Poem: Room

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Written by Stephanie Hernandez
It’s just an empty room
A naked window and wooden floors
Beige walls and red doors
The shadows of falling leafs reflect on the window
While the sun rays leak through
With golden light that sways with winter scents
Their smells are lingering content
The wind whispers stories in the walls
Of romantic downfalls
When seasons can’t help but change
Your desires become strange.
For you rather be the scar
Than admit who you are
Now my heart is breaking
For what has been forsaking
Let us breathe through the seas
Of shuttered memories
And watch us fall like the yellow leaf
That covers the concrete of gray disbelief
With the wrong steps, we’ve lost our chances
Missed words and lost romances
That sunk through the wood of our floor
The mistakes that paint our red door
Was I a fool to assume?
That after all we’ve been through;
We’d be more than an empty room

Career Spotlight: Chief School Officer

Danna Diaz
Position & Title:
Chief School Officer, Area One Superintendent
Employer:
El Paso ISD
City & State
El Paso
What are some of your job responsibilities?
I serve elementary and middle schools that feed into four high schools. They are Bowie, Coronado, El Paso and Jefferson/Silva. I work with principals and central office to ensure students are learning in the classroom and that teachers have the tools they need to facilitate instruction.My experience working with students from diverse economic backgrounds and my bilingual skills have provided me with the tools and skills to engage all stakeholders in the educational process. Specifically, as a leader, I respond to the needs of stakeholders by establishing positive relations with the school and community and working with the members of the school district. In addition, I promote effective school communication and build coalitions to support the entire learning community.
What is your educational background? Describe your college experience and how it helped you prepare for your career.
I am the first in my family to attend college. I received my Associates in General Studies from Central Texas College, Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Masters of Science, Mid-Management and Superintendent Certifications from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Administration from The University of Texas at Austin.My personal and educational experiences have helped me understand the resilience and persistence that is needed to succeed in today’s public schools. I know how important it is to receive an education and break the cycle of poverty, addiction and domestic violence. My passion is to make a difference in the lives of students and families.
How did you find your current job?
The position was posted by Proact, a national search firm. I applied for the position. I was screened by Proact personnel and interviewed three times by the Superintendent, Associate Superintendent of Human Resources and a member of the EPISD Board of Managers.
What did you do to prepare for this career?
I started my career as a bilingual teacher, assistant principal, principal and central office administrator. In addition to my professional experiences and education, I am a graduate of Proact Supes Academy, Center for Courage and Renewal, Academy for Leaders, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendent’s (ALAS) Superintendent Leadership Academy and the California Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (CALSA) Mentoring Program. My professional experiences, my education and the four learning programs prepared me for the position I have now.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love working with the principals, teachers, parents and students of Area One. They are smart, intelligent and a group of caring individuals. My days are filed with conversations with them that impact the schools academically and/or operationally.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is when you find out a student is hurt in an accident or in the hospital. I know deep down inside they want to be in school. All I can do is pray!
What advice would you give to help a girl prepare for a job like yours?
My advice would be to love what you are learning. If you want to be a teacher, start there. Keep going to school to prepare you for the next level. Don’t stop learning. Keep going!
What do you do for fun when you are not working?
I love spending time with my family, going to the movies, working out in the gym and participating in yoga practice.

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Media Representations of Latinas

Latinos make up approximately 17% of the U.S. population, according to the 2012 U.S. Census report, contributing to 50% of the U.S. population growth between the years 2000 and 2010.  On the big screen, however, Latino roles are rare and far between, and when they do appear, characters are often limited to narrow stereotypes. According to a recent report released entitled “The Latino Media Gap: A Report on the State of Latinos in U.S. Media,” representation of Latinos has even decreased over the decades, with Latinos being more represented in media in the 1950s, when they were only 2.8% of the population, than they are today.

