United Way of El Paso continues to improve the lives of El Paso families by developing programs and assisting non-profit organizations that meet the core values of the United Way (integrity, diversity, accountability, and leadership). Through a mini-grant program, “Pennies for Change” collection, United Way helped fund our Smart Chicas program. Smart Chicas encouraged girls to stay in school and to go to college. As part of this college-bound initiative, Smart Chicas hosted career and college panels, college prep activities, and field trips to UTEP, Texas Tech and EPCC for our after-school clubs. In doing so, girls in our clubs created multimedia projects using photography, blogs, posters, videos, and podcasts. The multimedia projects encouraged their peers to stay in school and explore higher education.
Olga Ochoa, a volunteer since 2012, started as a Youth Outreach Intern and is now one of the coordinators for the Girl Talk workshops hosted by Latinitas at the JuvenileDetentionCenter. Olga is a key leader in guiding young women in the detention center through hands-on self-expression activities. The goal of these activities is to boost their self-esteem, promote good decision making and encourage girls to take steps towards a positive future. Girls have participated in projects to help them share their own experiences, and discuss important topics like healthy relationships, goal setting, education and confidence. “[Latinitas] is important for young girls because it helps them see and think ahead. I would recommend it to others because it is a great way to establish motivation among young girls and guide them to succeed in their future,” says Olga. Olga is an inspirational role model to young girls. She graduated from UTEP with a BA in Anthropology and is currently wrapping up her last semester as a Masters student.
Maribel Padilla has been an integral part of Latinitas since 2012. She started as a Club Leader and is now our go-to person for multimedia design and video editing.
“I believe very passionately in the goal Latinitas is trying to reach, which is that of empowering young Latinas to follow a career path in media and technology. As a fellow media maker, I believe the best way to strengthen my skills is to try and teach it to someone else,” adds Maribel.
Estela Casas inspired Maribel Padilla over 10 years ago when Estela asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up, Maribel answered she wanted to be on TV just like Estela. Forward to 2013, and Maribel just graduated last December with a Creative Multimedia Degree from NMSU and is on her way to become a leading Latina in the film industry. She is currently part of the Production Crew for KCOS-13 and aspires to one day “move to a big city and work on big film productions.”
Her advice to future journalists and filmmakers is to “get involved in as many extra-curricular activities. Colleges like students who like to get involved.”
Briana Castrejon, a student at the University of Texas at El Paso, is a natural-born leader. She has led several workshops in our after school clubs and in our Be YOUnique, College Chica, Healthy Chica and Wellnes workshops, and the Aim High Conference. She loves leading activities and helping inspire local youth, because these programs allow them to start thinking about college as well as boost their self-esteem and self-worth.
“My sister became an intern at Latinitas, and would talk about her exciting experiences in working for this organization and the different people she was able to meet. This is what motivated me to join Latinitas…The most rewarding experiences is being able to interact with the young girls in both the workshops or the clubs. They are so happy to be with you as you are to see them. You are always learning through each other by talking about new experiences and discussing difficult topics.”
This community-minded store is driven by a desire to give back to those in need. The Latinitas team is honored to have been selected as Altar’d States El Paso store charity partner for the month of January and February and to welcome Altar’d employees as volunteers during our self-esteem workshops. Mission Mondays is a charity project where every Monday 10% of net proceeds from each store go to various local charities. Altar’d State in the Fountains shopping center is an energetic fashion boutique that offers a distinctive shopping experience for women interested in the latest fashion finds, the most anticipated accessories and that next great gift. Altar’d State customers can enjoy supporting an organization that promotes confidence, civic involvement and positivity through its merchandise and involvement.
These chicas are at the forefront of making a difference in our after-school enrichment programs, Club Latinitas.
Bianca Castrejon, Social Work major (UTEP)
“Latinitas is important for young girls because the organization can help them with self esteem and self assurance, where it can be tough to come by at a young age. What I like most about Latinitas is its goal to empower and provide leadership skills for all Latinas. I want to help out in our community especially with empowering young Latinas.”
Gabriela Griego, Psychology major (UTEP)
“I was interested in Latinitas because I think it is important to have as young women someone to look up to besides your parents and I think being able to empower them is also important. What I like most about Latinitas is the fact that it gives exclusivity to the girls in order for them to be in a comfortable environment where they are able to express themselves.“
Stephanie Hernandez, Women Studies/Linguistics major (UTEP)
“I was interested in Latinitas because the idea of empowering young women through creative outlets sounded like something I’d enjoy and would love to do. [I like that Latinitas] offers guidance for young girls as well as a safe and comfortable environment. I believe [Latinitas] is important because it exposes them to different ways of having fun, educates them and gives them confidence through self expression.”
