Women’s History Month Writing Contest

C53mwHzU4AA571QWe’re celebrating Women’s History Month by hosting a writing contest. Each entry increases your chances of winning a prize.  Participate in a daily writing activity, submit one entry, or more! Your entry will be featured in Latinitas Magazine and will be entered to win a prize.

Dates: March 6th  – 10th


1. Submissions can be quotes, brief paragraphs, and/or stand alone pieces on MyLatinitas.com or sent via e-mail to Jasmine Villa (editor@latinitasmagazine.org).

2. Top blogueras will win a prize! Each entry boosts chances of winning a prize.


– 1st prize- $35 Sephora Gift Card

– 2nd Prize – $20 Starbucks Gift

– 3rd prize – $15 Amazon gift card

Bonus:  2 random drawings of a $10 Starbucks gift card.

March 6:  Tell us what you are doing to help future generations of Latinas succeed! Whether you’re a first generation college student setting a standard for siblings or volunteering in your community, show us what you contribute.

March 7: I am a chica poderosa because _____________! Give advice on how to others can be chicas poderosas just like you.

March 8:  Who runs this? Girls! #WCW more like #WCE! Spotlight a Latina who has changed your life and/or history.

March 9:  The “F” Word: What does feminism and/or being a feminist mean to you?

March 10: Why are you proud to be a Latina?

Questions/Contact Information: Jasmine Villa, editor@latinitasmagazine.org

Save the Date: Amplify Austin March 2 – 3



Amplify Austin Day 2017 is less than 2 weeks away!  Latinitas is looking to raise $10,000 so that 100 girls can attend our 4-week summer camp, where they will develop valuable tech and media skills with the help of visiting mentors and artists and take field trips to local tech companies. Last year, they visited Dell, General Motors, Blackbaud, and Google. The weekly camp themes are Cine Chica, Tech Chica, Fashion Forward, and Healthy Chica. Help us #AmplifyFun for girls in our Latinitas programs by scheduling your donation today at: www.amplifyatx.org/latinitas.

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Your donation helps us fund tech education.

9000 new tech jobs are coming to Austin by 2017. However, women make up less than 17% of these companies; women of color a dismal 1%. Media doesn’t fare much better as the National Society of Newspaper Editors reports a drop in reporters of color in the last ten years down to 2% of newsrooms.

Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 5.18.30 PMNow let’s look at future of Austin. 60% of Austin’s public schools is Hispanic. That’s 50 of 84,000 students. Average family income for Hispanics in Austin: $32,000 making technology an unaffordable luxury. So, the city has a growing tech industry and a growing diverse population with barriers to tech. Latinitas is bridging that gap with training, culturally-relevant activities and mentors who reflect service population – making Latinitas one of the only bilingual tech education organizations in Austin and one of a handful, nationally.

Latinitas serves Austin’s poorest. Of the 300 girls Latinitas that meet weekly in Austin, over 95% live below the poverty level in neighborhoods that have higher than average rates of arrests for gun violence, drugs and gang activity. In Latinitas, girls learn the latest Web 2.0 platforms to design websites, produce video, record audio, blog, do photography, develop video games and apps and, recently – to code video games and robots.

Latinitas also connects Hispanic girls and teens with professional Latinas and other women of color through field trips, program visits or virtual mentoring.

And it works. Latinitas is reaching girls others aren’t. 63% of girls who attended Latinitas’ Code Chica Conferences had never had a coding lesson before.

16422919_885358428272292_601017221241945639_oBy meeting girls where they are at such as schools, public libraries, the Housing Authority or community centers makes coding, game design and app development accessible to one of the fastest growing demographics in our city. Latinitas in the long run is showing some amazing outcomes, 93% of Latinitas program alumni are graduating high school, 81% identify as a college student, that’s in light of having the highest school drop out rates (30%).

Latinitas has been defeating stereotypes not only based in gender, but also in culture for some time now.

Latinitas is not scrambling to connect young Latinas with the big picture future of Austin, it’s one of the models. Latinitas has evolved from its origins in magazine publishing to the innovative world we live in today and provides technology education and training so Austin will not have to look further than its own backyard for future tech talent.

