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The Power of Teaching with Luz Nazario

Luz Nazario is the creator and founder of NEDA's Coquito, and a veteran educator with more than 25 years of experience preparing and educating the future game changers. More than five years ago, Luz decided to make some game-changing moves for herself that Christmas as funds ran low. She needed to do something quick to tie the family over until she returned to work, using the ingredients already at home, not ordinary, and not from Abuela. Luz knew how to make Coquito but wanted something different. After playing around with and tweaking the recipe, she arrived at NEDA's Coquito.

Listen to the full episode here.



[01:00] Luz Nazario on what she’s most passionate about

[01:56] Luz Nazario on how her passions relate to what she does for a living

[04:00] Luz Nazario on where her passion for service to others comes from

[00:14] Luz Nazario on the biggest challenges of being a teacher

[36:57] Luz Nazario on the glimmer of hope that she finds in teaching

[42:51] Luz Nazario on starting NEDA’s Coquito

[56:38] Luz Nazario on making NEDA’s Coquito more than a seasonal drink

[01:02:26] Luz Nazario on her dream for women


Passionistas: Hi, we're sisters Amy and Nancy Harrington, the founders of The Passionistas Project Podcast, where we give women a platform to tell their own unfiltered stories. On every episode, we discuss the unique ways in which each woman is following her passions, talk about how she defines success and explore her path to breaking down the barriers that women too often face.

Today we're talking with Luz Nazario about the power of teaching. Luz is the creator and founder of NEDA's Coquito, and a veteran educator with more than 25 years experience preparing and educating the future game changers. More than five years ago, Luz decided to make some game-changing moves for herself that Christmas, as funds ran low. She needed to do something quick to tie the family over until she returned to work, using the ingredients already at home, not ordinary, and not from ala. Luz knew how to make Coquito, but wanted something different. After playing around with and tweaking the recipe, she arrived at NEDA's Coquito. So please welcome Luz Nazario.

We're so excited to hear your story. Luz, what are you most passionate about?

Luz: Oh my gosh. You know, so funny. I was, I, I was thinking about that. What would be my, my, my passion, and there's so many, but I think part of my passion would be to be of service to someone. My love for my family and Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico. So right now, those are my Passionistas. I don't know if that's gonna change next year, but right now, the, the, these are things that have been consistent.

Passionistas: That's the beauty of Passionistas is that they can change.

Luz: Yes.

Passionistas: So tell us how those Passionistas relate to what you do for a living.

Luz: As you said, I'm an educator right now. I'm in year 28 of education. And I like to create things and I like to show people how to do things and lay that little seed, if you will, in their life so that there's some connection, right? And so as an educator, that's what I do. I, I teach so that then you can change the future so you can be that impact.

And Lord knows what we are gonna have in the future, but I want to make sure that I have given that seat to my students. I try to encourage them to be creative. I try to instill in them. Basics, what I would call basics. We take it for granted. Good morning, please. Thank you. Good afternoon. How are you?

How can I help you? Basic things like that that we would think like everybody should know that, but you'd be surprised. Not a lot of people do, and above all to smile. And that sometimes proves to be hard, but I think smiling, as I've explained to them, smiling can sometimes be very disarming. In terms of if someone, you're in a situation and you smile, they kind of don't know what to do though, right?

So that kind of opens the door and allowing you to then step forward. And that is where I would say I've made friendships and connections with people in being able to help them or be of service. Two people. So like I said, my love language is acts of service and how can I help you? Do you need help with something?

Sometimes, you know, it's just being there, even if it's just quiet, right? Because sometimes as if we've seen with this, with the amigos, sometimes it's just being in the audience, just listening. Just to provide that little boost. And as, as an educator, you try to, to impart those things with people, sometimes you don't need to say a lot.

And so with we came to that. And I'm gonna stop cuz I think you have a question and I don't wanna jump too far ahead of you.

Passionistas: No problem at all. No problem at all. Yeah. We will get to NEDA's Coquito. Okay. What we, what we'd like to find out is where this love of, this passion for being of service to people came from. What, what was your childhood like? Where did you grow up and when did you develop this passion?

Luz: Okay. Well, I am the youngest of four. My father in his previous marriage had three children, two girls and a boy. And I'm my mom's only child. So my and my mom's his second marriage. And there is a 10-year gap between my brother who is the youngest of that first marriage and me.

And I would say that wanting to be accepted or wanting to be part with them, because even though they're considered my half siblings, my parents always tell me they're my siblings. And growing up as an only child, always trying to be part of, of something or to help someone and not having them at home.

I think I always wanted to, do you need help with something? Can I be there? Right? So those, those things that as a kid growing up, you, you want to have that acceptance and be able to have people say, oh, let's invite Luz. She can help with this. And I believe that's where that came from. And also seeing my parents.

My parents are very giving I would say my mom more so than my dad. My dad is very good at organizing and getting things set. And my mom is very intuitive. She can pick up on things. For example, oh, I see Nancy might need help with this. Let's, let's get over there. And so seeing them do that and they, my mom worked with the elderly.

So just seeing her also take care of, of the elderly. That was, I would say, that's part of that seed. I was born in Puerto Rico and about a week after I was born, my parents moved to the Virgin Island. Saint Croix. Well, no, actually, they, they already lived there, but because medical attention was not that good, they made sure I, I was born in Puerto Rico because my parents didn't want to lose me.

So about a week afterwards, I grew up with, went back to St. Croix. I grew up in the Virgin Islands on St. Croix, the island of St. Croix, and that's where I grew up. But my traditions and my summers and breaks were always in Puerto Rico. My mom made sure I got back to Puerto Rico, made sure that I didn't lose that I was raised.

Knowing the culture of where I lived and embracing the traditions and making friends and being part of those traditions and celebrating the uniqueness. But my parents always told me, you are Puerto, you are from Puerto Rico, and those traditions were at home. And b, that St. Croix is a small island, which is about 45 minutes via airplane to, from Puerto Rico.