Daniela Lagunes, Psychology major (UTEP)
Daniela is a seasoned Club Leader veteran. She started volunteering for Latinitas in 2010. Her advice to young Latinitas is to
“not let yourself down just because they make fun of you. Use it as an experience to respect others and the way they look [and treat you]. Be strong and speak up!”
Dayna Quezada, Counseling major (UTEP)“Being a female Hispanic myself, I feel a personal connection and duty in trying to reach out to other young Latinas. What I like most [about Latinitas] is that it is an outreach organization for mostly females and I feel this group of females are the ones who need the most support.”
Mara Rivas, Psychology major (UTEP)
“[I like the] opportunity to change and shape the young girl’s future and hopefully make their lives happier. I think this organization is extremely important for Hispanic girls, so they can get to know themselves better and get help from us to guide them in their future careers and personal development.”
Iliana Rosales, Social Work major (UTEP) “What [made me decide to intern] with Latinitas is that the organization helps Latina girls, and, since my major is social work this is a great opportunity. What I like the most about Latinitas is that it helps teens and girls with any issues; [volunteers] are their mentors.”
Currently in her senior year of high school, Kiersten Anderson shares a passion for life, family, and friends. Originally from New York, Kiersten currently resides in Miami where she is pursing her dream of being a teen model.
Who is your biggest role model?
My biggest role model is my beautiful mother, who I adore with all my heart. She is my mother and father, as my parents are divorced and I rarely see my father.
You shared that you had been bullied in the past, can you tell us more about the experience?
I consider myself pretty popular in school and have a lot of friends. When I was around 7 or 8 years old, I wasn’t popular and I can honestly say food was my friend. I enjoyed eating snacks and donuts late at night food, and, due to my night snacks, I was a little on the chunky/chubby side and was picked on by many children in school. Often I would tell my mother that I wasn’t feeling good or that I had a fever just to stay home and not have to deal with the bullying in school. Kids would not want to eat or sit with me or even want to be my friend. I was always very quiet and reserved, and was kind of a loner. My best friend was my mother, who, at the time, was a single mom because we had moved from New York to Miami and my father decided not to follow us. My mother would always reassure me that eventually things would change and that I would make friends. Things got so bad that my mother had to change my school because the teachers and principal would not do anything about the bullying happening to me in school.
As I started getting older, my mother stopped allowing me to eat the late night snacks and donuts. Her and I started doing lots of activities and she put me in dance class. All the exercise made me lose a lot of weight, so, when I was like 10 or 11 years old, I saw myself becoming thin and getting tall. I had no problems making friends and the kids weren’t being mean to me anymore. I have to be honest, when I was being bullied I hated the world and everything in it. But, because of my wonderful mother, I was able to overcome all the bullying and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Fast-forward to now, I am 5’7, beautiful, tall, model who had overcome a lot of turmoil as a child. I am blessed to have a wonderful family, mother who loved me and taught me that we can overcome any obstacles as long as we don’t give up or give in to the behavior of others.
What advice do you have for those who are being bullied?
The bullies were the ones with the problem, not me. I believe that by sharing my story I can help a child overcome bullying, because if I can make it, anyone can. Bullying is a huge problem in this day and age, with a lot of children killing themselves because they feel they don’t have any solution. Well, my solution is speak to your parents; don’t think you’re alone, seek help, and don’t allow the bully to win the war.
What does being a teen Latina model entail?
Being a Latina teen model can be very challenging at times, because racism still exists in the world. Sometimes the casting designers will by pass the Hispanic and Black beautiful models and instead pick the white/faired skin, blue eyes blonde haired girls. I am very confident, so when I am not picked by a designer I don’t let that bother me. I am friendly with all models, but I do see the favoritism.
How did you begin modeling?
I started modeling at the age of 13 and have modeled ever since. On the streets people would tell me, “You are so pretty, why don’t you model?” My mom took me to an agency, they took photos, and soon after that I was modeling.
Do you have other interests, what are they?
I love to read books, love to go shopping and love to be in front of the camera. I like to play volleyball and go bike ridding. I also volunteer at the Animal shelter by taking care of animals that people don’t want. We help find loving homes for those pets in need.
How are girls following you?
I have a following of young girls and teens through social media. Also, I work as a volunteer in the Children’s cancer ward and every time I have a fashion event or show they always want to see my photos or videos, so the nurses will put on my videos for them to watch.