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Conferences and Workshops


Latinitas Startup Chica


Saturday, October 14, 2017

9am to 5pm

Cost: $15 / Lunch provided

Where: Capital Factory (701 Brazos Street, Austin, TX 78701)


Girls of all backgrounds between the ages of 9 and 18 will learn how to come up with innovative ideas to help solve social issues and turn them into products and apps that they will pitch to judges.

Latinitas is honored to have a special keynote speaker that the girls can really relate to: 13-year-old entrepreneur Mikaila Ulmer, Founder and CEO of Me & the Bees Lemonade, which can be found at Whole Foods Market and other natural food stores.

The full-day conference will take place on the first floor of Austin’s hub for innovation, Capital Factory (701 Brazos Street, Austin, TX 78701), which has played host to former President Barack Obama and Apple CEO Tim Cook. The girls will spend the day learning how to identify and solve problems, define their market, price and market their products, and present their ideas. The event will close with the girls pitching their ideas to a panel of Hispanic entrepreneurs. Parents are invited to attend a workshop in the morning on how to support their child’s entrepreneurial spirit.

The $15 cost of attendance includes lunch and materials, and will be waived for all Club Latinitas members. Financial assistance is also available for those who may require it. The event is sponsored by eBay, Bumble, HomeAway, Wells Fargo, the LevelUp Institute, Donn’s BBQ, and the City of Austin’s Economic Development Department Cultural Arts Division. Anyone interested in sponsorships can reach out to vicky@latinitasmagazine.org.

Latinitas is still looking for helpers who can assist with event logistics and professionals who can serve as mentors for the girls. Interested volunteers can sign up here.



AUSTIN SUMMER CAMPS – July through August 2017, Monday – Friday from 9am to 4pm

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Cine Chica: July 10 – July 14

Fashion Forward: July 17 – July 21

Tech Chica: July 24 – July 28

Healthy Chica: July 31 – August 4

Camps are Monday-Friday from 9am to 4pm

Cost: $200 / Need-based scholarships are available

Where: 4926 East Cesar Chavez Street, Austin, TX 78702


. . .



Saturday, April 15, 2017

9am to 4pm

Cost: $10 / Lunch provided

Where: 3401 Webberville Rd (ACC-Eastview Campus)

Girls will work with UX professionals to design their very own website. During lunch, girls will meet with local VR experts while experiencing virtual reality demonstrations.


. . .

Tech Familia Digital Scrapbooking Workshop



Saturday, January 28, 2017 

10 am to 12 pm 

Cost: FREE for the whole family!

Where: 4926 E. Cesar Chavez St., Austin, TX 78702


. . .

Latinitas Tech Familia Workshop: Create A Web App



Saturday, November 26th, 10 am to 12 pm 

Cost: FREE for the whole family!

Where: 4926 E. Cesar Chavez St., Austin, TX 78702


This Thanksgiving weekend, Latinitas invites all families to join in on some free fun at our next Tech Familia workshop. Create a web app for giving and learn about the powerful combination that is design/technology and philanthropy.

. . .




Saturday, October 22nd 

9 am to 4 pm 

Cost: $10.00


This all day event will teach girls (ages 9-18) how to develop their own entrepreneur venture ideas from start to pitch by creating a business plan and marketing campaign with the assistance of mentors with the end of day goal to present to real investors!

WHERE:  Austin Community College Eastview Campus (3401 Webberville Road, Austin, TX)

For more information, call 512.900.0304 or email austin@latinitasmagazine.org

. . .


Saturday, November 12

10 am to 3 pm

WHAT: STEM Chica Conference: This STEM conference for girls will help local female pre-teen and teen girls to experience a real STEM job mentored by professionals in this leadership and science, technology, engineering and math career workshop.

WHEN: November 12 ( 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.)

WHERE: TecH20 Center (10751 Montana, El Paso, TX)

WHO: Latinitas, the American Association of University Women and the TecH20 Center are partnering to co-host the STEM Chica Conference. The STEM Chica conference is created especially for girls ages 9 and up with unique hands-on workshops, exhibits and panels.

WHY: The STEM Chica Conference is geared toward encouraging pre-teen and teen girls to aim high by setting high goals for themselves, achieving in academic realms and exploring STEM professional opportunities for their future success. Girls are invited to imagine their future STEM career and meet STEM role models. Workshops are led by professional women who are excited about sharing their careers with participants. STEM Chica features unique hands-on STEM workshops, activities and inspiring guest speakers.