We share a lot of those traditions. So, you know, St. Croix is predominantly an island of our are for Caribbean people. And so that whole integration of culture and, you know, all of that just forms who I am. So, for example, some of my kids, they, they hate it, but I could be in a room with someone that's Jamaican Creole from any of the islands and be able to pick up right away under Creole and their oi and be able to jump right in and then switch right over to King James English as one of my professors used to say, because I went to school in Pittsburgh and he was just always amazed cuz there's so many of us from the Virgin Islands as well as Puerto Rico.

So he used to be amazed to watch us go from speaking proper English to talking understand saying to coming back to King James. He's like, I don't know how you guys do that. So as I as going through school, I understood that was code-switching where you could do that. So that's, that, that was really, that's where part of my cultural upbringing, part of who I am.

And then I went to school in Pittsburgh as far away. Right. So how do you get to Pittsburgh? The thing is, I had applied to school in Puerto Rico and at that time my cousins were also going to college in Puerto Rico and I got accepted to the University of Puerto Rico and American University. These are good colleges in Puerto Rico.

But my mom was like, no, no, you are going to college to study. You're not going to party with your cousins. And I had some family family in Philadelphia, my cousins, which truly like my cousin, me, then his brother. So we're, we're the stairs. And they were like, yeah, no, you're not gonna Philadelphia either because you three together.

No. So I was like, well I wanna go to school in the States. So I had to look and I looked and I looked and I came across Point Park College. At that time I was Point Park College, but now it's Point Park University in Pittsburgh. And I figured, well, I'm six hours away from family. In Philadelphia, and I'm about three hours away from the island.

Should I need to? My parents were very happy when I picked. They're like, why? Oh yes. And people would tell me, why are you going there? It's cold. And I said, I've never been to Pittsburgh. What the heck? So I went there. I studied, I started where I wanted to do journalism, broadcast communication. At some point in time, I decided to get into education, and my mom said, I always knew you'd get into education.

I was like, why? I. She said, because when you were little, you would line up your, your, your stuffed animals and your dolls and you'd stand in front of them and start talking and you would start showing them the alphabet and you would start teaching. And you'd even get this, the teacher voice, she said, from small you had that teacher voice.

I was like, oh, good lord. But that is what happened. And I graduated with a bachelor's in journalism, broadcast and secondary education. Then I moved to Philadelphia. I said, it's about time I go to Philly. I wanna be in Philly. I was telling my mom, I got my degree, I'll be good. I'm not, it's not gonna be a party school.

I'm not gonna, I got accepted to LaSalle University. I did my master's in bilingual bicultural education, and I met my husband and he was, he's from Puerto Rico. And We did not like each other at first. Well, actually I didn't like him. He says he knew right away. I'm like, Hmm, whatever. And I started working with a nonprofit organization called

I started teaching adults and that was where I started. And then I was able to get hired by the Philadelphia School District. And my trial by fire was at one of the inner city schools, Jugo, which is truly at that time, was truly in the hood North Philadelphia. So when you hear Will Smith talk about, you know, born and raised West Philadelphia.

Well, this is North Philadelphia Trial by fire, and we, I stayed there and then we got married in 97. And as I said, we knew we didn't wanna stay in Philadelphia. Even though we liked Philadelphia, I would always get sick. So winters for as beautiful as they are, I can, winters are very detrimental to my lungs.

So we moved to Miami August 31st, 1997. As I shared with you, you know, the, that was when we pulled into my sister-in-law's driveway when we got out. She's like, oh my goodness, did you hear the news? And we're like, well, we just got here. What are you talking about? Oh, princess Diana died. I was like, oh. So I always remember August 31st, 1997 is when we got to we got to Miami and, what's that? 28? No, no, 27. 25. Ooh, 25 years. So we've been married 25 years. We've been together 27 years. I was looking at my kids' like confirmation. I can't tell 'em I forgot. I mean, we just celebrated 25 years of marriage. So you think like after that big thing I did on a celebration, I would remember how long we've been dating and we have two kids.

My oldest is my daughter, she's 23. And my son Jeremiah, he's 19. So they are truly Miami babies and they're in college and working. And I've been with the school district of Miami, Miami-Dade County 21 years. 21 years. Yes. 20, yeah. 21 year. 22 years. Whoops. 22 years I've been with the, the school district of Miami and I teach middle school to, you know, that age where you, some people say, I understand why certain animals eat their young. That's the grade that I teach. I teach intensive reading and as well as adult education and college classes as well. So that is me in terms of the professional, you know, my whole preparation side.

What is that? The, the CV, the curricula vita. Oh, that fancy word. Anyway, my resume. If you were to ask, that's what you see on LinkedIn, right?

Passionistas: That's amazing. That's an incredible journey that you took. Amazing that you have ended up where you are and that you're doing what you're doing. So why did you pick this age group to teach and talk about kind of what the experience is like. What are some of the biggest challenges of being a teacher these days?

Luz: Well, you know, my practice I did in Pittsburgh at a high school, Taylor Aldi, senior high school, and I was thinking of doing high school and I was, when I moved to Philadelphia, that's where I applied to high school, but there was no openings.

And in most places you can, I need to know somebody. But so my aunt knew someone that was teaching at the Jugo bilingual middle school, and that's how I started in middle school and I've been there ever since. I like them and I don't like them. Right. So what I like is that you see them come in as sixth graders and they're still, you know, they come with these ideas of TV that shows in high school, in middle school, and you see them really try to balance, you know, I'm not in elementary, I'm in middle school.

And they have their backpacks and they're ready. And somewhere along the line you see them crash. Like, oh my gosh, this is hard. And then you try to motivate them and it's like, it's okay. This too shall pass. Don't worry. Keep going. And you see this evolution. Seventh grade. Oh, good lord, Jesus. That is, I mean, they, they're just, their hormones are all over the place.

