Spotlight: Latina Activists

Armed with a powerful voice and a passion for civil rights, these woman made a huge impact with their activism.

55e0ea00650a118795263a90450ac488Rigoberta Menchu, Guatemalan activist, won a Nobel Peace Award in 1992 for her contributions to civil rights campaigns. Born and raised in Guatemala, she overcame civil disobedience and grief. Various members of her family were tortured, which includes her mother and father. As a strong-willed woman, she overcame a lot and has made an impact in her community.

 

 

Photo Credit: NYdailynews.com

Photo Credit: NYdailynews.com

Claudia de la Cruz
She is a Cuban activist who helps young women in Washington and New York with her campaign D.U.B. (Du Urban Butterflies Youth Leadership Development Project). Born on February 5, 1986, she witnessed countless harassments and injustice against immigrants in her neighborhood. She found Du Urban Butterflies Youth Leadership Development Project (D.U.B.), which helps young women all over Washington and New York.

253e696746f398ef3a19a2e05d936eabJovita Idár
Prominent journalist in the 19th century, who became the first president at La Liga Femenil Mexicanista, is an inspirational activist. She is known for her journalism and activism in education. Throughout her career she worked with a lot of newspaper focusing on articles facing Mexico’s problematic in politics and social issues.

Career Spotlight: History Professor

Me_Exec_Summ_smallerIrma Victoria Montelongo received her Ph.D. in Borderlands History from the University of Texas at El Paso.  Her fields of study include Gender and Sexuality, Latin American History, U.S. History with a sub-field in Immigration Studies, and Borderlands History with a sub-field in Race and Ethnic Studies.  Her research and teaching interests focus on race, class, gender, sexuality, and criminology on the U.S.-Mexico border. Dr. Montelongo became a fellow at the Center for Collaborative Online International Learning at the State University of New York Global Center.


Q: What are your job responsibilities?

A: I am responsible for teaching three classes this semester. Also, I am the program coordinator of the online classes that UTEP offers, I coordinate professors by signing them which class are they going to be giving online and also help to train faculty. Everything that has to do with online class I am in charge of that.

Q: What are the courses that you teach?
A: I am teaching Chicano Studies, which is Social Issues, La Chicana and deals with Mexican american women and also Colonias in the United States. I teach a lot of different courses and I enjoy to see my students attending to class.

Q: What is your educational training?

A: I have a Bachelors, Masters and a PH.D in History. Also, I have sub fields in Immigration Studies, Race and Ethnicity.

Q: How did you find your current job?

A: I found my current job by applying at the university. Thank God they gave me the opportunity to impart this course. I love to teach and see that my classes are interesting to them and, because El Paso has a lot of history with latinos, I think it is important for students to know about their ancestors and background.

Q: How did you prepare for this career?

A: I came to college late.  After high school, I started working and I got into college really late. But when I started to study again I enjoyed so much my bachelors that  decided to go for my masters and as well with my PH.D. Once you get started it is like non-stop.

Q: What is your favorite part of the job?

A: My favorite part are working with my students. I like to hear the good ideas they share to the rest of the class and the way they think about certain issues.

Q: What is the most challenging part of the job?

A: Being able to balance all the responsibilities. We have to teach, write, publish and we have to find out ways we can manage our time. It is sometimes difficult to find the time to be grading essays and exams, preparing for class, etc. Balancing the time to do everything that is required can be difficult.

Q:What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?

A: I am involved in different activities within the community. One of them is the TASK Academy, which is for teenagers that have problems in their homes. We try to help the students, especially since most have problems outside of school.

 

Career Spotlight: Managing Editor

12990925_1070140749698949_3852799889307904658_nName:
Lizette Ruiz

Position & Title:

Managing Editor

Employer:

BorderSenses

City & State

El Paso, TX

Website

http://www.bordersenses.com

What are some of your job responsibilities?