REGISTER: Pre-registration is encouraged. For more information, call 219.8554, email latinitaselpaso@yahoo.com or visit www.LatinitasElPaso.com.

For more information, call 915.219.8554 or latinitasep@gmail.com.

Last Minute DIY Gifts

Looking for a last minute gift? Avoid the crowded malls and give a loved one something extra special this holiday season. Here are some easy and quick DIY gifts you can give a loved one this holiday season.

Photo Credit: Silver Gardens Boutique

Photo Credit: Silver Gardens Boutique

Toss the boring gift card packaging away and make your own gift card holder. 


–       Scissors

–       Duct tape

–       Ruler

–       Old or new gift card

Step 1:

Gather materials and cut four strips (7 inches long) of duct tape. Lay them down so the sticky part is facing up.

Step 2:

This part can be a little tricky. Select one duct tape strip and gently parallel the strips with one another by overlapping the first piece onto a second strip (about 1/8 of an inch). The sticky parts for both pieces are still facing you.

Step 3:

Repeat Step 2 for the remaining two duct tape strips. You should have two separate larger pieces, like duct tape fabric, instead of four.

Step 4:

Gently place one piece (sticky side) over the second piece (sticky side). After connecting the sticky sides together, cut off any excess tape from the corners. Voila! You’re almost done!

Step 5:

This part is like wrapping a present. Grab an old gift card, or a new one, and place the card onto the duct tape. Fold the bottom and top part at desired length – as if you were creating a sleeve for the gift card. Trim any excess tape.

Step 6:

Cut a new duct tape strip (4 inches), and cut 1inch strips from it. The strips will add the final touch. After you are done cutting the trips, tape each side of the gift card holder, and you’re done! You can add a bow to it for an extra touch, or use different colored duct tape to make it more snazzy.

Photo Credit: Elaine Craig

Photo Credit: Elaine Craig

Make Your Own Photo Snowglobe:

  • Photo
  • Packaging tape
  • Empty jar
  • (optional) Figurines (avoid metal figurines)
  • Glitter
  • Distilled water
  • Glycerin

Step 1:

Gather materials and select a treasured photo of a memory between you and your loved one. Next, prep the photo and jar.

Step 2: Remove any label residue from the jar.

Step 3:

Depending on the size of the jar, Elaine Craig, crafter at Wonder How To, states “You’ll want to print it in a size that is half an inch smaller than your bottle or jar’s width/diameter and height.” Waterproof the photo by laminating the front and back with packaging tape.

Step 4:

Roll up the photo, insert in jar, and adjust the position. Make sure that when you are inserting the photo you are aware of how you will display the snow globe. For example, if you are displaying the snow globe with the lid at the bottom then you will need to insert the photo upside down.

Step 5:

Fill up jar with water almost to the top, add a spoonful of glycerin, glitter, sequins, beads, and/or figurines or ornaments.


Photo Credit: creativejewishmom.com

Wrapped Vase

This super easy craft will make your mamá, abuelita, or tía smile. Who says flowers are only for mother’s day? Adding flowers will make this super cute vase even more special.

– Yarn
– Empty glass bottle (wine bottle, mason jar, etc.)
– Hot glue gun and glue sticks

Here is one of my favorite easy craft projects! All you need is a little hot glue, an empty glass bottle, and some yarn. Starting at the bottom, wrap the yarn around the bottle, securing every few inches or so with a dab of glue. Once you have reached the top, you’re done! You can use buttons, jewels, or felt flowers to embellish your vase if you like.

Step 1:

Gather materials and remove label residue from the jar.

Step 2:

Wrap yarn around the bottle. The process will work best/go smoother if you start from the bottom. As you are wrapping yarn, place a drop of glue every few inches to secure the yarn. Be careful! You only need a small drop to hold it in place.

Step 3:

Don’t be afraid to be creative! Spice it up with different colored yarn or adding a few jewels or sequins to add a little oomph to the design. Adding flowers will make the special woman in your life smile.

Tip: If you want to use a plastic bottle instead of a glass bottle, follow the same steps but instead of hot glue use super glue.


Photo Credit: Alicia Rascon

Photo Credit: Alicia Rascon

Frame for Dad

Give your papá something to display on his desk at work  or in his office.

