Riverview woman earns $5,000 for local charity through USA Network's Characters Unite Award
Jessica Estevez first felt the sting of prejudice as a child, when she and her father, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, found a grocery store cashier was mysteriously busy only when they reached the head of the checkout line.
Now Estevez, a Riverview resident who works as director of programs at Community Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg, pours her heart into Anytown -- a program for diversity education and empowerment aimed at area high school students. Work there led a former student to recommend her for USA Network's Characters Unite awards, which will direct $5,000 to Community Tampa Bay in a partnership with local cable company Bright House Networks.
Estevez, 34, is one of eight people across the country recognized with USA Network's award, given to those who have made significant efforts to fight prejudice and discrimination while increasing tolerance and acceptance. The cable channel will also air a public service announcement acknowledging her award voiced by Royal Pains co-star Reshma Shetty.
"I am a daughter of immigrants (but) i don't know what they went through (until the grocery store incident)," said Estevez, who will receive her honor at the Hilton hotel in St. Petersburg Tuesday. "Now, whatever career path I take, I always focus on trying to help people feel more included and empowered."
USA Network has also debuted a documentary on the country's divisions, Tom Brokaw Presents Bridging the Divide, along with online content, education workshops and a national poll which found Americans think the country is more divided now than a year ago.