Talk about the, the physical, the emotional hormones and Oh my Lord. But they're, they, they, you see them evolve and then they get to eighth grade and you're like, okay, yeah, you need to go to high school. We're done. They become the big fish in the pond and you're, you're thinking like, wow, you, you see this whole transition.

And I like that. So, you know, seventh grade is sometimes where I'm like, Ooh, baby. You so lucky. Your mommy loves you just the way you are. And they're like, miss, what does that mean? I said, because right now Ms. Mao's having a moment, you need to just leave me alone. And they're like, oh, okay, okay. So that's seventh grade.

But I, I, I look forward to that eighth grade when you see things start clicking for them and then they realize, you know, some of them tell you, I'm just gonna finish high school because I'm supposed to, but that's not what I wanna do. And they, they start tuning in, like, oh, this is what I want. And when they come back in ninth grade to visit, they have a clearer idea.

I've had some students say, miss, I took a business class online and I think I'm gonna start a lawnmower lawn landscaping. I was like, all right, go for it. You know? So you see the, this whole evolution. And then the funny thing is, this year, one of my former students, Child is at my middle school. I nearly died.

I was like, Mrs, you don't remember me. I was like, no, I don't remember you. But I'm like, hi, how are you? I didn't tell them no, I didn't remember you. They like, you don't remember me, right? And I said, well, they pulled out their phone and they said, look, this is me. When I was in your class, I was like, oh, you have kids now?

And they're like, yes, miss, did you think that? I was like, oh good lord. But their kids are not with me. But it's just funny to see that now they're coming, they're coming to me and you just start to see them as parents and they ask me, well, can, should. How do I call you? And I said, you can call me Luz now.

No, I'll call you Ms. Nazario. I said, but it's okay. Well, can I call you Ms. Luz? And I said, yeah, sure, no problem. You know, so they, they, they, you see that they're, they still feel that they need to call me Ms. Nazario, even though they're 30 something years old. And I, I enjoy that. So I've gone from language arts, I've taught just about everything except math.

Math teachers are one of a kind and that's why I didn't do math. And high school, I like high school. I've been going back and forth. If I wanna go back to high school, the only thing high school starts at seven o'clock in the morning. And your girl, even though she gets up at five o'clock to go do her, her two miles.

Yeah, that's, that's, I. I haven't been, I'm not ready. And I've done college and I did the adults and that was actually kind of a dream for me cuz I wanted, I think most educators at some point in time wanna teach at the college level. So I taught adults and I, when they need, you know, I'm like, yeah, sure, I'll do a class, not a problem.

But of course that's not steady because I don't know if, you know, it's based on registration, how many students sign up for this class or how, and then they need someone. So it's not, it's not as consistent. So that I haven't been in the college for about a college classroom for about a year or so. That's fine.

So now I'm doing adult ed and it's very similar. I am doing more the preparation and career preparedness and I do not do elementary. I realize I do not have the tolerance for the little people. God bless them. But I'm not, I, I, I just, I'm not just the thought of saying, miss, I got something. I can't, I, I'm like, no.

So elementary teachers are truly angels because they, one year they could be doing fifth grade, then they're doing first grade and then third grade and yeah. So elementary teachers, God bless you, they definitely deserve a lot of props. So those are the age groups I've done and not done. And I enjoy it. I really enjoy it.

And some people say, well, you don't get paid yet. We don't get paid. That, that is true. But at the same time, there's other things that that schedule has allowed me to do, and that is to be home on my. Be in be at home when my kids are home. So my kids went to an elementary, next to the high school. I went to that, well, sorry, the middle school that I taught at.

Right. And I was able to get them in there because I was an educator, even though it wasn't in our area, I wasn't in our neighborhood because I was a teacher. They let me put my kids there. If I needed to go pick up my child, that was not a problem. They came to my middle school, so I had them there. I think, I wanna say they didn't get in as much trouble in middle school because Ms. Nazario, your mom was right down the hallway. So I didn't those issues. And it, they, their friends learned fast who Ms. Nazario was their like, but they, they did enjoy the experience. And then when they went to high school, they went to high school, close to the middle school. So my schedule and their schedule was the same.

And that was one of the things that I truly enjoyed about being a teacher at that time. Cuz I was very worried of having, cuz I was a latchkey and I could tell you the things that I did as a latchkey and I didn't want them to do those things, especially as they were growing up. And I wanted them to be able to just have access to me as well.

So not have to worry like, well mom, when are you gonna pick me up? I've been waiting here for so long, or, you know, so forth. And then of course the summers were with them. So that's one of the things that I say that, that being an educator allowed me, and that's where I would say I felt successful. Right, because I was a latchkey and my mom sometimes would not get home till six o'clock and she would leave the meat out and I would have to season it and start cooking.

And I had to get in, lock the door, call mom. I came home by that time. At that time, people don't know we had rotary phones, so it wasn't as if mom could track me, and if I was late, boy, that phone was ringing and I better pick up that phone. So I, I, I remember the, the, the mischief that I would sometimes get into, or just feeling alone because my siblings were not at home, so they didn't live under that, that roof.

And just being curious. So I didn't want them to kinda have, I wanted to guide their curiosity. Let's just put it that way. Right? So that's that. At that point, I felt successful for them. That was one thing. When I think about what is success or, and I think success changes for people as we go through life, right?

And so as a mom, that was, I felt successful being able to be with them and have them have access to me. Yeah. That's amazing. That's really, it's really important. That's great. What do you think, how has education changed in the years that you've been in the education system? And what do you, what would you like people to know that you think maybe is a misconception about teachers or something that they don't know about the challenges you face?

Education has really changed. When I started, I don't know if you guys have seen the, this TikTok where, what is it? I'm Gen X, right? I was born in the seventies. Okay. Right. I'm Gen X. Okay. Where we've gone through all this change, everything was paper, paper-based. We had these huge grade books. They were paper.

