The beauty of service: Panther named Miss Hialeah USA, giving back to community – FIU News


Beauty is about giving back. Isabela Corzo ’15, MPA ’19 is living proof. 

The alumna and staff member was named Miss Hialeah USA in November of 2020 and is currently preparing for the Miss Florida USA competition. The newfound platform is allowing her to impact her community at a whole new level.

As Miss Hialeah USA, Corzo has spent countless hours serving others and especially helping them get through a brutal pandemic. Just a few examples: She worked at various federal vaccination sites at Hialeah and helped translate English to Spanish-speaking residents. Amidst folks losing their jobs due to the pandemic, she helped distribute food to families and senior citizens in Hialeah and across South Florida.

Along with the Mayor of Hialeah, she distributed more than 600 Easter baskets for children. She’s also met with a number of local leaders and Hialeah’s elected officials to discuss ways to help Hialeah residents.

“This [becoming Miss Hialeah USA] has provided me an opportunity to have a voice in my community,” says Corzo. “It’s an opportunity to serve where I am needed, to develop new friendships. I’ve evolved, I’ve become a better version of myself. I’m living up to my potential. If I do win Miss Florida, I can impact so many more people.”

One of Corzo’s goals is to raise awareness about education, food insecurity and mental health issues. For years, Corzo has been working to help students take hold of educational opportunities. She previously worked at the McNair Scholars program at FIU, helping underrepresented and first-generation students prepare for doctoral studies, and she advocated for FIU in DC while interning with the team at the nation’s capital. She mentors high school and college students on her own time. 

The mental health aspect is also particularly personal.

Corzo continues to participate in food distribution efforts across South Florida.

Speaking out about mental health

Just a few years ago, life was different for Corzo. An Honors College grad focused on building her career at FIU, Corzo felt she was moving forward on a straight path – until a tragic loss left her reeling. 

In 2019, her partner of nine years died by suicide. It was devastating.

“It was very hard for me to get through that loss,” Corzo says. Her fiancé’s untimely death has fueled her desire to make a difference.

“I want to work with larger organizations to advocate and tell my story,” she says. “I want people to know that it’s really important to speak to someone. It’s ok not to be ok. There are people out there who can help you sort everything out. It’s important for parents, family members and friends to understand that sometimes withdrawing, being aggressive, showing the symptoms [of mental health disorders] is a cry for help. That would be my message. You’ve got to be very supportive. With the proper support system, you can get through anything.” 

After her partner’s death, Corzo focused on academic and professional pursuits. Corzo, who had previously earned a bachelor’s in biology, excelled at her master’s program in public administration, graduating in one year with a 4.0 GPA and completing a weeklong study abroad program in South Korea – all while working full-time.

During that year, she also landed a job as the coordinator of administrative services at FIU’s Office of the President – an exciting opportunity she took immediately.

“Work and school were my saving grace,” Corzo recalls. She kept busy. She grew. She achieved. 

But when the pandemic hit, she realized she’d put her own health and wellbeing on the backburner.

“I had let myself go,” she recalls. “I always told myself I didn’t have enough time to exercise. But during COVID-19, I told myself, ‘No other excuses. I’m going to make this change.’”