For more than 17 years, Eva Leivas-Andino has been a champion for youth and families torn apart by fear and conflicting viewpoints. She is—first and foremost—a mother and grandmother. Her passion for making communities safer and more inclusive is fueled by the love she has for her own family. When her son, Paolo, came out as gay at age 20, Eva was extremely fearful of what people would say, of being rejected, and of facing accusations of being a bad mother. Her focus changed when Paolo opened up to her about the pain and isolation he experienced while growing up in Miami.
Because of Paolo’s experience, Eva devoted her life to education on gender and orientation, and is now a valuable resource for both English- and Spanish-speaking parents and youth. She has led courses for religious communities, schools, social service agencies, hospitals, and police departments throughout South Florida. Her commitment to bringing YES education to communities throughout Latin America has already taken YES Institute to Bogotá, Colombia, with more trips planned in the future. Local and national media outlets regularly contact Eva for interviews, highlighting the powerful stand she’s taken for powerful communication and education.
Eva has received the Jefferson Award for Community Service, the Colin Higgins Courage Award and the Premio Llego for service to the Latino Community.
What skills and expertise do you bring to the team?
73 years of living, loving and learning
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Being with people, walking with them and learning something new every day.
What has YES Institute done that you’re particularly proud of?
YES is the only organization I know that empowers people rather than enable them. I am proud of YES’ role in bringing families together through education. Nothing is more powerful than that.