Of the few Latinos that do come out in television and movies, they are portrayed with the same, stereotypical roles time and time again. A popular trend for Latina women in entertainment media is to be placed as the role of the sexy, seductive woman. The report, “Race/Ethnicity in 600 Popular Films: Examining On Screen Portrayals and Behind the Camera Diversity,” states that of over 600 popular U.S. films reviewed, 37.5% of Latina roles were shown to be partially or fully naked, the highest percentage of any other race/ethnicity. Latino men were also found to be the most likely to be wearing “tight, alluring, or revealing” clothing out of any other race/ethnicity of men portrayed in films.

1004479_308531572625386_1478746460_nConstantly being surrounded by these images can affect the way young Latina girls are viewed by those around her, and, in turn, how she views herself. Raised in a Latino neighborhood in New Jersey, Kimberly, 18, shares, “Growing up in a predominantly Latin American environment, I’ve both experienced and witnessed the detrimental effect that the over-sexualization of Latinas in the media has on young Latinas. It’s an insidious and subtle effect that reveals itself in the ways young Latinas are treated by their peers.” Being shown in media as sexual objects, and constantly described by terms like “sexy”, “sassy”, or “exotic”, creates a confining box for what young Latinas are expected to look or behave like, and holds them to inaccurate standards by those around her.

In the 2013 report, “Global Box Office Hits Record in 2012 as Hispanic Attendance Grows in U.S.,” Latinos were found to purchase 25% of all movie tickets in the U.S., showing just how highly the entertainment media intake in this nation is for Latinos. This much media intake means a high level of exposure to the stereotypical roles presented in films and television.  The result of this can be negative for young Latina girls and influence what they see the public perceives of them. Kimberly stresses, “The psychological backlash is often crippling, resulting in a lack of confidence in her intelligence or a sense that her body is more important than what she has to say. We agree that this is dangerous to all young women, but when these statistics show how targeted this over sexualization is, well then, it becomes clear that this specific problem needs to be addressed.”

When looking at the 2010 U.S. Census, only 44.3% of Latina women fill the occupation of a maid, yet 69% of Latinas in media play the role of maids, the report states. Even further, the representation of creative occupations, such as dancers, musicians, and writers, are filled by 9% of Latinos, according to the census, yet are only portrayed as so by less than 1% of Latinos in media. High school student Natalia, 17, shares, “As a strong and independent, young Hispanic woman… the stereotype of Latinas being portrayed as “sexy” or “house maids” in the media is a feeling of being demeaned because of my personal values and how I carry myself.” While there is nothing wrong with these titles, limiting Latinas to these few roles at such a grand scale ignores the truly diverse definition of what it means to be Latina, and the wide range of interests and capabilities of Latina women.  Gladys, 17, urges, “there are other aspects where Latinas should be recognized, including in the news business, or as great lawyers, doctors, etc.”

 

To even further the problem, Latinos make up a very small percent of those contributing to the behind the scenes production, including positions as writers, producers, and directors. In 2013, Latinos made up only 5.2% of writing positions, 2.1% of producers, and 2.7% of director positions, according to the Latino Media Gap report. “The vast majority of all fundamental media decisions are made by affluent, middle-aged, white men,” the Latino Media Gap report states. With such little representation behind the scenes, the stories of Latinas and their realities are not being accurately told.

 

The matter becomes even worse when extending our view to news media as well. According to this same report, as of 2013, less than 1% of the stories covered on popular new stations are Latino related, and of that 1%,  66% of those stories are focused on crime, terrorism, and illegal immigration, showing Latinos in a negative light. This limiting portrayal in entertainment and news media can have highly negative effects on Latinas, and how the public views our potential to expand beyond these stereotypes. The message should be sent out to the heads of media to look beyond the common stereotypes to the greater depth Latinas have as individuals. Latinas are intelligent, diverse, and capable women, and deserve to be represented as such!

 

Dealing with Traditional Parents

latina girls - latinitas

Written by Claudia Mendoza

Different Latinas share their own experiences about dealing with traditional parents, as well as their their own advice on how they coped with culture and tradition affecting their lives.

