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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Teens here in South Florida are becoming creative artists, keeping them focused and preparing them for a bright future.

It is thanks in part because of an art teacher who knows what it’s like to be a teenager needing help finding the right path in life.

In this week’s “Mentoring Matters” we meet the artist creating exceptional young adults.

Her name is Sue Aguilera and each year she helps more than a dozen teenaged designers prepare for a runway show. This year’s theme is “Recycled Fashion.”

“I get to help the designer come up with their concept and they come up with their design,” explains Aguilera, with a smile from ear to ear. “This year, we are challenged to represent an endangered species and environmental issues along with that endangered species. So, our show theme this year is “Wild Restyled.”

Sixteen-year-old designer Bianca Lozada is one of the young designers inspired by Aguilera. Her dress represents the blue whale and is made out of juice pouches.

“This right here is umbrella pieces. And this meshy part is supposed to represent fishnets,” Lozada demonstrates.

Another 16-year old designer, Maegan Osmond, chose Florida’s Blue Butterfly, her gown made out of potato chip bags.

The 26 teens design or model for the “Recycled Fashion” show. They met Ms. Sue, as they call her, at the Young at Art Museum. The museum partners with other local organizations helping teens tap into their creative abilities.

“Ladies! As soon as your hair and makeup is done I need you to get into your outfits,” Aguilera reminds the models as the time nears for the runway show to begin.

An artist herself, Aguilera beams with pride when talking about the teens she mentors and nurturing their young, creative minds.

“They’ve had frustrations and we have had conversations where they are like ‘I don’t know if I can do this’ and it’s ‘Yes, you can! You can do this! You can do this!’ What we hope to accomplish is, through art, empowering these young people.

She calls her mentee, Lozada, awesome, explaining the young woman’s shyness and lack of self-confidence are things of the past. “I have seen a change in her.”

“The first time I met Miss Sue, I was like ‘oh okay, who is this lady? She is so creative’, says the teen. “She was like ‘oh you’re gonna learn how to sew, you’re gonna learn new things, meet new people, go on a fashion show. And also you get to have more knowledge and learn about endangered species. Whenever you are like, ‘Miss Sue, I do not get this’, you can ask a million questions and she will not get annoyed. She is awesome.”

First-time fashion show participant Osmand was very excited about her creation.

Aguilera took Osmond under wing just as art and design began inspiring the teen’s creative side.

“It’s amazing to see her have something, and have a plan and literally see her work it out until she has got it,” explains Aguilera.

“Miss Sue is amazing,” says Osmond. “She has been such a strong influence for me. She is always there to support me and she always helps me with ideas, as well as, actually creating this dress. She is so funny and keeps me so encouraged to keep on these designs. She’s just so kind and always supportive of my decisions. ”

“Meagan has really blossomed into this amazing young lady.”

Aguilera says she was a bit rebellious herself at 16, getting into some trouble. Then one day a mentor changed her life.

“I had an art teacher kind of take me under her wing and save my life. And I’m just glad that I can pay it forward as well,” says Aguilera.

“Miss Sue is a great mentor,” beams Bianca Lozada.

And after 16 years on the job working with teens Aguilera says what she loves most of the “ah-ha!” moments.

“Every designer that comes off that stage tonight is going to be like ‘I did it! I did it!’ and so that feeds my soul.

If you are a mentor and would like to share your story with us, please email us at mentoringmatters@cbs.com.

Click here for more Mentoring Matters.

— By Donna Rapado

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