Sixteen-year-old Linda Cifuentes has faced her fair share of hardships. She spent her childhood in foster care in Colombia, and was finally adopted two years ago by a family in San Diego, Calif.
Linda Cifuentes (photos courtesy of Linda Cifuentes)
Linda’s problems didn’t end when she came to America. In 2011, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, forcing her to endure aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
Yet the bubbly teenager remained positive throughout her struggles and even began making her own jewelry while in the hospital, selling her first design to her nurse. “While going through treatments, I prayed, surrounded my self with my family, and focused on making jewelry and having fun,” Linda says.
Linda working on her jewelry in the hospital.
“For Linda, jewelry is a source of happiness, beauty, and inspiration,” Carmen Cifuentes, Linda’s adoptive mother, says. Carmen recalls the time she took her daughter to the local YMCA to play basketball. “She showed up to play decorated head to toe in jewelry,” Carmen says with a laugh. “The coach didn’t know what to do.”
Linda’s first jewelry sale
Through the Make-A-Wish foundation, Linda recently had the opportunity to learn from her role model, designer and business mogul, Ivanka Trump. “Ivanka told me to stay true and work hard,” Linda says.
Thanks to a special invitation by Ivanka’s team and Lars Parker-Myers, manager of JCK Events, Linda also attended JCK Las Vegas 2012 in June, allowing her to learn more about the industry. “The show was very exciting,” Linda says. “We met a lot of great people, including the CFO of Muzo Emerald mines in Colombia who donated emeralds for the Strength in Layers design.”
Linda designing with emeralds.
Linda’s Strength in Layers design—crafted by the Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry design team—symbolizes the fight to overcome adversity. The teardrop emerald represents the pain an individual is going through and the layers of gold chains and pearls reflect the trials and tribulations of life. “Life gives you layers of challenges, but they make you stronger,” Carmen says. The emerald is surrounded by a gold sun with 12 rays that signifies each member of Linda’s family.
The jewelry will soon be auctioned off at a Make-A-Wish Foundation fundraiser, with a starting bid of $36,000. One hundred percent of proceeds will benefit the organization, allowing other children’s dreams to come true.
But that’s not all Linda is doing to help other children overcome obstacles. She has also created the Bags Full of Love program, aiding other foster children who are suffering from cancer. “When I was at the hospital I received a bag with a journal and other items. Knowing that somebody was helping me out made me happy,” Linda says. “I want to do the same thing for other children going through a similar situation.” Ten percent of the proceeds from the jewelry sold on her website will be used toward the cause.
When asked what advice she has for children and teens facing illnesses, Linda says, “I would tell them to stay positive and find something they enjoy doing. They can do it. I know they can.”
Linda’s positive outlook helped turn her difficult past into a bright future. While she was in New York City being mentored by Ivanka Trump, she wrote down two goals on a piece of paper. “I want to design jewelry for celebrities and one day I want people to know my name,” Linda says. “I’m keeping my promises.”
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