My responsibilities include working with the editorial staff, which is made up of the Fiction Editor, Poetry Editors, and Spanish Editor. I am in charge of submission management, such as reading and evaluating submissions, and ensuring rejections and query responses are sent; copy-editing, proofreading, fact-checking, checking corrections, and preparing manuscripts for layout. I am also responsible for planing and executing a release date for the magazine’s publication. I work closely with the Executive Director and meet with him on a weekly basis to discuss any up coming events and updates.

What is your educational background? Describe your college experience and how it helped you prepare for your career.

I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from The University of Texas at El Paso in December of 2013. Soon after, in the summer of 2014, I decided to pursue my Masters degree and graduated in the Fall of 2015 from Purdue University with a Master of Science in Communication. My degree in Creative Writing really allowed me to hone my writing skills. Writing has always been my passion, and being surrounded by writers who shared my love for writing and literature was amazing! I felt very inspired and empowered. It was one of the most beautiful experiences in my life because I was following my heart and studying what I love. My degree in Communication has allowed me to take my writing skills to another level. It has also allowed me to understand the Public Relations and Marketing aspect of any organization and how to communicate strategically. Since BorderSenses is a non-profit organization, I can apply the skills that I have learned during college and still continue to do what I love.

How did you find your current job?

I came across this position on Indeed, which is a website that lists employment openings.

What did you do to prepare for this career?

I made sure that I really understood the commitment and responsibilities that this position entails. I went over the responsibilities I would be in charge of and set a schedule for myself on when to work on certain things.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love the fact that I get to work with the writing community and writers here in El Paso and all over the world! We receive submissions from other countries and I always find that very exciting. I also love the fact that by working for BorderSenses, I am supporting local writers and artists. Also,the staff and members of BorderSenses are amazing, talented people and I feel honored by being able to collaborate with them and work with them. Most importantly, my favorite part of the job is being able to read the submissions. I love reading and this position gives me the opportunity to be able and discover new and amazing pieces.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Declining pieces is the most challenging part for me. I dislike having to say no to a piece.

What advice would you give to help a girl prepare for a job like yours?

Follow your heart and go to college! Attending college has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. It really helped my find myself and follow my dreams. Graduating from college also allowed me to gain a sense of agency over my life, which I love. In the end, I decided to do what I wanted to do and I am glad that I did.

What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?

I love to work on my own writing, read and try new things. I also love to travel. Plus, I always enjoy my time off and make the best of it.

Career Spotlight: Director of Nemours Children’s Hospital


By Blair Beggan, Director of Communications for The Association of Air Medical ServicesMaria Fernandez, the Director of Nemours Children’s Hospital, has aced both personal and professional challenges to rise to her current position, but she wouldn’t change a thing. Her heritage and her culture only aid in the work she does today, and I was lucky enough to sit down and speak with her.

1) Could you describe what your current position at Nemours Children’s Hospital entails?

Currently, I work as the Director of Critical Care Transport Services. My patients’ ages range from birth to 18 years of age. And although a lot of my current position requires management and oversight, I am still able to practice my clinical skills. I started as a nurse practitioner, and to this day I still go out and do field work when needed. For me, the ability to go out and transport a pediatric patient that requires critical care is the most rewarding part of my job. I like to be there for the families and friends of the patient, as well as the patient themselves. And my job doesn’t end when the patient leaves the hospital. I follow-up with the patients once they go home and keep track of their progress.

2) How are you involved with the Association for Air Medical Services (AAMS)?

I have been involved with AAMS since 1992! During my first nursing job, I worked very closely with the director of my medical transport team. In 1997, I became a member of AAMS and was involved with the organization from Day One. Being able to attend conferences and training seminars helped me to expand my network and grow as a medical transport care provider. I love the wealth of information that AAMS has given me, both for my professional development and for the growth of the organizations I work for.

3) Can you tell us any stories about patients or situations that were especially meaningful to you?

