DES MOINES, Iowa — A leadership class called Latinos in Action is making a difference within the Des Moines Public School District.

The class focuses on four pillars such as personal assets, excellence in education, service, and leadership.

It also focuses on representation within the Latino community.

For students like Genevieve Bolaños-Flores, it feels like family.

“It makes me so happy. I love my culture,” Bolaños-Flores said. “I know that people look to me as a sibling and I look at them as a sibling.”

The class gives them representation and a sense of belonging.

Students are from Mexico, Central and South America.

“I can just really like connect to someone on a more personal level. Not just like we take the same class and we’re like on the same level of intelligence,” Bolaños-Flores said. “I can connect to them on a more emotional level because we have some similar problems.”

“Everybody’s culture is different,” Nela Blanco, the bilingual liaison at Roosevelt High School said. “when you have somebody that loves your music, loves your food, and identifies with you and the way that you are raised. It just makes you feel that you belong to you in the right place and that you should be here.”

Roosevelt Principal Steven Shaupaugh introduced the non-profit program at East High School in 2015.

It is now offered at North and Roosevelt High School.

“To know that this class is having the impact that I wanted to have, and probably an even bigger impact than I could even realize because of Miss Herrera and all that she does to bring such warmth and love into her classroom,” Shaupaugh said.

Ruby Herrera is more than just the Latinos in Action teacher, she is a role model to her students.

“This is a student-led class and so we always say we’re learning from each other constantly,” Herrera said. “There’s always more to give and provide that sense of safety and unity for them.  That’s what Familia is, [it is about] sharing and in finding common ground in the struggle is real, but we care for each other.”

The class makes them stronger, their new motto this year.

“They have the skills but if we can help foster those skills and give them the opportunities to leverage those skills here,” Shaupaugh said.

“The only way that we can continue to grow and be better is to help our community. So I want them to be involved in the community,” Blanco said. “To have a voice to express themselves to know that who they are is just perfect.”

“This is where I have been in the first place,” Bolaños-Flores said.

And just like family, they help each other succeed.

“When you do become successful in whatever area of life you’re in, come and share sharing about with you know, younger generation inspire them because we need to see other people like us that are making it that it’s possible that tells us the struggle is real, but also the success is very sweet,” Herrera said.

Miss Herrera recently received the Rotary Educator of the Year award.