I am unique. I am Latina.

That's the message of {iexcl}Soy Unica! {iexcl}Soy Latina!, a Web site that encourages Hispanic girls to focus on their education and be proud of their heritage. The site, www.soyunica.gov, was created in 2001 by the U.S. government and targets girls ages 9 to 14.

The pages are bright, flashy and fun. Like some other Web sites designed for kids, this one has games, news, polls and quizzes. It also has interviews with well-known Latinas. Recently, it featured 13-year-old Kathleen Herles, the voice of Dora the Explorer in the Nick Jr. series, who said she is proud to encourage kids "to be bilingual and speak Spanish."

Soyunica.gov is itself bilingual. In Spanish and English, it deals with topics of interest to most girls, including how to handle homework, deal with bullies and understand the bodily changes that occur as one matures.

Other parts of the site focus on things of particular interest to Hispanic girls, including a page titled "What it means to be bicultural."

Columba Bush, who is married to the governor of Florida (and is President Bush's sister-in-law), is a big fan of the site, which she said "has a lot to offer Latina girls."

"If they feel like they don't fit in, or that nobody understands what they're going through, the Web site can let them know that they're not alone," Bush, who was born in Mexico, told KidsPost in an e-mail interview.

Of the approximately 10 million girls ages 10 to 14 in the United States, more than 1.5 million are Latina. And with 7 million Latinas under the age of 18, Soyunica.gov clearly has an audience well into the future.

Jessica Gaitan of Gaithersburg reads the site in Spanish and English and thinks it's a good way for Latinas who aren't bilingual to learn English. Jessica, 11, said Soyunica.gov is the only bilingual Web site she's found that is aimed at helping Hispanic girls learn about topics such as self-esteem, family values, puberty and cultural pride.

Haley Montano, also 11, taps into the site at Washington Grove Elementary School in Gaithersburg. She says it's spurred her to want to become an architect. "The Web site is really good; it helps us learn more about ourselves and our heritage," Haley said. "Girls should visit because they might be like me, undecided about the future, and this Web site could help them get a clear idea of what they want to do."

"Odds are, if a Latina girl has a question on any subject, Soyunica . . . has some answers," Bush said.

-- Luz Lazo

Haley Montano, 11, says the Soyunica Web site is a good tool for Latinas: "It helps us learn more about ourselves and our heritage."