DIY Graduation Gifts

How did the year pass by so quickly? It seems like it was just time for homecoming, and now the school year is almost over. If you have a best friend that is graduating, you might be looking for a good way to show her that you will always be there for her no matter how far away her future takes her. Try one of these DIY gift ideas that will remind your BFF of your friendship and support for years to come.

The Dorm Survival Kit CollegeSurvivalKit

How did your BFF ever survive without you anyway?

Materials: A medium sized plastic bin, all of her favorite things and travel sized toiletries.

1. Fill the bin with her favorite snacks, drink mixes, and a picture of the two of you. Make sure to also include trial sizes of shampoo, conditioner, face wash, band aids, and laundry detergent.

2. Wait for her to thank you when the drug store is closed and she’s out of shampoo.

Graduation is an exciting time for a graduate and her friends. Make her a gift that shows her how much you support her. Even if your BFF moves across the state for college, you have an unbreakable bond that will last throughout the years.

The Sharpie Mug

Nothing is quite as comforting as a mug of tea or hot cocoa after a long day.

Materials: Plain ceramic mug, an oven, and oil-based Sharpie markers (Note: They are different from regular markers but will make your design last longer.)

1. Using the oil-based Sharpie markers create your design. It can be her favorite saying, a cool drawing, or a fancy monogram of her initials.

2. After finishing the design, let the mug sit for at least 10 minutes so the paint can dry. If thicker parts of the paint are still wet, let it dry longer or it will chip off when you bake it.

3. Put the mug in the oven while it is still cold and preheat it to 425 degrees. This will prevent the mug from cracking.

4. Once the oven has reached 425 degrees, start a timer for 30 minutes.

5. Once the 30 minutes are up, turn off the oven but leave the mug in there. Let it cool down all the way with the oven.

6. Take it out and look at your masterpiece! The mug can be hand washed, but dishwashing is not recommended.

The  “Open When…” Letters

Write letters your BFF can open throughout the year.

Materials: Envelopes and stationary, markers, a pen, and anything else you want to decorate the envelopes with.

1. Write “Open When…” at the top corner of each envelope.

2. Think of letters that you want to write. Some ideas are “Open when… you need to smile,” “Open when you’re feeling homesick,” and “Open when… you ace your first exam.” The possibilities are endless. Don’t forget an “Open when… you get this,” so you can explain the letters.

3. Write each topic on front of the envelopes in marker.

4. Write a letter to go in each envelope.

5. Decorate the letters anyway you want to. You can tie them all together with a piece of ribbon to keep them all together.

The Personalized Journal

Your BFF can write down all of the exciting things she needs to remember to tell you about.

Materials: A hardcover journal, stamps with her initials, an ink pad in a color that will show on the pages, a large binder clip, and a pencil and ruler (optional)

1. Use the binder clip to secure all of the pages together minus the cover. The notebook pages will create a sturdy surface you can stamp.

2. Using the stamps and ink, stamp the initials around the edge of the notebook over and over in the correct order. You can use a large rubber band around the three stamps to create one giant stamp.

3. Open to the inside cover and stamp the initials over and over in straight lines across and down the page. You can use the ruler and pencil to create a guide if you like.

4. Make sure to write a note to your BFF on the first page of the journal.

The Mail Box

Texting is great, but there is something special about sending and receiving a letter through the mail.

Materials: Envelopes, stationary, a page of stamps, a gift box to fit everything, and a small address book (optional)

1. Put the stamps, envelopes, and stamps in the box.

2. You can get your other friends to write their addresses in the address book so your BFF can write to you.

3. Decorate the box anyway you like. Maps of places you went together and pictures of your adventures there can be glued on.

 

Career Spotlight: Ada Alvarez Conde

Ada Alvarez Conde, Women’s Rights AdvocateAdaAlvarez
Position: Senate & Fundación Alto al Silencio
Director of the Committee for Women Issues
Hometown:  San Juan Puerto Rico
Website: www.loquenodije.com

Describe your work:
I founded a non-profit to create awareness of dating violence and to prevent domestic violence. I’ve given more than 300 conferences in schools, universities, communities, churches or wherever invited. Since I’ve been so active, I also got into policy to eradicate violence. After all my activism I got a job at the Senate because of proposals of bills I wrote to criminalize dating violence, among other policy I’ve been able to write. In the Senate, I’m the Director of the Committee for Women Issues which means any legislation related to gender and women will pass through here. I have to do everything so it goes through the democratic process for it to become law (public hearings, etc to be approved in Senate) and then House, maybe signed by the Governor and becomes a Law.