I learned how to do everything paper. And I think that's also what brought about my creativity and then transitioned to electronics, to technology. Talk about a learning curve, right? You gotta learn that quick. And now the pandemic, which just like through all of us, you better, you better swim really fast.

And so that's things that a lot of teachers have had to go through. And I think that's why we've had such a mass exodus. I think, and I might get some sack for this, as educated, we have to be flexible. And I think that's what the, the veteran teachers we have, they've been flexible. Right? And I think a lot of people just think, oh, teachers, you get summers off.

Well, you know, yes and no. But lately, within the past five, 10 years, some teachers spend their summers taking classes because we need to know what's coming next. And with states changing a lot of the things that, you know, I live in the fabulous state of Florida, so I'm just gonna leave that there. So you guys have what's been coming down, you know, so we always have to go and get ready.

We have to prepare what's coming next. How do we change this? How do we prepare? One of another big thing has been, The, the social, emotional learning, the wellness, all these things that these kids have had to go through. I understand, right. We wanna, we not only, I think we've given names to a lot of things.

I'm trying to phrase this correctly cuz I don't want any backlash. We try to phrase, we try to give names to these things. You know, social anxiety, the depression, you know, the, all these things that our kids go through, right? And we, we try to be of service, try to help the, help the kids get and adjust.

And I could only do so much because that's what my district says I can do. And I can't do more than a lot of people want me to do. What I need people to understand is, You know, we educators try, we really do try anyone that's coming into the field, because definitely they wanna change, they want to teach people.

There's a love there for learning. There's a love there of sharing, there's a love there of service. And I have to make so many changes in one hour. Amy just got really upset because she got a text that her boyfriend is like, I don't know if I wanna see you. Nancy's upset because now she's not going to the party.

And Nancy, who just loves to talk, all of a sudden has shut down. So now I have to figure out, okay, Amy, turn off the phone. Boyfriend, don't worry about him. You too young to worry about that. Make sure you get this 1 35 done. Nancy, do you need a moment? Do you need to step out? Do you need to go to the counselor and still teach?

And make sure. So there's a lot of hats going on. There's a lot of stuff going on. And I'll be honest, there's times I've missed stuff. I don't catch everything. And one thing, the pandemic that I want parents to understand is not that we don't care for your kids, but I cannot help your child or teach child if I'm not taking care of myself as an educator.

So, you know, we've heard of this thing over and over again as, as they say in the airplane. You know, make sure you put your mask on before you take care of other people. We, teachers have to do that. And some we get burnt out and again. Oh, but you get summers off. Yes, I get summers off, but I still have to prepare.

I still have, yes, I take a break and I don't always get paid during the summer. Okay. So there's a lot of things going on. So the good and bad is that it'll continue changing, right? We will always look after our kids because they are our kids. Have I always been a good mom? No. Have I always been a good teacher?

No. But I'm human and that's what I ask people to understand. We're human. We're not perfect. We do make mistakes. And I think what we, what I ask other educators, because I'm a lead mentor in my, I'm one of the lead mentors in my district, and I keep telling my mentees, my teachers that are coming in, it's okay to say you don't know.

It's okay. Sometimes you need to take a break. And especially during the pandemic, I was telling a lot of them, you need to shut off by five o'clock. And I know I got a lot of slack from colleagues and some parents. But I, there's a lot going on and I cannot be with your child on Zoom if I don't take care of what I have at home and what I have going on with me.

So five o'clock, you need to stop. You need to stop or create office hours. I am not available from five to seven. Okay. And if you're going to be available, it's seven to eight or seven to nine, and you have to keep, you know, I, I, I, it just because I try to tell them, you gotta advocate for yourself, especially these new teachers, cuz they're so gung-ho, they're so excited.

I wanna do this, I wanna do that. And I'm telling them, yes, I love that, but you need to do some self-care, self-preservation, because if not teachers leave, a lot of these new teachers leave within two to five years of starting. Hello. We don't have teachers. We don't have substitutes. Okay. And then to sound cliche-ish, we prepare all the other careers, right?

So it is going to continue changing. And it's a, it, it is a worthwhile and yes, a noble, and as one time somebody told me, yeah, but Noble doesn't pay the bills. I say, yeah, you're right. Noble doesn't pay the bills, but Noble impacts the future, right? So that's. My bills are gonna keep coming, but the future also. So which one would I rather, which one would I rather have a say in?

I'd rather have a say in the future. So we have perfect teachers known. We have great teachers. Yes. One thing that I do wanna put out there that's been very stressful for some of us teachers is, you know, when we have to go into a code red lockdown, that's very stressful. When we have students, I get a lot of the ESOL students, a lot of the students that come to the United States and, you know, they come with these dreams.

I'm in the school of the United States. They're, you know, they're dealing with a new education system, a new language, a new environment. There's a lot that that's going on for them that they have to, and now I'm telling them that you have to go to a hard corner. You better shut your mouth and don't say anything because they can come in and, and shoot you.

How do I explain? You know, I tell, and they're like, is this real? I said, no, honey, it's a drill, but how long do we have to do this drill? I said, until they tell us. And so that's, they're like, what, how long is that? And I said, I don't know. And you see their little faces like, you know, they're, they're scared and sometimes I have time.

It's okay. And they're like, is this all the time? I said, we have to pre, we have to practice at least once a month. Why do you practice for something like that? Because God forbid it should really happen. You know what to do. Right? So it's very stressful for us to have to tell our students that, especially brand new kids.

And the sad part is my kids have escape routes planned. So, you know my classroom has big windows. They're like, miss. We will jump out the window cuz there's a roof and then there's a window, and then there's a roof because underneath. And I was like, miss, we'll take everything out. We'll put the backpacks out.

So if anybody, they land on the backpacks and we're gonna do this and we're gonna block the doors. And I'm like, I can't, I, I, you know, I tell, I I got you guys, I got you, I got you. But my job is for you to be quiet so we can make it to the next day so you can see your parents. At the end of the day, my dad told me, I gotta make sure I get outta school.

