my African -Taino – Caribean history and making sure my kids and their seed hold on to it.
We are American born, but, America is not our mother Land. We need to be careful and not lose our stories, our history- language, costumbres, and traditions.

Picture by Charles Aston-

perf6.000x9.000.inddAs we enter the new year, some of us worry about the weight we have gained and the huge credit card debt we acquired due to our impulse spending during the Christmas season little thought is given to human trafficking victims Why should we care about them if they are not friends and family. The media portray human trafficking victims as runaway kids, kids who think they are too grown to listen to their parents, juvenile delinquents who are getting exactly what they deserve.  Like me, if you have no friends or relatives who have been affected by human trafficking it is an ugly topic best swept under the rug. Who wants to talk about pimp’s pistol-whipping hoes while passing the turkey dinner?  We have been raised to believe not talking about uncomfortable topics makes them cease to exist.  Out of sight, out of mind but that does not mean human trafficking could not happen to you or a loved one. Maybe it is already happening you just don’t know it yet. Your daughter or son could be talking to a pimp right now while playing a video game or on texting in a chat room. It is happening to someone you know right under your nose and the great thing about it is that you can do something to stop it.

Human trafficking is a growing problem in Texas and a huge problem in Houston.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline reports that 2,135 calls were made to the organization in 2016 (the last full year of statistics), up from 1,731 calls in 2015. Since 2007, 13,560 calls have been fielded by the Hotline. According to a 2017 study by researchers at the University of Texas, it is estimated that “313,000 people in the state are victims of human trafficking, with 79,000 minors and youth as sex workers.” (Houston Chronicle) Further, according to a study by Cheryl Butler in the Akron Law Review, about 25 percent of trafficked people in the United States are in Texas. Nationwide, about 22 percent of trafficking victims travel through Texas.

Human traffickers operate from Harris County, fort bend county, Waller you name the county and a pimp is busy recruiting. From the suburbs to hood, pimps are hard at work, luring kids from the safety of their home and into the dark seedy world of drugs and sex. Nowhere is safe, the purse the elementary schools, high schools, and the internet hunting down the young, innocent and vulnerable. Pimps are amazing actors, they will be your kids best friend, the father they never had until you must pay up and believe me the price is higher than ever imagined.

As concerned citizens, we all have a moral obligation to join the battle against human trafficking These victims could be your sister, your cousin or even your best friend. These victims will grow up to become someone’s mother so it is important we protect our future, children are our future, we must protect them.  We can protect our children by empowering ourselves with knowledge, attend as many human trafficking events as possible. Support local authors who write stories about human trafficking by buying their books, create book clubs and share your thoughts on social media. Join or volunteer at a local human trafficking organization and most important know your comfort zone and do not go out of it. Now pick up your sword and let’s go to war

About the Author, Tola Lisa Vivour


Tola Lisa is the author of the published young adult fiction novel (The Dark Days of Esther).  The novel tackles human trafficking and offers programs to help victims. She has volunteered and attended several anti-sex trafficking conferences, symposiums, and consortiums. She has participated in panels, events and workshops to lecture and support at-risk youth. health care administration from Grand Canyon University. Her goal is to give a voice to sex trafficking victims and spread awareness through her novel (The Dark Days of Esther) and facebook page (Tabular Rasa). She lives to watch cute YouTube dog videos and daydreams of owning a golden retriever or St Bernard one day.


Worry is like an uninvited comadre. Pero esta comadre, THE WORRY COMADRE can be best described as a habitual, dysfunctional, and a constant companion that is difficult to break-up with it.  The Worry Comadre es como una espina que es difícil  de expulsar. Nostors las mujers are at higher risk and twice as likely than men  to suffer from anxiety disorders, pero, Latinas are at an even higher risk. Como, Rocio Ducal says,  “es verdad que la costumbre es mas forte.” Yes, worry is a habit and a distorted way of thinking that results in constantly feeling anxious.

The Worry Comadre embodies doubt and she treats doubt like “PELIGRO.”  I’ll be  honesta, I struggle with anxiety and I too have a pinche Worry Comadre. Pero hay maneras de manejar la preocupación (fear of the unknown). You can change esta costumbre by understanding the following, ” Worry tricks you into thinking DOUBT is a sign of  danger ” hence, we want to avoid the discomfort of doubt like the plague.  I challenge you to try the popular 21/90 rule, commit 21 days straight of telling The Worry Comadre when she comes uninvited the following:

Sin bola de cristal.  Yes, I’m worried and feeling discomfort about_______, but I can’t predict the future. Literally ask yourself, can you predict the future. The answer is likely, NO!

Be the judge. What evidence do you have comadre that supports that three years from now it will rain and you will not have a rain coat.

Write your worry down! Yes, writing your worries down and seeing them on paper can help you think from wise-mind opposed from an emotion- mind. Once written reread it and ask yourself does this sound logical.

Get Grounded.  Connect with nature, beber un té, conectarse a su cuerpo a través del movimiento, or call and chat with a comadre that you trust and listens without judgment.

Terapia. As you know, I’m a psychotherapist and an advocate for encouraging others to engage in therapy. Learning healthier ways to manage worry, but not limited to addressing ansiedad can happen with therapy. Also, MINORTY MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS!

Now, once you have committed to 21 days and established healthier habits to manage worry, continue for 90 days. AHORA HACIA  ADELANTE!

P.S. Si Se Puede

La Consejera