–       Two sheets of Cardstock

–       Photos of your papá

–       Frame

–       Scissors

–       Glue stick

Step 1:

Gather materials and cut out the word “DAD” in the cardstock. Set the cardstock with the word “DAD” aside.

Step 2:

Select and print out photos of him, your family, or both of you! Using 2-3 photos per letter will work best, because you can place them side by side or on top of one another.

Step 3:

You can either trim the parts where the photo is not visible through the letter before gluing them to the second sheet of cardstock, or only glue them onto the cardstock. You will need to make sure the photos are visible through each letter.

Step 4:

Let the glue dry, place the cardstock with the word “DAD” cut out on top of the pictures, and insert/adjust when placing into the frame.

Tip: If you are feeling adventurous, you can print several pictures and cut them out to fit in each letter, like a collage.

Photo Credit: Alicia Rascon

Photo Credit: Alicia Rascon

Artsy Gift for Grandma

Give your abuelita your own version of a family tree. This gift is twice as valuable if it is made with her other grandchildren.


–       Paint

–       Paint brush (optional)

–       Paper

–       Frame

Step 1:

Gather materials and prep the area. You will need to wash your hands before you move on to the next color.

Step 2:

You can either use a paint brush or your finger to paint the trunk of the tree and branches.

Step 3:

After you are done creating the trunk and branches, use your handprint to create the leaves of the tree.

Step 4:

Wait until it is dry, write a holiday message, and insert into the frame. Pretty simple, right?

Tale of La Llorona

600px-La_Llorona“¡Ay, mis hijos!” wailed a woman by the banks of the river. The bone-chilling tale of La Llorona, the weeping woman, has been an iconic legend passed down  through a relative or a friend, such as a mamá telling her hijos que se comporten; to behave or else La Llorona will whisk them away. In some cases, a friend of a friend whose tía knew someone who met La Llorona swears she is real. Whether you are a believer or not, this iconic legend is a childhood memory few can forget.

No tengan, miedo. Don’t be scared, it’s make-believe, right?

“I heard about La Llorena when I was in kinder; some kid was telling the story and I asked the teacher and she tried to scare us. It didn’t affect my childhood because my mom told me she wasn’t real,” says Mariana Beltrandelrio, a Junior at New Mexico State University.

Over the years her tale has been transformed, causing numerous versions to spread. The most common version of La Llorona involves a body of water. Whether it was the edge of a river, un canal, or a lake, a body of water meant the mysterious figure was guaranteed to roam the area.

Ay, mis hijooooooos… Ayyyy, my children.”

One version of La Llorona, according to the Texas State Historical Association, is of a young woman named Mariá who fell in love with a young hidalgo, had children, and were happily living together; however, their marriage was not official since it was not recognized by the church. The increasing pressure from the hidalgo’s family to marry someone of a higher status led to the hidalgo marrying another woman, but would continue to support and visit María and his children. After the wedding ceremony, María, blinded by rage, “and in a crazed state killed the children, threw them into a nearby body of water, and then drowned herself. But when her soul applied for admission to heaven, el Señor refused her entry.” In order for her spirit to rest, María had to find her children.

A Tale of Heartbreak

One thing is certain: an inconsolable woman is mourning the loss of her children.  In some stories the children were murdered by her lover, accidentally killed, or she drowned them.

“She was a mom of two children and they both died. I don’t remember how she lost her children, but she kept haunting their house after her children died and kept asking for her kids,” shares Mariana Beltrandelrio, a Junior at New Mexico State University.

“She was a woman who had drowned her own children in a river, and now continues to search for her children. In her search for her children, she might claim other children who are not her own,” adds Valerie Ramirez, University of Texas at El Paso graduate.

“My grandmother was the one who told me and my cousins about La Llorona when we were little. Her story was different than other versions I heard and picked up over the years. [Her] version of the story said that La Llorona’s children accidentally drowned and she also drowned trying to find/save them. So now she comes back every night to the river crying looking for her lost children,” shares Ana-Alizette Ruiz, graduate student at the University of Incarnate Word.

Genesis Granados, University of Texas at Austin graduate, provides a different yet similar version of La Llorona. “I’ve heard the story of La Llorona starting from my childhood until now.  My abuelita used to tell me the story of this woman who in a moment of insanity drowned her children. When she came back from this she had realized what she had done, and mourned her children until her death,” she says.