 

1. Leaving for College and Moving Out

“My mom was hesitant and really sad when I moved away for college,” shares Victoria Navarro, 19, when discussing her experience leaving her hometown for college. “She tells me that it is hard and she would prefer me to be back home. She would love to have me at home if she could. With me leaving so soon, she was fearful of me being by myself and being on my own, but she never told me I couldn’t do it,” she adds. Victoria was able to make the transition smoother by telling her mom why she wanted to attend a prestigious school out of town and how it would offer her new opportunities. “My mom recognized it was a good opportunity. She is really supportive and she knows I worked hard for it.”

Ariana Ortega explained how difficult it is to even bring up the topic of “moving out” with her mom.  Both her and her mother live alone, for the majority of the time, in a four-bedroom home.  This not only makes it hard on her mother but it makes it hard on her to even think about leaving her mother alone; the guilt and the privileges of living at home hold her back.  ”I always think about moving out, even though my mom gives me plenty of freedom.  She always tells me that moving out comes with a lot of responsibilities, and that living on my own I won’t come home to home-cooked meals,” Ariana stressed as she stared off into the distance.

2. Social Life

Alexsis Centeno, 18, explained how difficult it is to even go out with her friends and boyfriend.  Lexy (nickname), explained that her parents are divorced and living in two separate homes, with two sets of rules, highly  opinionated parents, and a “Cruella” for a step-mother are the main reasons to her undeveloped social life.  Lexy stressed, “I choose to ignore it.”

Lexy Centeno shared her story, “When I was 15 they started to let me date.  I really wouldn’t let them know anything about what goes on with the person I was dating, they just knew who the person was.”  Lexy explained that she is currently dating a soldier, Kenny, 19, and she stressed that her parents allow him to join the family and come inside the house, however they are not to be left alone at any moment.  Her parents do not want her to have distractions that will prevent her from finishing school, and having a career.

High school senior Lexy Centeno feels relieved to know that if she were to move out her parents would help her, as long as she continued to go to school.  In fact, she plans on moving out with her best friend as soon as she graduates from high school.

3. Double-Standards and Having the “Talk”

“I think there is a lot of shame in having the sex talk in the Latino community,” shares Victoria.  “It is something that you don’t even talk about. For me, it was that my family would not accept it at all. As a girl, you are told that a lot of your respect has to do with your purity. I would say that it should not be a one-sided discussion. It is important to have a discussion with your parents. If you think it is an option, you should be open with them and you may be surprised that it might become a real discussion. It is important to show that you have thought about it and what it means. If your parents aren’t open, you can find out the options on your own to inform yourself at a health center.”

“My brother gets a lot more freedom than I do and he’s younger.  If I was to do the same, act as he does, I would get grounded for 3 months!  He would only get grounded for a week, literally,” stressed Lexy in a rather bothered tone.

Advice from Lexy:

 

“I know that having strict, traditional parents is not easy and it may or may not get easier as you get older but all I can say is that the more you’re able to prove to your parents that you’re trying to be obedient and the more you gain their trust, the easier it will be to enjoy your teen years. I know that we want to go out and have fun but our parents are usually right and they are only hard on us because they want the best for us.  We may not understand certain things right now, but when we get older or become mothers, we too will want to protect our babies just as much as they are trying to protect us.  Sometimes parents mess up but it is up to us to decide what we let affect us on a daily basis, so don’t let little things distract your pretty little minds.  Instead, focus on finishing school and getting a part-time job.  The sooner you graduate, the faster you’ll be out of your parent’s house living your own,” shares Lexy.

Book Review: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Sisterhood of the Traveling PantsWritten by Andrea Barreto

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares is an amazing start to a series based on four very different young girls as they navigate young adulthood. The all too familiar feeling of being caught in a moment where everything is on the brink of changing sets the tone for what is meant to be a transformative summer. Aptly nicknamed the Septembers because of their birthdays, Carmen, Tibby, Lena and Bridget have grown up spending all their time together. Yet this is the first summer they spend apart and for Carmen especially, this is becomes more difficult to understand.

