For Hometown News
ST. LUCIE COUNTY --
Zuleima Iraheta's wish is pretty simple. She just wants to like herself a little more.
Ms. Iraheta, who turned 21 on Thanksgiving, grew up in foster care. She is the second youngest in a sibling group of eight and has spent much of her adult life trying to find her place in the grown-up world of work, rent and responsibility.
Painfully shy and unsure of herself, the brown-eyed brunette often finds it difficult to express herself or to clearly state her desires. But when asked what would make her holiday this year, she answered without hesitation: "I want to attend modeling classes. When I was little, I used to dream about being a model. It helped," she said.
She got the chance to experience some of her dream at 16, when she was invited to model designer clothing during a fundraiser for United for Families, the agency that coordinates child-welfare services in St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River and Okeechobee counties.
"Zuleima is beautiful inside and out; she's so sweet it breaks my heart," said Lynn Hayden, the sales representative for CAbi Clothing who coordinated the fashion show in which Iraheta modeled.
"It was my pleasure to give her that opportunity."
Ms. Hayden was so pleased with Ms. Iraheta's work that she invited her back the following three years.
"You could just see her brighten right there in front of everyone," said Lea Tate, community outreach specialist with United for Families.
Ms. Tate is a former dependency case manager in Martin County who remembers Ms. Iraheta as a quiet teenager.
Ms. Iraheta said the modeling helps her feel better about herself and knowing that she's doing a good job gives her greater confidence.
"I think modeling classes would be an extraordinary gift for Zuleima," said Christina Kaiser, United for Families community relations director. "
Modeling teaches poise, posture and helps a shy person overcome social anxiety, qualities Ms. Iraheta will be able to carry over into the rest of her life.
To help make Ms. Iraheta's Christmas wish come true this holiday season, contact Christina Kaiser at Christina.firstname.lastname@example.org.