Several years back, I was on a medical transport for a premature baby who had not yet been home due to ongoing medical issues. The concern was that the baby was going to develop blindness because of how premature he was. The patient was very unstable, but needed to be transported to a specialist at another hospital and the decision on whether or not the baby could make the flight came down to me. But I was confident in my team and the people around me. I knew we could safely transport this baby and give him a chance at a great quality of life. The baby was in Puerto Rico and it was a two hour transport to the states. We stayed by the baby’s side the whole time, making sure he was comfortable and stable. He survived the flight, underwent eye surgery and he is now able to see. The family feels like my decision to transport their son is the reason he isn’t blind today, and I still keep in touch with them to this day. This type of story is the reason I do my job – I want to give these children a chance to have the best life possible.

 

Early this year I had another patient experience that really moved me emotionally. A teenage child was found unconscious about two hours away from my hospital. The medical crew on site was not sure what had caused the child to pass out. I arrived on the scene and immediately began to communicate with my team back in Orlando. We used FaceTime to communicate and share thoughts about the condition. We came to the conclusion that the patient may be having an allergic reaction to medicine. We changed the medicine and, amazingly, the child did a complete 180 and survived. It was wonderful to be able to use my knowledge in a situation like this and help save a life. I tell people all the time that I picked the best profession!

 

4) Can you tell us a little about your background and how your heritage has helped you become the woman you are today?

I was born in Cuba, but I left for Mexico at a very young age. Shortly thereafter, when I was two years old, we immigrated to the United States. My mom was a single parent in New York raising two children, and we grew up speaking mostly Spanish in our home. She was definitely an inspiration motivating us to pursue higher education and take advantage of life in the U.S. Being a single mother myself, I appreciate her even more today and understand how hard she worked to give me a wonderful life.

 

I moved to Miami in 1978 because I wanted to go to University of Miami to get nursing degree. I graduated from nursing school in 1983 and went on to get my masters in nursing at Florida International University (FIU). I then received my Masters in Business Administration and Health Services Administration in 2006. And this December, I will be completing my doctorate in nursing!

I think growing up in a Spanish-speaking household gave me a huge advantage in the nursing world, especially in Miami and Orlando. I am at an advantage for working with patients that a have a Hispanic background because I can speak to them in their native language and put them at ease. During times of crisis, people prefer to speak and communicate in their native tongue and it is wonderful to be able to offer than to them. I love being a mentor for other Hispanic women looking to pursue a career in nursing – I tell them it is something they won’t ever regret!

Global Scribes: Youth Uniting Nations

Lawp7eLb_400x400Written by Jessica Aguilera 

In today’s world, the ability to share, relate, and tap into others’ lives is almost instantaneous. Connecting con su familia and your friends in Spanish speaking countries can be reached with a post on Facebook. Or a video uploaded to youtube, even a tweet can become viral, allowing millions of people worldwide the ability to see a small glimpse into your life. So why don’t we take that power and put it into education? Essays are only seen by your professors and peers, information is regurgitated from textbooks, and no personal creative thought is promoted. With standardized testing, educational institutions are pushing the same basic structure that is needed to get high scores for funding. But what happened to the creativity and imagination that we all have within? Why isn’t that being promoted?

Well an NGO called Global Scribes is taking action in uniting youth cross-culturally. Global Scribes© believes that stories have the power to connect youth worldwide, build cultural understanding and break down the barriers that divide us from others. Students, also called global scribes, do this by logging onto the Global Scribes website, uploading their creative stories related to the monthly word that sparks their imagination, and viewing and commenting on others posts. These stories or “letters to the world” can be viewed around the world regardless of geographic location! Global scribes use this interactive virtual network to connect youth through the power of shared stories which help break down barriers and promote cultural understanding.

In addition to uploading written content onto the Global Scribes website, youth, ages 8 – 22, utilize an extensive social media network that includes a radio station, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. In fact, they even have a YouTube channel on which students can see students across the world reading or storytelling their stories, videos that share the life they lead, and youth created trailers for GS:IM broadcast interviews.

So who’s the pushing force behind this global initiative? Quien es el cerebro detrás de esta organización?