What advice do you have for young Latinas pursuing their dreams?
My advice to young Latina’s trying to pursue their dreams is shoot for the stars and to not believe anyone that says you can’t do it. You can do anything you put your mind and heart to do. With hard work eventually come rewards. LATINAS, let’s stand up and be heard! As we do have a powerful voice!
Written by Lucero Estrella
As a kid growing up in a border city, I was constantly exposed to Spanish music from different Latin American artists on the local and Mexican radio stations. Among the mix of songs and artists on the radio was one amazing superstar from Medellín, Columbia, Juan Esteban Vásquez, more commonly known as Juanes. With his mixtures of Latin rock and pop, Juanes has conquered the hearts of many people around the world with his music– and the 16 million of copies CDs sold, two Grammys, and 19 Latin Grammys are there to prove it.
Being at the first weekend Austin City Limits (ACL) festival on Saturday, October 4, took me back to my childhood. Juanes shared the stage with his group and constantly changed guitars to perform both old and new music. He played his new hits, “Loco de Amor,” “Mil Pedazos,” and “La Luz,” as well as older songs like “La Paga” and “Me Enamora,” and the popular hit “A Dios le Pido.” The moment that Juanes stepped on stage and began signing “Nada Valgo Sin Tu Amor,” I felt goose bumps all over my body. Standing in the front rows next to people singing and dancing along to Juanes’ songs was an unforgettable experience.
Juanes finished his performance with a surprising cover of Bob Marley and The Wailers’ “Could You Be Loved,” and then closed the night with one of his most popular hits, “La Camisa Negra. ” This left the crowd begging for an encore — me included. After the performance, I waited with a crowd of fans to catch a glimpse of Juanes backstage, and I was lucky enough to stand less than a foot away from him and snap a few pictures.
Being able to see Juanes live was a million times better than listening to him on my CD player — for the younger readers, an old-school device before the iPod. His voice, appearance, and presence made me feel like a child once again. I can’t wait for Juanes to return to Austin so I can watch him once more.
I Am A Puerto Rican Woman
And You Will Not Experiment On Me.
Gone are the days of eradicating our babies
Sterilization of our population
No consent castration
Making us an empty shell of our former self
Maria’s and Jose’s…
Vanished from Our wombs
Brown Castano skin
Pupils of wonder,
Innocence ripped from within
Our rights strip away with wire hanger abortions
Performed with Pulled the life from us operations
A Boriquen Women
Tidal wave to exterminate the unfortunate subjects
Transplanting Cancer cells on Our Men is no exception
Abuse and torture poison radiation
Social worker house to house
Face to face Discrimination
Thousands of Sisters and Mothers
Told and convinced
That they should no longer conceive
Scaring and Scarring the life out of me
Silent about the Experimental Birth control test trial
Birth place Induced abuse
Couldn’t stop me from coming
My spirit just wouldn’t be stopped
I’m here to speak
Back to Back Fertility control
Racist attitude Policy must go
In a Civilized Society this should never take place
Nevermore will be accepted
By the Beautiful Taino Race
Misleading propaganda was taught in schools
White Picket Fence Promises
Builds mistrust, Are we alliances?
Had naive daughters fooled
100 percent; Child bearing age
Two doctors to check if tubes were tied
They’re natural born experts on deceit and lies
Fifty a Day.
Does not a good decision make
National Intended Genocide
Cannot bring the unborn back
Curvy, intelligent, Feministas
Will not permit; anyone instill
That educated decisions are too complicated
That we don’t have…. Free will does not exist
To just take the Magic Pill
Were here to stay
Our Cultura is Strong
We’ve come a long way
Women of Color, Coming together
We carry on
Where there’s courage, we cant go wrong
We’ve progress with Pride intact
We’ve been quiet for far too long
Too many side effects to be acceptable
So with a shout and a heart felt scream
Were taking Authority on our God Given Dream.
Compliance is not our Grandmothers Option
The unwilling Pioneer found A Solution
Our Resolute is our Revolution
A Puerto Rican Female
Who Believes In
YES WE CAN!
And like I said
You Will Never Experiment On Us
During our annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, we invite Latinitas volunteers, writers, and interns to share their thoughts on Latina entertainment, role models, and what culture means to them . Here’s what Kenia Guerrero had to say about her favorite actress, Sara Ramirez.
I’m not interested in medicine, but about 6 years ago I found a great show, Grey’s Anatomy… I love everything about it. Especially Dr. Callie Torres, portrayed by the beautiful Sara Ramirez.