Though they are the oldest sibling in their own families, each of the Septembers holds a different role in their circle: Tibby is the anti-conformist; Lena, the introverted painter; Bridget, the fearless athlete; and Carmen, the creative writer. Perhaps because Carmen is the youngest in her group of friends, she feels the most impacted by the different routes this summer is taking them. It was her desire that they take a pair of pants that magically fit each girl on their trips in hopes of keeping a piece of one another even in their time apart. Her summer journey takes her to South Carolina for some quality time with her mostly absent father. After her parents separated when she was a child, Carmen tried her hardest to be a daughter that her father would be proud of. The desire to be the best in the eyes of a parent is something I’m sure many young children can understand, and this summer was supposed to be Carmen’s biggest opportunity to show her father what he was missing.

Of course, things don’t go according to plan when Carmen realizes her father has become engaged to a woman with two seemingly perfect children of her own. Soon her father is breaking tennis dates with Carmen to deal with wedding details crises and cheering on his future son at soccer games. All of these appear to be normal family problems, which is why the books are so meaningful. These stories sound like my friends in high school, even my own family situation to an extent. It is profoundly beautiful in its simplicity. From this moment on we see Carmen at an uncomfortable bridesmaid dress fitting, made even more awkward because her full figure comes from her mother’s Puerto Rican heritage.  Rewind a little and we see at the beginning of the novel that even within her own group of friends, Carmen feels isolated; she fears the pants won’t fit over her thighs and she didn’t want to be “the big fatso”. Like many of us when faced with a difficult situation, Carmen literally runs away from the bridal store, expecting her father to notice her absence and being painfully disappointed when he fails to do so.

In her explanations to her mother and even Tibby, Carmen cannot understand why they would assume she’s mad at her father when she actually blames his new family. In her anger, she pushes Tibby away but ends up coming to the conclusion that she cannot admit any negative feelings towards her father. When I was a high school student reading this, this particular moment struck a nerve inside me. The difference was, however, that I could not stand up to my friends. I never had a problem speaking up for myself among my family, because I knew they would always be there for me regardless. The nervous heartbeats and trembling hands came whenever I had to assert myself to someone else, someone I didn’t know wouldn’t stay mad at me forever. This is exactly what Tibby reveals to Carmen when Carmen says she has no problem being mad at her friends – “Maybe, sometimes, it’s easier to be mad at the people you trust because you know they’ll always love you, no matter what.” This trust is something that, try as she might, Carmen was never able to develop with her father. The more she thought about it, the more Carmen realized there was so much she was holding back in an effort to have a happy relationship with her father. Being somewhat passive aggressive myself, I had to really reflect on what I personally was scared of when confronting other people.

Carmen took the time to consider that maybe there was something she herself was doing wrong, and in this way she managed to exude a quieter strength than what she expected. Sometimes there is this idea of how we expect courage to manifest, that it should be in your face and glaringly obvious as a feat of bravery. Occasionally, it is. But more often than not, it’s that quiet shift we feel within ourselves when something significant happens. Carmen felt that shift, and finally decided to act on it. She called her father and finally told him that she resented him for finding a family he preferred over her. Her father apologized but Carmen knew that the words would only matter if they both changed their behavior. So along with the help of her friends, she drove up for her father’s wedding and stood by his side in those traveling pants. While the pants themselves did not change Carmen as a person, it helped for all of the girls to believe that a force greater than they could imagine was a witness to their transformative journeys. This belief is told in many different ways and in all kinds of stories. The beauty of this narrative in particular comes from how deeply rooted it is in our daily reality while never forgetting the existence of that special magic they feel lives in a pair of blue jeans.