Cynthia English is the founder and visionary for Global Scribes. Cynthia lived in South America, North America, Canada, the Middle East and Europe. She spent the first 22 years of her career travelling worldwide in the fashion industry, created her own interior design company, had articles and a thriller novel published, then launched Global Scribes on Thanksgiving Eve, 2014. She truly has dedicated her life to promote the acceptance of different and distinct lives, as well as the preservation of free spirit in all humanity, regardless of origin and culture.

Que puedes hacer? What can you do?

Create. Connect. Collaborate. Create your unique story. Connect via your unique video. Collaborate on GS Teams that speak to your heart and passion from Shakespeare and Theatre, to Bon Appetit, to Tech, to GS Scribes and others–you choose. Each story that is posted can be seen worldwide. Algunas historias se publican en Español!  If you know more than more language, post your story in both! It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just practice!

This interactive network that promotes youth to express their creativity, imagination, and virtually connecting youth to break down barriers and brings about global unity. Being able to relate to a student in South America about what makes them happy and being able to write about it lets you learn so much about a different culture. The beauty and the power of the written word should not be wasted! This NGO is revolutionizing global education.

Outstanding Latinas in Politics

As part of Women’s History Month, we are spotlighting influential Latinas who have made a difference in the community and/or their field.

Ambassador_Vilma_MartínezVilma Martínez
From 2009 – 2013, Vilma Martínez, a democrat, became the first woman to be the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina. Born October 1943, Martinez has an impressive history as a civil rights activist and lawyer with MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. As the president of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), she fought for the Voting Rights Act to include Mexican-Americans.

 

 

Cristinakirchnermensaje2010Cristina Fernández De Kirchner
Born on February 19, 1953 in La Plata,Buenos Aires Province, Cristina Fernández De Kirchner   is the first directly elected female president of Argentina, and is the first re-elected female president of the country. While she has made a strong impact with her policies, she is often critiqued for her bold moves and relationship with the media.

 

 

220px-Hilda_Solis_CropHilda Solis
From 2001- 2009, Hilda Solis served in the United States House of Representatives. In 2009, Hilda Solis, C became the first Latina serve in a State Senate. She is a highly accomplished politician and environmental activist. Shes was member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, authored 17 bills against domestic violence, and is passionate about labor laws, immigration reform, and education. As the first person in her family to attend college, she is an incredible role model for Latinas wanting to make a difference in their community. Hilda Solis continues to have a long-lasting impact with her community in California.

Women’s History Month: Leading Latinas

As part of Women’s History Month, we are spotlighting influential Latinas whom have made a difference in the community and/or their field.

Alicia Alonso Alicia_Alonso_1955
Founder of what is now called the National Ballet of Cuba, this Cuban girl inspired many ballerinas to follow their dreams. She received the Bellas Artes Merit from Spain Monarchy, gold medal at Circulo de Bellas Artes in Spain, and the Cuban title of Heroina Nacional deal Trabajo. She has become one of the most outstanding athletes throughout Cuban history. Don’t be shy if you know how to dance or paint chica, Alicia Alonso wasn’t afraid to show the people who she was. Who knows, you might inspire your very own artistic movement.

Alicia Dickenson Montemayor
Working with men during  the 1930’s was very difficult for women, and even more difficult if you were a Latina. Well, this outstanding Latina paved the way in so many areas. She became the first woman associate editor of LULAC News, but also the first elected woman for national office and vice president of the League of United Latin American Citizens. She did a lot for middle class Latin American people and promoted civil rights for women and Latinas.

Claribel Alegria
Alegria moved to the United States in 1943; this Nicaraguan poet has won our hearts and minds with her poem I survived (Sobrevivo). The poem led her to win the Cuban-sponsored Casa de las Americas award in 1978. She has became one of the most influential political activists in Nicaragua. Her passion and political activism led to the creation of a social movement in Nicaragua called La Generacion Comprometida.

Stay tuned for future installments to be published throughout Women’s History Month! 