I said, I got you. I hear you, I hear you. What do I tell them? What do I tell 'em? So I, I'm having these conversations. I didn't have these conversations 20 years ago. Right. So now I'm like, I have to have these conversations. Let them have it out and let them spill out. And then just say, okay, do you need a moment?

Do you need to go to the counselor? Do you need to go to the bathroom? And just… And I, I pray that it doesn't get any worse. I, but you know, the sad thing is when we see, and, and then here comes this whole thing, I have to talk about mental health. Cause I'm using you ladies again. Amy and Nancy are having a, having a moment and I have to make sure I connect them with somebody. And like I have one student that her mom, every other day she doesn't come.

And when I see her I tell her, Hey, welcome back. How are you? Fine Miss. I said, you haven't been coming back to class or can you, do you want me to send you the work via email? I guess, you know, but she has a lot of stuff going on. I'm like, and it scares me. Why? Because I don't know. What I'm gonna get or who's gonna take care of me when I get older, and what do I mean?

And I know it sounds unfair. It's kind of scary to see that a lot of these kids might be the orderlies in the home, the, the home, the assisted living facility, or, and I'm, and I, I pray and I say, Lord, you better adjust those wires because I want to live long. I don't want any of them, you know, thinking, and I, I make light of it, but you know, it's, I see it.

I'm thinking, oh, Jesus, wow. And I worry that they're not gonna be tough enough. I do worry about that for my students that I, I, I, I don't, I don't worry that they're not gonna get, have a living or a profession because we all get that at some point in time, we get We find a career, we find our path.

Right? Because I don't know what you ladies wanted to be when you were younger. I wanted to be a triple threat. I wanted to be singer, actress, dancer, but I, hello. Here I am. You know, so I don't worry about that. I worry can they make it in bad times, in tough times. I seriously worry. Are they gonna be able to, and, and sometimes I get really frustrated and I was like, these kids are so soft.

But I don't mean, you know, I don't mean it, I tried to say, I don't mean it in a bad way. It, it just scares me. It worries me.

Passionistas: We're Amy and Nancy Harrington and you're listening to The Passionistas Project Podcast in our interview with Luz Nazario. To order Luz's delicious, handcrafted egg-free, dairy-free and gluten-free drink, visit

Now here's more of our interview with Luz.

So what's the glimmer of hope that you find in all of this?

Luz: Like, those are all the hard things, but obviously there's something that keeps you coming back, besides wanting to give back. There must be something hopeful about all of it too. You know what the, the hopeful thing for me is that when I get to see like, oh, she got it.

I had one student, oh my gosh, poor baby girl. She's, this is her fourth year in middle school. She started sixth grade in the middle pandemic. We could hardly ever get her online. We went to go get her in the sense, get her in the sense like, are you okay? Someone, you know, the, the administrators went to her house, like, why are you not logging on and so forth.

Then she came back into school when we decided to go back in person and She, she was glad to be back when she was having problems. Then last year when she did eighth grade, sorry, seventh grade the second time, oh my God. I mean she was, she was having problems reading. She was an ESOL student. She couldn't exit.

She could speak, but she couldn't exit. And we're finding out, you see these kids and you start like, okay, this child has a gap and they're learning. How are we going to bridge this? And she would struggle and she'd really have high highs and low lows. We're like, oh my goodness. Last year, the really hard year, which, and I, and I, and I love her cuz I see how she's, she's evolved and she's one of those helpers, miss, can I help?

So-and-so, and I'm like, sure. And even though her, her, you know, she's behind, she wants to help. I'm like, Okay, no problem. So definitely I told, I already see she's gonna be in profession where she's, where she's gonna help people. She lost her mom. The principal comes to my class and says, I need to talk with Issa.

I'm like, and I saw my principal. I was like, no. She's like, and my, my, my principal's eyes were watery. And I'm thinking like, oh my God, here. She's making all this progress. And I said, mama you know, when I call my students mama, it's sort of like a term of endearment. Like, honey, sweetheart, come here. And I said, Maita, come here, Issa.

The principal wants to speak with you. And she's thinking like, I got in trouble. And all the students are like, Ooh, you got in trouble. And I'm just like, stop talking. Get back on task. And the principal is escorting her. And I, I just couldn't, I was, I told the class fellow teacher and I said, can you watch them just for a moment? I just need to,

She lost it. She lost it, by the time we got to the office, she was hysterical. She's like, what's gonna happen to me? What's gonna, my dad, my dad li my biological dad lives in Cuba. My aunt hates me. My stepdad is weird. And so I'm like, I'm, I'm freaking out. And I'm thinking like, oh my gosh. So of course, you know, she takes the time that she needs.

Well, I see her struggling all of last year. This year she came in Spitfire. She's like, miss, I'm gonna get this. I'm gonna do this. And she is, So honest. She says, miss, I got a D. What do I gotta do to change that? And I said, well, what do you think you need to do? And she's like, well, I know I didn't do this and I didn't do that, but Miss I get frustrated and you need to move my seat.

So now she's totally advocating for herself and I see her taking ownership and she's, she tells me, miss, I finished this assignment, can I take it to so-and-so? And I said, but did you finish my miss? I have one more. Just gimme a moment. And I'm like, okay, go honey. And she goes, and you see, you know, that's the hope.

That's why I come back because I'm so proud of her. You making me emotional. Stop y'all. Thank God y'all are not seeing this cuz I'm about to ugly cry, you know? And I'm so proud of her. And you know, when we had to select, she's already our, our turnaround student. Right. And so she's got sponsorship to all the eighth grade activities because we've seen how hard she works.

And she's just kicking butt. She's a C student. But I'm just like, girl, this is awesome. And so now you got me crying. But, but I'm so proud of her. I can't wait till she goes to high school. And I told her, listen, you know, she's gonna go to the high school my kids went to, so I know she could pass by and, and stop in.