The Importance of an Internship

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Latinitas El Paso

As a college student looking forward to a career in competitive fields, we hear about the invaluable experience and opportunity of internships. In order to prepare for a future in your post-grad life, you need to know some things about the work pertaining to your field. Internships give you hands-on experience as well as unique insight when it comes to figuring out your career plans. For this reason, it is important to begin considering what you should look for in an internship as a high school student. Think of an internship as opening a small window into the world of your interests which will help in deciding what to pursue for the future.

As a Communications Major and Film Studies Minor, Bria Woods surrounds herself with methods of exploring media. Woods is a development and outreach intern with the non-commercial Jazz radio station, KRTU 91.7 FM, located in San Antonio, Texas and housed at Trinity University.  Her position at the KRTU 91.7 FM as the development and outreach intern has brought her countless opportunities for personal growth.

“I have the opportunity to work very closely with our members, since we are a non commercial radio station, we are listener supported. Parts of the development aspect involves processing new memberships, to collecting gifts, to sending premiums to new members. With the outreach aspect, [which is] probably my favorite, I get to help plan and set up Jazz events around the city. I have the opportunity to meet celebrities in Jazz locally and elsewhere,” said Woods.

“Working at KRTU has helped me realize the type of work environment I flourish in, which are smaller offices, with close-knit coworkers,” adds Woods.

She worked with a close-knit community in which, “it is common to help each other with tasks,” and she delves in tasks across the board from collaborating with others, to helping out in the recording studio. One of her favorite things about the internship is that she gets to help with things outside of her job description. The position has also helped her network, a great and valuable asset to have in one’s arsenal when seeking a job. Through her boss alone, she has met countless business people, musicians and artists. The worst, she explained was having her boss resign because it felt like losing a friend in the sense that “she was like a big sister,” to Bria. The best was her starting a new trend in the office. In her dorm at Trinity, she has a quote board in which she likes to place memorable quotes that she hears in her daily life. She proposed that one was made at work, and what began as her pinning quotes to the board alone, soon grew to an office habit in which everyone was involved.

 “Working at KRTU is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made. It’s shown me what I’m capable of, which has boosted my confidence significantly, and I’ve met a lot of influential and important people that have changed my life for the better,” adds Woods.

Check your school’s website, career service center, or volunteer driven websites to see what internship is best suited for you. The opportunities are endless if you’re willing to look for them!

The Music You (Latinitas) and I (Child of the 80s) Love

Music2Every October tens of thousands gather in America’s new city sweetheart, Austin, TX for a music festival that lasts two-straight weekends: Austin City Limits Festival.  Emerging and established bands convene for an eclectic expression of new and old music and Latinitas was there to cover as much as possible – exploring new and old loves:

Nightbox – this Irish quartet was, to me, what would have happened if the 80s band New Order could have had a baby – really if any band of that time could have reproduced its DNA -Psychedelic Furs, Depeche Mode- even the Pet Shop-Boys.  What I loved the most about this performance was how Irish folk threads are married with danceable techno.  The bands lead is a new generation of dreamy and though this is a new, little heard band in the U.S., it’s roots to British new age made me feel like a “Latinita” again. (I’m a little over the age limit.)

Dawn and Hawkes – swinging the pendulum from club sound to Austin’s own folk duo that suceeded as finalists on “The Voice” and  touched, yes touched Adam Levine - the team took stage at the festival on my favorite stage, located centrally and smaller, the show is truly intimate and melodic and graceful songwriting gets its due.  Dawn is Miranda Dawn, half-Mexican American, half White – her voice is as beautiful as she.  She and Chris Hawkes, so young, so fresh – sing, though, like they have been writing folk songs for centuries.

Spanish Gold – A Latina publication has to check out anything that says  ”Spanish” of course. This collaboration of Band of Horses members and Austin and Laredo native son Adrian Quesada, founder of numerous other musical projects including Grupo Fantasma, Brownout and the newly formed Brown Sabbath, a commemorative, but Latin perspective on Ozzy’s Black Sabbath hits, Spanish Gold is its own brand of authentic new sound.  The entirety stays lyrically true to themes of rural meandering and Southwest origins, but as with many of the bands at ACL fest this year – they entreated audience members with something unexpected: their version of  the 90s hit “Poison” by Bell Biv Devoe.  It was refreshingly refreshing.

