Meet Kathleen Herles, a New York teen of Peruvian descent and the voice many kids' favorite Latina cartoon star

Kathleen Herles, the voice of Dora the Explorer, is about to embark on a new adventure: “Dora Saves the Mermaids,” a special episode for the popular children's show Dora the Explorer. Check out the excitement from the animated kid heroine on Nick Jr. on Monday, at 7 p.m., Eastern Time.

We chatted with Herles, a 17-year-old high school student whose Spanish-speaking TV character has become a Latin icon in the United States.

How did you become the voice of Dora the Explorer?
When I was seven I would model, and we went to a convention and there I found my manager Shirley Grant, and she sent me to auditions. That same day they called me and told me they liked me, and they gave me the part.

Did you ever think one day you'd be so famous?
No, I never believed it. At first I did the pilot and they weren't going to do the show; then they tried again and they finally did it. Little by little it got bigger, and we never expected it.

You started as a young girl. How did you manage the show and school at the same time?
After school I'd catch the train to Manhattan and I'd go and record, I would get home late. I had to do my homework on the train with my mom, sometimes I'd go with my brother when he was 12.

What has Dora brought to your life?
When I go to places where children read, I have to be a good example. I'm more mature now, and the show taught me how to help people; since I was young, I was learning too.

You're 17 now. How long do you see yourself as the voice of Dora?
I want to be Dora as long as they want me to be, but I want to concentrate on school and go to college to study telecommunications, and when I grow up, I want to do television. I also want to help children in need.

How do you do Dora's voice?
I have to change my voice a lot to make it high enough, but it doesn't hurt my throat, just my jaw.