But that's it. You know those moments where you see these kids and it starts to turn, brighten up and you know, she's not an a student, but I know she's gonna be fine. She's gonna do good and I know it's gonna click for her. And I just told her, girl, you're gonna be kick ass. Just keep going. She says, I hope so, miss.

I said, girl, who's gonna stop you? So those moments, that's why I keep coming back. And I've had quite a few of them, you know, in 28 plus years I've had a lot of them. And so that's why I keep coming back. Cause then I see the future and I'm like, okay, it's not so bad. But I still worry. Yeah.

Passionistas: That's incredible seeing someone step into their power like that. That's Yes. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. So in the midst of all of this, you start your own business. So tell us how and why that came about.

Luz: Well, about one thread of American educators, the United States teachers, about one-third of them have a side hustle, have a small business. That right there should tell you, I'm sure right now after the pandemic is two-thirds of educators.

And they've gone from being what's called ED entrepreneurs, where they're teachers that become consultant. You've heard of teacher pay, teachers, you know, they get into all of this because there is a need. Right. And when I say a need, I also wanna say survival because of the changes. And NEDA’s came about in 2016, where.

A lot of things were going on. There was a lot of con changes going on in the country as well as in education. And there was a lot of changes going on personally. And I tried the multi-level marketing and tried different things and I, I did tutoring and it was fine, but this Christmas, we had more December than we had green.

And I'm a creative person. I like to create things. I'll see things and I was like, how can I make use of this? Or I want to learn how to do this, or how do I do that? How do I create this? How do I make this? That's me. And as you mentioned, you know, I started looking at our, my husband and I had been talking, well, what are we gonna do?

And I was like, I don't know. So we had gone back and forth talking and he went to bed and I stayed awake and I'd like to recycle, reuse, and repurpose. So I had, I, I, so I had some glass bottles and I'm thinking like, what can I do with these, the spice blend. And then I went to the pantry and got a snack and I saw that I had evaporated milk because hurricane season you have a lot of canned stuff.

And I had condensed milk and oh, I had vanilla cinnamon. Oh, we have some old drum there. Oh, I'm gonna make coquito. And so I put it all together, took out the blender, set it up. And I said, I'm gonna make this happen, right? So I made the coquito, the regular normal coquito that my grandmother and my mom would make, and I called some friends and I said, listen, this is what's going on.

Would you buy a bottle? And they said, sure, but I had bottles of different sizes, right? And they said, sure. So it covered until the next, the next pay period, which was fine. And the next, and they said, oh, it was good. I, and they said, they, my friend said they liked it. So the next Christmas, my husband and I were talking, I said, what do you think about do this again?

He's like, yeah, go ahead for it. So I did it again. And every, every year someone was asking, I said, you know, I'm gonna try to make this a business. How do I get this? Now mind you, I didn't go to school for business. I had to learn business because I had to and. I said, well, we're gonna do I'm gonna put and you know, I did a Google search.

This is not your grandma's. And I'm like, no, we're not doing that. Cuz there's a lot of people that had that and they had their own name. And I was like, I wanted something different. And so we, they, you know, I was talking, we came up with why don't you just say you could just shorten it. I said no. Okay. And that's how NEDA’s came about.

Where I would do it seasonally, seasonal And then I turned, I pandemic hit, I got Covid when I got turned 50, so it was in December. At that time, because where I live, our, our home is small. I had to actually leave the home, my home, and I was getting ready for coquito season and I had orders and I had, I, I started to freak out because I was starting to take it to the next level and I was starting to meet people that were the regulars that always placed their orders.

And I wanted to take this, make this even more serious, and I get covid and I had these orders pending and I had to pack up and go to one of these quarantine hotels. That is another story for another time. But I was so upset because I was super hyped. I was like, I'm gonna make this work. I'm gonna do what I gotta do.

And I go to the, to the quarantine and. I was start, I started to feel really down. So I was like, how am I gonna get these bottles? I told these people, I'm gonna get them. And my, I had changed the recipe, you know, from being dairy free, egg free, gluten free. Because originally that's how it had started as, you know, a dairy product.

And so I, I had a, I had changed the recipe to definitely be no . So I was not following grandma's recipe. But anyway, so I'm in the quarantine hotel and I'm starting to get really nervous and very upset and, and thinking I have to take care of myself. And as I turned 50 and, and you know, I believe in the power of prayer and I called a few friends and I said, I need you to pray with me.

I called my mom, my sister, my, and you know, They started praying with me and for me, and I started listening to praise and worship. And you know, definitely what came to mind is no weapon formed against Michelle Prosper. And I went into this whole thing, my life versus Jeremiah 29 11 where the Lord declares, I have a future, a plan for you to give you hope, a future to have you prosper.

And I, and I sort of in that whole thing at my 50 years old, I said, oh heck no. I am not going down. This is 50. I have 50 more years. I am not giving up these 50 years. This devil's a liar. I am going to beat this covid. I'm going to find out what I could do. And I was like, okay. I started tracking the days I need to be out of here in about 10 days. They said 14, but I'm sure I know I'm gonna be outta here in 10 days. And at that time, my nephew his girlfriend, she was in event planning and she had all these connections and things like that. And I'm, you know, outlining what I'm gonna do for Neda, said how I'm gonna do this and this is gonna happen.

And I said, you see this, God, this is gonna happen. And she sends me a message. She says, I was able to get someone to write an article about Coquito and they're gonna be highlighting the different Coquitos in Miami. Right? Cuz Coquito, first of all, Coquito means little coconut. Okay? In case anybody didn't know in Spanish, it means little coconut.

And Coquito is a drink that's typically served during the holidays in Puerto Rico. Now we do have the longest Christmas, we start mid-November all the way to the end of January. So coquito flows, right? So, so people understand that Coquito is part of Christmas in Puerto Rico. And if you're in cities where there's a huge diaspora of, of ques people that are from Puerto Rico, you know about Coquito.