Tracing the Origins of La LLorona

The Texas State Historical Association traces the tale of La Llorna to the era of Hernán Cortés and associates La LLorona with La Malinche, Cortés’ lover. Director of La Llorona, Bernadine Santistevan, went on a five year journey to find the truth about La Llorona. She claims the tale of the weeping woman goes back to 1502 with Cihuacoatl, a goddess, taking “the form of a beautiful lady draped in white garments. Throughout the night she cries out in misery, ‘Oh hijos mios…ya ha llegado vuestra destruccion. Donde os llevare?’ (Oh my children…your destruction has arrived. Where can I take you?) Many believe that Cihuacoalt was speaking of the future conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards.” In some instances, the history of La Llorona is a socio-political and cultural analogy of the shared history between Mexico and Spain.

Ay, could she really be real?

After the death of La Malinche, stories of a woman dressed in white haunting the streets of Mexico City spread. In 1550, the first official sighting of La Llorona occurred in Mexico City. During a full-moon night, a woman “wearing a white dress and veil” was seen roaming the streets; “her last stop is always La Plaza Mayor where she lets out her most desperate, horrific cry, after which she vanishes into the lake.”

Since then, the legend of the weeping woman is a cautionary tale for children who disobey parents, stay out after dark, or even abandoned families. From amusement parks, films, poetry, and plays, to countless books, La Llorona’s cultural influence is difficult to ignore.

Chica Who Cares: Laura Saldivar

Meet a modern day superwoman. A Senior in high school, Laura Saldivar has a resume most college grads wish they had. Before the age of 17, she implemented teen driving safety programs in Illinois through several educational outreach programs. As an advocate for service learning, the implementation of several safe driving outreach programs, like the Jacobs Safety Initiative, has helped reduce the number of youth fatalities in motor vehicle accidents.  The Jacobs Safety Initiative led to the creation of another safe driving program in Qatar, a country which, according to Laura, has the “second highest car accident rate per capita in the world.” With an impressive and extensive resume, the road towards success has not been so easy. “Acquiring support from administrative staff has been difficult”, says Laura, but she advices teens to “start searching, go for it, and don’t be afraid.” With hard work, passion, and determination, any teen can follow in Laura’s footsteps and be the next modern Superwoman. Here’s what she had to say when asked about her accomplishments, dreams and advice for teens:

1. What influenced you to become heavily involved with driving educational outreach programs?
With car crashes becoming the number one killer of teens I felt it was imperative to create prevention programs in my community. If I am able to save just one life I have done my job. Also, having a parent that is a driver’s education teacher, I have seen firsthand the impact car crashes have on families.

2. By being involved with so many organizations, what valuable lessons have you learned? How have they helped shape who you are today?
With being involved in a variety of groups like Youth Service America’s Youth Council, I have been able to gain multiple life skills. I can now write grants and budgets for projects, public speak, create presentations, and have self confidence. Before starting my service work, I was a shy student and service-learning is really what broke me out of my shell. The opportunities that have been an outcome of my work are truly incredible. I am able to travel the country, I helped to start a teen safe driving program in Asia, have been a keynote speaker, helped to write a civic blueprint for my state, and have had my own TV show all before the age of 17. My different boards have helped make me the leader I am today and have helped me to spread my message of teen safe driving to a broader audience. I am now able to help other schools around the country start their own programs and also gain the support of my fellow board members. The networks formed on national youth councils help to sustain and better youth programs.

3. You’re a busy young woman with an impressive resume, how do you handle the stress and find time to do it all? Any time management secrets?
With all of my time commitments I always keep a planner by my side. This not only has helped me keep track of my service work but has also helped me a lot in school. It keeps me very organized and if I miss a day of school for a service event I always let my teacher know in advance. In addition, I always make timelines for projects. As silly as it sounds, it helps my projects to run smoothly and it helps me to stay on track with project planning. It is small organizational tricks like this that help keep me afloat!

4.What are your plans after high school?
After high school I think it is only fitting for me to continue my safe driving work! I hope to attend the University of Illinois and create my own major in Community Leadership and Civic Engagement. I hope to one day open my own center for car crash victims and to work for either the National Safety Council or the Department of Transportation.