Tuneyards – They are not Latinas, they are not even women of color though they sound like they are and I wouldn’t stop Henry Louis Gates from doing some DNA history on this band to find out if I’m wrong about their cultural origins.  They may have some Mahalia Jackson in that lineage somewhere.  Experimenting in percussion, throaty vocals and opera-like expressions of music intention, Tuneyards get you pumped up, active – seeking purpose.  Does anyone remember Sweet Honey from the Rock?  This band loved Sweet Honey from the Rock, but also loves Red Bull and other caffeinated products, I think.  Love the energy of the Tuneyards. It’s the type of the music that slips between performance art and revolution – easily.

Zoé – if you are 30ish and Mexican, you know Zoe. If you are a Latinita living in Southwest, United States or Los Angeles, well you too are familiar with this Spanglish/ Mexican rock band that has been around for a while, but just peeking it’s head into American mainstream with the minor onslaught of more pop en Español radio stations emerging in popularity.  Zoé epitomizes what is becoming “American” music. It is no longer rockabilly folks. It’s electric guitar with cumbia undertones.

I left reviews of Juanes and Eminem to our younger Latinitas dying to see these icons, but when Pearl Jam was poised as the headliner as a Sunday headliner, well I was immediately transported to sophomore year of college.   For some of you Latinitas that was last semester – for me – that was another decade.  I couldn’t have enjoyed Pearl Jam more.  Eddie Vedder, my middle age peer is as adamant about injustice as he ever was in the early 90s grunge era. His hair is neater, but he, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and the Pearl Jam band restored faith in history, rock that comes from the heart and from pain.  Izzy Azalea played earlier and her act, to me, looked like the boring cheerleading practice from my high school – while Pearl Jam reeled off “State of Love and Trust,” “Alive,” and other classics like they were plugged into a whole other musical universe.  I thank ACL fest for bringing worlds such as these together because music is music – manufactured or primal.  It’s all worth a chance.

Dealing with a Depressed Parent

Hispanic girk looking sad

According to a study performed in 2005 by the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine (JABFM), depression affects 6.9 % of Puerto Ricans, 2.5% of Cuban-Americans and 2.8% percent of Mexican-Americans. As a teen, it can be difficult to have a depressed parent. Between irritability and mood changes, having a relationship while trying to help a parent can be difficult.

“To cheer up a parent/guardian you need to know what is wrong  [with him/her]… All [she/he] could need is someone to talk to or to hug while [he/she] cries about it,” said Elena Galdeano, 18.

Signs of Depression

First and foremost, you are not the reason for your parent’s sadness; you might be tone of the reasons that could make him/her happier. Depression can affect anyone, and spotting the signs of depression may help you understand what he/she is going through and how to help them.

Depression is caused by a variety of reasons. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people who show signs and symptoms of depression have:

  •                Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  •                Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  •                Irritability, restlessness
  •                Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  •                Fatigue and decreased energy
  •                Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  •                Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  •                Overeating, or appetite loss
  •                Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  •                Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not
    ease even with treatment.

Talking About Depression

When someone is depressed, he/she might need a hug or someone to talk to. If part of his/her depression involves a lot of anger, frustration and irritability, try to remember that his/her frustration may stem from a deeper place (what’s causing the depression) and it’s not directly because of you. Strong emotions mean that he/she will need to seek professional help.

“While it could be scary and strange to see a parent crying it [talking to them about it, letting them cry] could be helpful for them,” Galdeano said.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. Depression is a common but serious illness.”

If your parent refuses to seek professional help, you will not automatically become his/her therapist.

“Don’t tell them you know exactly what they’re going through, unless you have had depression, too,” said Kao.