I mean, we're talking New York, we're talking Chicago, we are talking Orlando, Miami, and they were highlighting all these people that made Coquito. And I, you know, part of me is like, those people are not Puerto Ricans. Alright, you need to be highlighting me because I'm Puerto Rican, I'm making coquito. But turns out that era, the in Puerto in, in Cuba, they have their version, which is a more like of a cream.

And then in the Dominican Republic they have their version, which is more of like what you would call it's similar to Che Cuba, where it's that type of blend. And also down the Caribbean islands, a lot of them have their own type. But I was like, This is Coquito for Puerto Rico. So the lady calls and I go on and I tell her all this stuff.

I was super hyped by the time I was done. I was like, yes, we're opening doors and we're gonna take this to the next level. And that was like, that right there got me hyped. It's like, okay, I'm gonna take this serious. I'm gonna take this serious. We're gonna take Neda's. We're we're gonna, what do I have to learn?

Who do I need to connect with to help me get neda's to the next level? And At that time. Oh. And then, you know, my husband was had also gotten Covid. My son got Covid. My daughter did not get Covid, so we had to move her out of the house. And so I came back to the house, right. And we got better from Covid.

But I was able, you know, I told the people honestly, I said, listen, I just got over Covid. I have sanitized your entire bottle at light salt. I'll even give you a lights all wipe. And they're like, girl, no problem. I'll buy your coquito. And they were ordering and they were telling people and I was just being very honest with them about it.

And you know, a lot of people started calling or they would, and that's how, in a lot of ways Neda has grown as word of mouth. So at that time we are, everybody's doing Zoom, right? That's the new phenomenon. Zoom. And I see that there's a Latina meetup. And they're talking about women in business. And I said, well, I have a business.

I'm not really an entrepreneur or a creative, but I do have a business, so let me go to this and see what I could get, what message I could glean from all these people. Cause my circle, there's no business, they're all EDU educators. And you know, all right, so I sign up, I meet, I meet, I start meeting all these women.

I met Wendy abk, all these women across the nation that are in Covid and are growing their business. Because guess what? We gotta take this to the next level. So we need to connect. There's no longer in-person meeting and. I start telling them about Coquito and then I start learning stuff. People start just, you know, giving me information and I am taking notes.

I am writing down stuff. I'm like, well, how do I do this? I start asking questions. I start looking for answers. I start networking. I start talking and asking like, Nancy, so how did you do that? What did you do? Now I ask questions. I look for answers. I, I move slow. I move slow. I will move, but I'll move slow, right?

Because I kind of need to feel it. I'm a kinesthetic and visual learner, so I need to do it and see how it evolves, but I'll get it done. So I'd have some people tell me, oh girl, you gotta move faster. I was like, Uhhuh, nope, that's not me. But I knew, I was confident that I would grow near us. So, happens because of this whole change of being an educator. And I needed to find another way to supplement the income. And I, I, you know, I'm a notary as well, but Neda has become the baby that has sort of opened the door, that has, you know, you talk about your child nine months, like, Hey, look at this.

Look, she's grown. She beautiful. So that's where NTA said, as she's been growing and she's been opening the doors for me, and I've been meeting people and even educators, you know, some of my, some of my supporters are my fellow educators, and we show up and try to help each other out. And I have a dear friend and colleague Cassandra died that she, we pray together and she's always like, girl, I'm so proud of you.

And she'll buy like five bottles. And I'm like, oh my God. But you know, You get people like that in your corner cheering for you. And that's what Nadas has allowed me to then connect. Who would've thought, who would've thought I would be talking to two sisters across the, the country? I had no idea who Amy and Nancy were.

Right. Never heard of you. But then, you know, it's the, this whole thing of women coming together. And that's, I tell you, let me, let me tell you a shout out to Julie. I love Julie dearly because she just manages to connect people here and here. Dai amazing connector all. And then to find out that Dai is from Miami, I was like, what?

And we start connecting and start. And she'll send me invites and say, Hey, come over this way. Check, check out this person, dally. Oh my God. I love her. She's one of the people that I said, Dali, I'm sending you some Coquito. She said, yeah, I'm gonna buy some Coquito. And I said, okay, tell me how it is. And she'll call me and says, the packaging was great, but you need to change this.

You know, so this is what NEDA’s has allowed. So be the fact that my education, my profession as an educator forced me to start nets. And NEDA’s meant a need. This act of service for my family to take care of my family, to provide for my family. It also fills my soul. Fills my soul. It I, it fills other people.

Because not only are you drinking something that's awesome, but you're getting me and we're getting each other and we're connecting and we're, we're making memories and. I've gone on a tangent. So ladies, let me stop because…

Passionistas: That was beautiful. Oh, that was absolutely beautiful. And we can't wait to actually try it. Cuz it's not just a, your goal is to make it not a seasonal drink, right? Is to make it a year round.

Luz: Yes. And the thing is being around the people that I am, the women that I am, that I've come in contact with, even the men that have showed up to support. Let me tell you, my husband is my, is my supporter, but he's my chauffeur, my delivery guy.

He is my security guy. He's the, the father of our, of, of our children and he's been such a supporter, but I've come across other men that have been supporters that support these women that are my friends, right? We have Nando, we have Heman, we have Jorge, we have these men that show up. Right. And that they're like Jorge's wife, she's become a supporter as well.

You know, they bought the Coquito. They did the coquito on a shelf instead of El on a shelf, and they ran with that. I didn't ask them to do that, right? They bought a bottle and they showed up. And so as we talked, they're like, well what about this? Have you tried about this? What about flavors? Now part of me is a purist, so that has been like, I don't know if I wanna do flavors.

