Her spirit is strong


by Talia Rodriguez

There is a stillness about winter. The same stillness is inside of a church when you enter the sanctuary- alone. To me it feels the same. Some of my most prized moments inside my church have been alone in the sanctuary – in the stillness- just praying.

I was taught how to pray- it’s a weird thing to think about, that someone teaches you how to talk to God, but they do. I was taught to pray by my grandmother whose Spanish prayers and coco candy made her feel to me (as a child)- as if she was from a different time – (as an adult) I learned- she was. It’s been a year since I started writing in her honor, time marches on and I miss her more every day.

Though times change, the look of the church, the denominations, but through 1,000s of years – one common activity has NOT changed- praying. The basic idea that a human, in stillness, and deep mediation can extend their voice to the ears of the universe’s creator, has persisted- across languages and continents for all time.

Churches- a pinnacle of Christendom-came to Puerto Rico in 1532. The San José Church, the first Spanish church was built in Old San Juan and would hold the remains of Ponce De Leon, the towns governor. Churches now cover Puerto Rico, of all sizes and denominations. Following Christ does not just stop at the church door- your obedience must extend past that, into the worldly world. Now as a young person today, that call for obedience, requires more sacrifice and abstention than in past times.

Enter Jesenaida Collazo – the type of woman that Christ depends on. She has his joy in her eyes. The joy of being accepted and knowing that you are loved by your creator. Just looking in her eyes – yes just her eyes alone – say all that and more. Her spirit is strong like the binding of the oldest bible. A warm person, the type of Christian that is brave enough to be vulnerable in the eyes of others, a remarkable leader, a servant leader, they call them. A woman who is gifted to bring people together around their love for Christ, the leader of a Christian youth group and more than volunteer project, her vision led her to create her own organization.

The Founder of Prisoners of Hope, Jesenaida “Jessy” is a youth pastor. So young yet she herself leads her peers closer to Christ in practice. Her bravery to step into a leadership role in Christ reflects her confidence in him, when the whole world seems unsure – Jessy isn’t.

Her quote Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Read Jessy’s interview and learn more about her faith in the future.

1- Where were you born and what values were taught in your home?

I was born and raised here in Buffalo NY. I was always taught to cherish family, to always help someone and to be grateful always for what you have. God has always been impactful in my life as my family and I are Christians.

2- What was your experience as a student leader?

My experience as a student was an interesting one. Hitting puberty at an early age, having acne, being overweight and not able to afford what was “in” at the time was always difficult as those were things I was bullied for. Despite all of that there were teachers who truly cared and made going to school more enjoyable. Those teachers are the ones who really pushed me to become more!

3- What was your first job?

I started working when I was 15 years old through the Summer Youth program which helped me work my first and favorite all year-round job at Little Caesars!

4- What was the moment you decided to take control of your future?

The moment I was inspired to take control of my future was the moment I gave my life to Christ. Accepting Christ gave my life true meaning and purpose and made everything I did (and do) intentional.

5- What advice do you have for people who want to be heard in the community?

My advice I have for people who want to be heard in their community is to first be involved!

Get active! Volunteer, attend meetings and seminars- make an impact. Make your voice heard. If you go to the gym once you won’t see any results, but if you go to the gym consistently you will see results (My pastor used this example and it’s so true!)- same thing goes for making a difference. Don’t do something once, continue doing it and you will see the fruits of your labor.

6- What is your theory on human potential?

First of all, I believe everyone has potential. Everyone’s potential is different – A person may be able to draw and impact people through their art but may not be a good speaker whereas the other person may impact people with their voice and not their art. Everyone has something valuable and useful in them – it’s up to them to tap into it and cultivate it!

7- What is a quote that is important to you? – Hebrews 11:1

8- What was the first time you realized you were a faith leader and What is the biggest shift you have been in your ministry?

I don’t remember the exact age but I remember in high school speaking to my close friends about Jesus and how wonderful it was to have him in my life. The biggest shift I’ve seen in my ministry is how much I’ve grown with God. While trying to guide and teach others God has been teaching me. It’s good to have a goal but the journey to reach it is where we learn the most. Learning from others around, absorbing different opinions and allowing God to keep that fire – that passion burning is something truly amazing.

9- What inspires you?

The world and everyone in it inspire me. To see people from different paths of life, different ages trusting and giving testimony about how God made a way when there was no way is so inspiring. The couple who thought their marriage was over and are now in love and flourishing. The children who are sick but find comfort in their parents like we find comfort in God. The birds and animals who fly and live trusting that God will take care of them. The very fact that during all these difficult times – Children of God have risen up to help others and pray for the world. All these things ARE INSPIRING!!

Talia Rodriguez is a bi-racial, bi-cultural, and bi-lingual Latina from Buffalo. Ms. Rodriguez’s mission is to write about Latina’s, who have shaped the face of our city and our region. It is Ms. Rodriguez’s believes that our own people should inspire us and in telling our collective stories, we push our community forward. Ms. Rodriguez is a community advocate and organizer. She is a 5th generation West Sider, a graduate of SUNY Buffalo Law School, and an avid baseball fan. She lives on the West Side with her young son A.J… Ms. Rodriguez sits on the board of several organizations including the Belle Center, where she attended daycare. Ms. Rodriguez loves art, music, food, and her neighbors.

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