His/her problems may not be within your control, but you can do simple things around the house to help create a more positive environment. You can help relieve his/her stress by showing them that you care.

“Make them feel needed or important. It’s beneficial for depressed [people] to feel they have meaning in their lives and feel connected with the people around them,” said Stephanie Kao, University of Texas at Austin Sophomore.

Additional ways to show them that you care is by helping out more around the house and maintaining a peaceful and positive environment.

“Getting their mind off it for a moment while they work on it [their problem] by singing or taking them for a walk,” Galdeano said. 

Added stress contributes to depression. Picking your battles (not fighting with parents even though they are showing signs of irritability), taking out the trash, doing laundry, cooking a meal, etc. Between helping out around the house and talking to him/her about depression may make him/her more open to seeking professional help (e.g. counseling).

Dealing With Depression

Dealing with a parent who is depressed can affect you emotionally, too. Take time for yourself. Otherwise, you may become sad from the high-stress environment. Your health is important, which means helping out a parent is not your full-time job.

“Reach out to relatives to have them try to connect with that parent or guardian, too,” said Kao.

Consequences of Depression

Surround yourself with a positive support system with friends and family. Dealing with depression is difficult for the person going through it as well as those around him/her, but a positive support system can help you get through this situation. If you feel that things could escalate to a point where you feel unsafe, have a relative who can act as the mediator or have a back-up place to stay with a friend or relative in case things escalate.

It can be hard coming of age and dealing with the physical and/or mental absence of a parent. However, it can be done and has been done. With the tips mentioned above it is hoped you can do the same. And remember, you have a support system. There are people rooting for your and your parent to get out of their slump as well.

Latina Professionals in STEM

Photo Credit: blogs.scientificamerican.com

Photo Credit: blogs.scientificamerican.com

The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields exist all around us, from the gravity that keeps our feet on the ground, to the way our cells are working inside our bodies. STEM fields contribute to all sorts of inventions that help in everyday life, and bring about new discoveries in our knowledge of our environment, medicine, space, and much more! According to the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Commerce, Hispanics in total make up 7% of the STEM workforce in the United States, and only 3% of Latinas are represented in the STEM fields. Here are some Latinas who have made their career by making discoveries, conducting important research in STEM, and are paving the way for future Latinitas to go after their STEM dreams!

Lydia Villa-Komaroff - Cellular Biologist

Lydia Villa-Komaroff is a biologist of Mexican descent, earning her Bachelor’s degree at Goucher College and Doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At the time, she was the third Mexican-American woman to earn a doctorate degree in the United States! At first, she wanted to study chemistry, and was faced with an academic advisor who told her, “Women didn’t belong in chemistry!” Despite these set-backs, she discovered her love for biology, and followed her passion. She went on to contribute to the first synthesis of mammalian insulin in bacterial cells, and now works a company that develops cell processing systems.

Elba Serrano - Biophysicist

Elba Serrano was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but spent many years growing up living in different parts around the world because her father was in the U.S. military. She recalls that growing up, she received a lot of bullying at school from her peers because of her brown skin and Spanish accent. As she became older, she discovered a passion for the sciences, and felt they transcended the barriers of ethnic divide. She received her PhD at Stanford University, and remembers throughout her entire education being one of the very few females in science programs, and part of even a smaller group of minority students. She is now an established Biophysicist studying the nervous system, focusing her research at the University of New Mexico on discovering ways to restore hearing loss.

Adriana C. Ocampo - Planetary Geologist

Adriana C. Ocampo was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the age of 14, she and her family came to live in the United States. She began her interest in science and space exploration early in her youth, and by her junior year in high school, was working a summer job at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Geology at California State University with a specialization in planetary science. She worked at JPL as a research scientist, became a program executive at NASA in Washington DC, and is currently working at the European Space Agency in the Netherlands as a research scientist. She contributed to various space missions, has studied planets, moons, and many other celestial bodies, and was even a part of the discover of the Yucatan Peninsula crater, believed to be the impact site of an asteroid responsible for wiping out the dinosaurs and other ancient creatures of the Earth.