5. What advice would you give to girls who want to implement an educational outreach program and events at their local high school?
For starting a project in your community it is very important to start small! First, determine a need within your community and a find a group of youth who are also passionate about this issue. Next, it is important to find an adult sponsor or mentor who will help guide and support your program. Since your program will be primarily youth led, it is important to determine what resources are available and what community partnerships you can form. These partners can help you measure your results of impact and help to sustain your program for following years. Youth Service America is also a great resource when it comes to funding and finding different service opportunities. Their online newsletter contains a variety of service grants that youth can fill out. Most projects can be free and be community donated items. It might also be beneficial to include different classes at your school to help you solve the issue. (Ex. Safe Driving: Business Class- brochures, Math-Statistics, Art- safe driving posters, band- safe driving school song, drivers education-create PSAs, etc.)

6. How can other Latinitas become more involved with the community?
Another way to get involved within your community is to log onto gysd.org. GYSD is one of Youth Service America’s major projects called Global Youth Service Day. This day is the largest service event in the world and reaches over 100 countries. By logging on to their website, you can find local projects in your area that you can help out with on April 20-22, 2012. This website also contains an online toolkit that will help guide you in the creation of your own projects. This year I am helping the Illinois Students Against Destructive Decisions Student Advisory Board to implement a project called Dome Shift. We are inviting all of the SADD chapters in the state to a series of workshops on different issues and then letting participants meet with their representatives. All in all, when joining different nonprofits, they can help support your program and train you to learn even more.
Laura Saldivar, photo courtesy from Discusawards.com.

Being Smart Rules

Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) are booming and on the rise, with an estimated increase of 20.5 million jobs between 2010 and 2020. While we hear a lot of news about the poor state of our economy  and the job market, STEM fields offer that glimmer of hope for a brighter future and better economy. With science and math opening many doors, it would be easy to assume that many intelligent chicas are jumping on the bandwagon, right? Wrong.

Despite the rapid growth, according to the United States Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration, women “hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs.” What a boys club! What causes women to have such a low percentage? According to the same study, there are several factors taking place, such as “a lack of female role models, gender stereotyping, and less family-friendly flexibility in the STEM fields.” When it came to confidence, the American Sociological Association found men were more confident than women in the field of engineering.

Minority women consist of “less than one in 10 employed scientists and engineers.”  Girl Scout Research Institute found: “Hispanic girls say they have just as much interest in STEM as Cauca­sian girls, but they have had less exposure to STEM, less adult support for pursuing STEM fields, lower academic achievement, and greater awareness of gender barriers in STEM professions.” This means that chicas in STEM need a strong support group. It is time to quit reading how bad the situation is for Hispanic women in STEM and start doing something about it. We can open many doors by using these three simple words: si se puede/ Yes, you can.

With a si se puede attitude,  Jo Marie Duran found her inspiration to explore STEM by being involved  with the Health Professionals of America (HPA) at her school. “Being interested in the medical area was very easy because I always loved to help people and what better way to help by being a health professional. Knowing that you have the ability to learn how to save someone’s life is exciting and scary…They  [scientists] require courage and a sense of confidence in what they do… I never thought I had the chance to gain that medical mentality without being in my health profession program.”

Here are a few resources to start your STEM adventure. Check them out:

STEM Connector and Popular STEM Opportunities.
STEM Connector is the ultimate search engine for students, teachers, and parents interested in STEM opportunities. Programs like the Health Professionals of America and Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) are two out of numerous opportunities nationwide that give a chica that extra boost to succeed and be more involved in a STEM related area. Programs like NASA and FIRST are paving the way for STEM in teens. NASA has numerous opportunities for future engineers and scientists. On the other hand, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Technology) is revolutionizing the field of robotics. Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST, states FIRST creates a “culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.” Fortunately, FIRST is a nationwide after school program, which means there numerous hosts, teams, and events throughout the country. Check the local listings for any team or event.

Girl oriented programs are on the rise.
Nerds are cool. There’s even a female nerd movement, created by Nerd Girls, where it is chic to be a geek.  Girl Scouts do more than sell delicious cookies, they are heavily involved with STEM.  To top it off, NASA’s Women in STEM High School Scholars (WISH) is a girl-only program dedicated to work on a NASA mission alongside other participants, NASA engineers, and NASA scientists, via a virtual and onsite program. Want to learn more? Thankfully, the American Association of University Women provides a list of resources for women and girls interested in being involved with girl-oriented organizations. Chicas unite!