Cause Coquito doesn't come in flavors. And you know, I was being kind of judgy of my other coquito makers. Like, why you making pistachio that's not Puerto Rican? Why you making Nutella flavored coquito that's not Puerto Rican? And. Just hearing, you know, some of what, what I call my amigo's family, giving me some input.

Well, why did you try this loose? Why didn't you try that? Okay, I'll try it. But then, you know, talking with Julie, she said do flavors of Puerto Rico. I was like, I had not thought about that. Mango grows in Puerto Rico. We'll do mango coquito, pineapple girls in Puerto Rico. We'll do pineapple coffee, chocolate West Indian almond grows in Puerto Rico, grows wild.

We have APIs in Puerto Rico. We have so much stuff in Puerto Rico. Yes, we could do flavors, right, because we have cocoa farms that, that we have our own brand of, of, of chocolate. We have our Jacono, which is our brand, our Puerto Rican brand. Of, so I am going to make Puerto Rican flavor coquito. So whatever flavor I come up with, you know, we did mango.

Jorge and his wife were in Miami. Ali was is in Miami. We got together, they taste tested, they brought their friends. They're like, oh, this is not too good. I was like, okay, no problem. How do I fix it? Right? So this is, this is how all these flavors came about. So they're called, which is Spanish for flight.

Okay. So the, I introduced the flights in December and then I introduced in a box. Cause Julie said, you need to have, provide people options. And I was like, but why am I gonna send them the ingredients? She's like, you have people that might not, cannot drink alcohol. I was like, oh, I had never thought about that.

So, I do coquito in a box. Coquito in a box. You get the ingredients minus the alcohol. But guess what? Nancy likes tequila. Amy likes whiskey. Guess what? You add whichever one you want. You get to create your own coquito. I just supply you with the ingredients and my special spice blend. You get a box, it comes to you in a pack, and it has a it comes to you in one of the bubble mailers the bubble mailers inside of a box.

And you, I put an ice pack inside. Everything is sealed. You get it, and you're able to make your own coquito. The first time I sent that, oh my goodness, I sent this to her name escapes me right now. I thought I had taken care of everything and in California, and I was trying to get it to her on time.

She sends me loose. It's, it got spoiled. I was like, Ugh. So back to square one. How do I send this? Cuz even though I thought I had figured it out, guess what? I had not put in an ice pack. I gotta make sure I send an ice pack. So when a customer tells me they feel, they can tell me, listen, why don't you try this?

Okay, we'll try. And I told her, listen, I'm really sorry. I will give you back your money. I said, no, you don't have to. And I said, no, this is what I've learned. You, you, you know, you are giving me feedback. I wanna make sure that you, you know, cause I appreciate that and I feel bad that you spent money and you didn't get it the way you thought it was gonna be.

So, you know, these are lessons learned. But how do you do that? Because you got people that, that support you, that show up, that then say, well you wanna consider this, try this. Did you do this? Oh no, I didn't think about it. So that's also where that education, that educator, so now I'm the student, I'm learning and making myself available, making myself teachable, asking questions, looking for answers, and networking.

Cause girlfriend here does not have a degree in business, but I'm learning. So that is such an amazing story. It's so, so, so, so great. I love the, how the women in your community have all come together to support you. It's so fabulous and it's so

Passionistas. That's what, what we're all about. So we have come to the end of our hour. We wanna ask you one last question before we wrap up.

Luz: Yes ma'am. What?

Passionistas: And it's just a small one.

Luz: No, that's fine. I'm going, I can talk. If you haven't figured out, I can talk reel.

Passionistas: So what's your dream for women?

Luz: Oh, okay. We got what? Five minutes. Okay. You know what, I was talking with someone and I want, my dream for women is to be fearlessly exceptional.

Show up, look forward. I never considered myself brave, but someone last night in a conversation said, you are so brave. And every year when I do like my word, fearless always comes up. And I want women to be fearless. We do have power and I'm starting to realize how much power we have, and I want women to realize that I want to, I want, when I say you, I'm talking all women.

We are, we are mighty together. I've been finding that out. We are so mighty together and we, yeah, we do need men. You know, we, we get our supports and we should not, you know minimize or, or, or downplay them. But I want women to also step into that awesomeness, right? Because I just figured, you know, and I know some people would tell me God was a woman, but if you think about the power we hold, we give life.

I mean, hello, we give life. Yes. The men that have their contribution. I'm not telling you no, but we give life to everything and we have to give ourself life too. So I want women to be brave enough to just step in and just say, I can do this. And find our women. Find your tribe. And guess what? We could say no.

No is a complete sentence. Hello? No. Is a complete sentence. And the complete sentence is, I am, hello. We got a subject. We got a verb. Those are complete thoughts and I want women to know that, and I want women to keep showing up for each other. I'm 52 years old and at this point I've understood. When I was younger, I used to say I make better friends with men, with guys, yeah.

But at this age, now I'm realizing what I missed, if I would've had more female friends, right? So I love my sisters. They show up and I'm talking to my soul sisters, my business sisters, and you know, I'm gonna go to California. My son wants to go to California, so we're gonna have to hook up. Okay. And you know that, that, that's what I want women to, I want women to be brave and audacious man because we could do it.

And, and I think that's also why more women have businesses because we get to dictate our terms all, you're not gonna pay me the same you paying as a guy, no problem. I'm not mad at you, but I'm gonna make my, my salary then. And you can do that. You know? And, and that's, that's what I dream for women. I dream that for my daughter.

And I keep telling her I can't wait to see the woman she's gonna become. Cuz then I'll be like, yes, that's my child.

Passionistas: Thanks for listening to The Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Luz Nazario. To order Luz's delicious, handcrafted egg-free, dairy-free and gluten-free drink, visit

And be sure to visit to sign up for our mailing list, find all the ways you can follow us on social media and join our worldwide community of women working together to level the playing field for us all.

We'll be back next week with another Passionista who is defining success on her own terms and breaking down the barriers for herself and women everywhere.

Until then, stay well and stay passionate.


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