Marcela Carena – Physicist

Marcela Carena was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and received her degree in Physics at theInstituto of Balseiro in Argentina. She specializes in particle physics, and studies the origins of matter, and the matter and antimatter in the universe. Carena currently works as the senior theoretical physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. She is a professor of physics at the University of Chicago, and advises the U.S. Department of Energy. Aside from scientific work, she has worked to establish a visitor program at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory for Latin American students to come and conduct research there during their graduate education.

France A. Córdova - Astrophysicist 

France A. Córdova is of Mexican and Irish descent, getting her Hispanic roots from her father. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English at Stanford, thinking she would pursue a career in writing or journalism. After seeing the 1969 walk on the moon on television, a passion for science was ignited, and she went on to receive a PhD in Physics from the California Institute of Technology.  She became the second woman and youngest person to be chief scientist at NASA, and has become an award-wining astrophysicist. Throughout her career, she developed experiments to analyze space and help answer the questions of how the universe was created. She is currently the director of the National Science Foundation, the U.S. government agency that promotes STEM education and the advancement of scientific discovery.

If you’re interested in STEM, it’s never too early to start looking for related programs at your school or in your area, joining clubs at your school, or talking to teachers at school about your interests! To learn more about Latinas in STEM and how you can get started on pursuing your interests in these fields, here are a few sites to check out:

For Girls in Science: http://forgirlsinscience.org/

Latinas in STEM: http://www.latinasinstem.com/

Latino STEM Alliance: http://www.latinostem.org/

Without Dance, What’s the Pointe?

Photo Credit: Sofia Villarreal

Photo Credit: Sofia Villarreal

From my first performance in a hula girl ensemble at the age of two, to my most recent dance endeavor as a part of a hip-hop crew in college, dance has been an inextricable part of my life for eighteen years now. When I reflect on my childhood and young adult life before college, most memories consist of time spent in the dance studio. Hours spent during weekdays, weekends, and sometimes even holidays giving blood, sweat and tears to a performance was extremely fulfilling.

I was thrilled with the adrenaline rush that accompanied being on stage, twirling and bending to the music. The physical demands of dance have always been an exhilarating challenge that I have cherished. Not only is it physically demanding, but it makes for an expensive and time-consuming pursuit. I have the privilege of being raised by wonderful parents who have unwavering support for my pursuits, and dance was no exception.  All throughout middle and high school, I attended several ballet classes a week and was a part of an annual Nutcracker Ballet performance that was the highlight of my Christmas vacation. For a while before I knew which college I would attend, I greatly considered being a professional dancer. My senior year of high school I joined a pre-professional contemporary dance company called Nudo Piedi, and it was the most fulfilling and enriching experience of my life. I was the youngest in the group of an all female dance company and I grew as a dancer more in this year alone, than in the countless classes I had taken before.

As college application deadlines came around, I realized that although dance was a definite part of my future, it was not going to be my future. This realization arrived with a bit of heartbreak as I said goodbye to my dance peers, the wonderful women of Nudo Piedi and especially my instructor, whom I had grown very close to. I feared that college would be all consuming and essentially too difficult to manage with a dance passion, but I found a way to make it work. Although I have only taken a couple of ballet classes since then, my pursuit of dance as something essential to my life has brought wonderful opportunities my way. I am now a member of the Trinity University dance team, the Prowlers, as well as a member of the hip-hop dance troupe, LoonE Crew. Before college, I had never experienced anything outside of ballet, contemporary, and the occasional jazz class. Joining a hip-hop crew was something entirely out of my comfort zone, but it has been an incredibly fun experience. In essence, I am thankful for being lucky enough to pursue a passion that has been so incredibly rewarding, and in which every minute spent in the studio has paid off in more ways than one.

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