Big Sis Spotlight: Rachel Jackson


“We are not going to show up on the syllabus. We always have to interrupt and tell our stories.”

Rachel Jackson’s passionate voice could be heard over the Starbucks noise as she explains how modern political theory can intersect with her Latina identity. Having majored in Politics and minored in Spanish, the knowledge that she absorbed in those college classrooms has shaped who she is and how she perceives the world around her.

After Jackson graduated from her local high school with an International Baccalaureate diploma, she was encouraged by her older sister to attend Pomona College, a top liberal arts college in California. Initially unsure of how to navigate in her new environment, the El Paso native struggled in her first year of college.

“In my first year [of Pomona] I was not doing well, I didn’t know what I liked, I was in a bad relationship…I almost transferred,” Jackson recalls.

Jackson is not afraid to admit that she struggled in her freshmen year. With the pressure of trying to find peers to connect with and of adjusting to the college environment and her classes, she began to feel isolated. By talking to the college’s psychologist, Jackson began recuperating from the stress and troubles that affected her. But what really made a significant impact on her was one of her politics classes. She had just finished writing a paper over Calvinism when her professor came to her, impressed by Jackson’s writing skills. She received her first A of the year from that paper and was shocked by both the grade and her professor’s remarks. Telling Jackson that she has an ability to talk intelligently about social contract theory, Jackson realized that this was an avenue to pursue.

Over the course of her college years, Jackson became involved in a variety of different groups and organizations that helped develop her ideas as a student and individual.

Jackson joined the Latino student organizations very early on in her college career, but found that machismo was present in some of these groups. Instead of being discouraged, she ended up joining black student organizations that allowed her to find the discussions and peers that she sought. Through these organization and others, Jackson was able to develop as an intellectual and individual.

Displaying a strong sense of self-awareness and of the society around her, she realized how the El Paso environment was different from Claremont’s. Although Jackson knew that the predominantly Mexican population in El Paso were “similar, but not really” to her as a Columbian, it didn’t bother her. However, she underwent a culture shock in California since the environment was vastly different from her hometown.

She soon realized that for many people, Latinos, regardless of ethnicity, were viewed as solely blue-collared workers. The majority of Latinos in Pomona seemed to be custodian or dining hall workers and this was something that Jackson noted. Driven by what she saw around her, she became involved in projects for marginalized communities.

Under Pomona’s Draper Center for Community Partnership, she was the program coordinator where she was able to reach out to communities the way she wanted to. The first project she did was English as Second Language, a program that paired non-English speaking workers within the university to students that volunteered to help. Another task that Jackson undertook was LEGS (Leadership Engagement in Gender and Sexuality), a project that allowed Pomona’s Career Center to work with a local high school’s Gay and Straight Alliance Club. This project would provide support to those local high school students that wanted to explore any questions they had.

Jackson became involved in the Student Government her senior year where she was elected as president of Senate. The committee changed the conversation on campus by trying to have an ethnic studies class to be a requirement for all incoming Pomona students.  Exposing students to a different perspective about others was something that Jackson believes to be important.

With the realization of the world’s injustices in high school through literature and poems, and the example from her family of helping others, Jackson became driven to help those around her. Jackson states that coming from an immigrant family there is this sense that you have to go to college to achieve the American Dream, but Pomona made her “realize there are other options.” Driven to make a difference, she is now looking for a job that involves legal work to see if she would like law school.

Encouraging Girls in Computing

Daniela Miranda
Young Women in Computing Program Coordinator
Employer: New Mexico State University

Hometown: Chihuahua, Mexico

What are some of your job responsibilities?
I’m focused on outreach to increase the number of students in computer science. Help them find I run after-school programs and summer camps where girls learn about Snap, lego robotics, app inventor for middle school and introduction to Linux, Java Script and HTML. We attend conferences where such as the Grace Hopper conference where college students get good internships. I recruit and find opportunities. We are there for any girls who need us to present to help introduce girls we like to spread the word about computer science.