Check out local library and school clubs.
Going out of town to take advantage of STEM opportunities may not always be easy. Local libraries, schools, and non-profit organizations offer workshops and camps year round. Some schools offer magnet programs, like HPA/HOSA.  Leave the “I can’t find it” attitude behind, the opportunities are out there.

Don’t limit yourself to just one area.
The beauty of STEM is that it is HUGE. Broaden the horizon and avoid falling into one area. The stereotype of STEM jobs solely being scientists, mathematicians, and lonely nerds is long gone. STEM is booming and it is time for girls everywhere, not just Hispanic women, to increase the percentage of women in STEM. Yes, we can!

College Money Tree

Paying for college may be more nerve-racking than opening college admission letters! Speaking from experience, it is a trial and error process that cannot be avoided in order to reduce or eliminate college debt.  With a wide range of scholarship opportunities available, it is entirely possible to throw out the saying “money doesn’t grow on trees” and create your own money tree.

Follow these tips towards creating your own money tree:

1. Fill out your FAFSA!
Start from the root of all financial aid by completing your FAFSA form. “Fill out the FAFSA as soon as you can! The earlier you submit it the better. It’s super easy,” excitedly exclaims Cassandra Barraza, a 20-year-old college student at the University of Texas at El Paso. The hardest part of filling out the FAFSA is sitting down to do it. The entire process takes approximately 20 minutes to fill out, but it is easy since each question has a helpful tip. You only need your parents’ income taxes, it’s that simple. Even FAFSA understands the procrastination habits of students. They released a new IRS Data Retriever tool, which automatically retrieves information from your parents’ income taxes. Cool, right?

2. Tick-Tock, don’t waste time:
Avoid procrastination! Failure to search for financial aid sources will only lead to the worst case scenario, debt. Loans are the final alternative when personal funds are lacking. The more you neglect searching for scholarships and grants, the chances of missing out on opportunities to receive FREE money will increase. Yes, FREE MONEY! Search and apply early to reduce inadequate or poor essay responses, missed deadlines, and to relieve the stress of having to do everything in one sitting.

“Space it out, it’s better that way,” advises Cassandra. “It’s a long process, but it’s worth it. Start early and keep at it, just find the time to do it. There’s tons of stuff out there.” Apply to as many scholarships and grants as possible starting as early as your junior year in high school. For those who procrastinated on applying, take Cassandra’s advice and “apply, apply, apply! Just because you graduated doesn’t mean you missed the boat on scholarships. You can still apply as a college student to reduce debt.”

3. Research, research, research! Apply, apply, apply!
According to a  Sallie Mae and Ipsos report, 33% of student funding came from scholarships and grants. Grants and scholarships do not have to be repaid and the sheer amount of academic and non-academic scholarships there are can secure your college dreams. There are quirky and unique scholarships out there, like for vegetarians and  duct tape prom dresses.

Who does not like free stuff? No one!  Sign up for free services like Fastweb to see what scholarship, internship, and grant opportunities are out there.  In 2007 and 2008, the average student debt was $23, 186, which means several people have to pay close to $200 a month for student loans. The only definite way you will not receive any form of free aid is by not applying.  Any size scholarship can help. The less YOU pay the better, right?

4. Embrace your ethnicity and cultural heritage, apply to minority scholarships.
Minority scholarships are on the rise. The  Hispanic Scholarship Fund is one of the largest supporters of making college dreams come true. Their comprehensive list of Hispanic scholarships and Latino College Dollars search engine are useful tools for creating your own money tree. Actually, you can practically create a forest by the sheer amount of scholarships they offer.

HSF.net offers educational tools and resources for families and students and they are not alone in ensuring Latinos achieve success in higher education.  Hispanicgrants.net and Chci.org/chciyouth also offer extensive resources for Latino students in high school and in college. The resources are available, take advantage of them. For a comprehensive list of the most popular Latino scholarships click HERE.

5. Most important tip of them all, create a financial aid plan.
In 2011, a College Board study found “public four-year universities charged residents an average of $8,244, up 8.3% from [2010], while public two-year schools charged an average of $2,963, up 8.7%.” Be smart with your money and form a realistic budget by managing your expenses, spend wisely, create a spending plan, sort your priorities, and, most importantly, manage your debt.  Avoid the ramen noodle college diet; be wise with your dinero.