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DAILY NEWS PEOPLE : BRENDA CASTANEDA.

Byline: - Andrea Hescheles

She's young, energetic and driven by a passion to help the teens in her community. Brenda Castaneda, who has thrown her efforts into peer counseling, calls it ``lending an ear.''

``The way I work with teens makes a big difference. I talk to teens every day who are really scared. After I talk to them, their attitude seems to change toward their situation,'' she said.

Castaneda is also editor of the school newspaper, plays on the varsity soccer and softball teams, participates in the Latin and Italian clubs and is in the Honor Society. ``Some days I say to myself, `Why do I do it all?' and other days I know why. It's all worth it.''

AGE: 17

RESIDENCE: North Hollywood.

BORN AND RAISED IN: Born in Granada Hills and raised in North Hollywood.

OCCUPATION: Senior at North Hollywood High School.

VOLUNTEERISM: Brenda began 18 months ago working as a peer health educator and a teen listener for the Teen Reproductive Health Help Line. The Help Line is staffed by older teens who have been trained to provide callers with information and clinic referrals, and there is a licensed social worker at the site at all times to assist with any crisis calls.

``As a peer health educator, one of my main objectives is to educate teens about reproductive health issues such as pregnancy prevention, HIV/AIDS awareness, anatomy and physiology, and relationship counseling.

``Interacting with teen-agers at Valley Community Clinic and through the Teen Reproductive Health Help Line allows me to help them deal with their issues in a confidential session free of judgment. I know that I am providing them with a very important and necessary service, while at the same time I am learning so much from them.''

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED?: ``I got involved through my school. A peer health counselor came to my health class, and we talked about how we could outreach to teens in our school to get them to go get services at the clinic.''

WHY DO YOU VOLUNTEER?: ``I believe that it is our responsibility to give back to our community and help to make it a better one.''

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: ``My biggest disappointment is when I don't feel I did enough, when I know I should have done a little more to make sure everything is all right. I know when I want something done, I want 110 percent of what I'm asking for.''

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: ``I've had lots of great character-building experiences. Working at the clinic is definitely a great accomplishment. I love making a positive difference in people's lives.''

GOALS FOR THE FUTURE: ``I'm a senior now, and I plan to go off to college, become a lawyer and work with laws that relate to family planning and to do what I'm still doing - giving back to my community.''

WHO RELIES ON YOU THE MOST AND WHO YOU RELY ON: ``Anybody I come into contact with at work and at home. They rely on me to give them my best. I rely on God. I rely on him to give me strength.''

ROLE MODELS: ``People who play sports are great, but I don't see them as role models.'' Instead, Castaneda looks up to the people in her everyday life who are worth emulating - her family and friends.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?: ``People have various definitions of success. I think there is no real rubric to success. Anything that is positive is successful.''

VALLEY HANGOUTS: ``The clinic. I like working with a lot of other teens, all doing the same thing. And you can talk to others who work with you.''

WHAT WOULD BE A PERFECT DAY FOR YOU?: ``Lots of rest!''

CAPTION(S):

Photo

Photo: Brenda Castaneda

Gus Ruelas/Daily News
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 24, 1999
Words:628
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