What is your educational background?
I have an accounting degree from Mexico. When I came from Mexico, I got a business degree. My family was here in Texas, so I came too. There are better opportunities here. My degree gave me all the tools to be able to succeed. I always had a part-time job so that helped me get a job.

What did you do to prepare for this career?
Never give up.

What is your favorite part of your job?
I like getting to know new people and meet young women and connect them with the opportunities that our program offers. We want to recruit more Hispanic young women, but most of the time the Hispanic population doesn’t know about opportunities in computer science. Because there are a lot of job openings. By 2020 there will be a lot of opportunities in computer science.

Career Spotlight: Engineer Libby Howell

Position & Title: Electrical Engineer/ Computer Network Assessor Auditor
Employer: US Army Research Laboratory
City & State: El Paso, Texas

What are some of your job responsibilities?
“We do certifications and accreditation of army systems for the risk management framework. Normally, I am a team lead so we go and access the army systems to make sure that they meet the minimum requirements as far as security poster […] so they don’t get hacked into. The requirements are part of the NISTA: National Institute of Standards of Technology. That’s one area, the other area is that I work for a directorate under the Army Research Laboratory that’s called Survivability Lethality Analysis. So we perform all types of survivability analysis and again, in support of the Army to make sure that they are survivable when they are being built. My area has to do more with information assurance. We test army systems as they are going through a developmental cycle to make sure that they could survive a cyber attack. So we run tests, we do penetration tests, and also […] evaluate the soldiers on how well they can detect, react, and restore their systems if there is a cyber attack.”

What is your educational background?
“I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering. When I first started working for the Department of Defense, I used to work the modernizing the radars that were used as instruments for testing out in White Sands Missile Range. That was my first job so […] I couldn’t have done that if I didn’t have an engineering degree.”

How did you find your current job?
“I was looking for a job locally […] and really there weren’t a lot of technical jobs. Most people either went to work for Fort Bliss or White Sands [for those who were engineers.] So I applied to White Sands and I got the job. Another interesting thing though, is that back then, I was the first female engineer they ever had. A year later another [woman] got hired. I mean they had females, but as secretaries and they had two female technicians, but was the first female engineer [at that one organization]….It was an organization that was called the Instrumentation Directorate. We basically were involved in modernizing or providing new instruments that were used to collect data.”

What did you do to prepare for this career?
“I studied hard. You know the reason I got into engineer is kind of weird. Math came easy to me and I liked it, but I didn’t know what to do with math [in the beginning]. I didn’t want to be a teacher, that didn’t interest me so I figured that engineering is the application of math. So that’s why I picked it. I didn’t know anything about EE (Electrical Engineering) when I was in high school. When I was in high school, it was very different from your guys went. There wasn’t any AP classes and all these special programs, you just did the basics. I was never really exposed to it.”

What is your favorite part of your job?
“It’s really the people, my coworkers. Nothing that we do is ever one person. We do a lot of test events so we do things as a group.”

What is the most challenging part of your job?
“What’s challenging is keeping up with the changes, especially for computers. Things are changing so rapidly, it’s a lot of stuff you have to know. You need to know the ins and outs because you need to know that in order to try to exploit the weaknesses.

What advice would you give to help a girl prepare for a job like yours?
“It’s a great career…and there are so many applications in the engineering field. You can apply it to so many different things. As a EE you can work with car manufactures, aero-space industry, electronics, there are so many different applications that I think is a very good field.”

What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?
“I take art classes, I’ve always liked art. I read a lot. I like doing things with my hands so I take a lot, what they call continued education classes at the community college, that have to with crafts. I love crafts so I’ve taken mosaic, stained glass, metal embossing…I used to love art in high school. I at one point considered, doing something in that field. At the end of the year [next year], I would’ve retired. I would have had 32 years. I want to take a lot more classes, I want to do faces and people, but that’s a lot harder. I want to do wood working and learn to play the piano again. I also want to volunteer. I haven’t decided if I want to do a nursing home or a shelter for battered women.”