Education & Training: I have a Bachelors of Arts in Journalism with a minor in Gender Studies from the University of Puerto Rico, a Masters in Science in Mass Communication from Florida International University and I’m doing a PhD in History of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. I also have 2 post-graduate degrees/certificates -one in documentary filmmaking and other in Diplomacy and International Relations (I’m happy to study so much, a proud #latinathatreads a lot). I’ve been volunteering since I was 14. I believe a great tool to prepare for my career was to develop experience. I applied to an internship in 2006 where I worked with Nancy Pelosi, it was a joint program of The Washington Center with PR and Government. After that, I participated in an internship with HACU, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. While studying Journalism I became an active member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalist, where I have served in the Board for 4 years in different positions. I believe the best thing about college were extra curricular activities, applying to internships and saving money to travel. I have traveled with my school in several occasions and I believe it was the best thing I invested in. A lot of people are afraid to be alone because they think they can’t handle situations. It is when you are alone and abroad that you confront yourself and everything you are. When you succeed in doing something, you gain self love and freedom. Being independent and seeing what you are worth is the best thing about the college experience.

How did you find your current job?
I found my current job doing a media tour. I wrote 2 bills (drafts) and I gave 20 conferences in a month. I was proposing a law so that February (as US does already) is declared Dating Violence Awareness Months in Puerto Rico. I wrote a Dating Violence Law. After doing an educational campaign and sending several press releases, I got a Senator to interview me, I landed the job!

What is your favorite part of your job?
I love my job because I feel very complete. I’m having a salary for the first time to do my activism all day. The financial road has been really rocky, but I’ve been blessed that all this work has paid off and I know I have a bunch more to give!

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part is balancing life. I think there’s a lot of pressure given to women in politics. I have heard many times that I can do this job because I don’t have kids yet. People have questioned why am I not married yet. This is clearly a gender issue, I don’t see people asking that to any guys working here. However, a lot of people see me as a motivation. Every time I feel I help save a life through education or legislation I feel blessed. I have been through two open heart surgeries and I need one more next year. To have a job like this requires a lot of sacrifices and hour;  however, we need to balance our personal life with our professional life. I don’t have kids yet, but when I do, I plan to work as hard. Kids and family to a women should be a motivation not a limitation. Is very important to have support from your family. If by any chance you don’t have family support, you are broke or you have a health or personal issue, look for strength and remember we are warriors. See yourself in the mirror and say “yo valgo mucho” (I am worth a lot). Spread the word of solidarity. The world needs more peace instead of violence and it starts with a smile.

No seas víctima del silencio
www.loquenodije.com
Don’t become a victim of silence
Twitter @AdaAlvarez8

Poem: El Sol

El Sol by Celeste Ledesma

The garbage man,
Our country once called
Him a no one, a ghost
Of nothing that slipped
In through the night of our
Nation and wouldn’t dare
Leave the shadows.

Our country then called
Him a someone, finally,
A someone who didn’t belong
In civilian clothing,
And so he was shuffled
Into the light of the Vietnam War.

He reflects to anyone who will listen:
I fought for my America, not the one
That looks into the waters of the Rio
And sees the blue eyes of Jesus Christ
But doesn’t see the brown of the muddy tears
He cries…Sabes que , that’s not mud, it’s my sister
And her children crossing the battlefield
Of a different kind of war.

The garbage man,
Our neighbors eventually called
Him Antonio because when
The war was won, or lost,
Or who remembers… they were allowed
To know he was real in the small space
Between night and day.

The garbage man,
Our family called him el sol
Because we saw him through our windows every morning–
Smile shining so bright that you wouldn’t think
He lived in the night, but you would know by the way
He talked about the moon: She was the light he followed
Through his first American night,
And I wonder if anyone cares (I mean wonders)
If when he says moon he means wife.

The garbage man,
I call him grandpa
And he reflects to us: Niños,
Even though I did not know
That you would be mine, you
Were the stars I reached for
When I lived in the night.

Book Review: Finding Miracles

“Finding Miracles” started off as what seemed to be just a novel about a girl in Vermont, and it grew into a beautiful coming of age story.

Finding Miracles Julia Alvarez Book Cover

The book is about a young girl, Milly (her full name is Milagros), who was adopted as a child and grew up to become an American teen – and she was just fine with that. As most books go, a new boy shows up to school, but this boy is different from most in books like these. Milly quickly finds out that he has something in common with her, and that is what makes her decide to find out more about her birth parents.

The characters in this book are relatable, as well, even if Milly wasn’t adopted from a Latin country into a Caucasian family. Her friends and her relationships with them are realistic and that makes it easy for readers to put themselves into the novel.

Julia Alvarez, the author of this novel, said, “I have met quite a few young people who were adopted from other countries by American moms and dads. I have watched them grow up and struggle to understand how to fit their “shadow” culture and world into the story of their lives.”

And so she wrote this novel for any other young people that might deal with this same issue. The title of the novel, “Finding Miracles,” is just another way of saying “Finding Milagros.” Alvarez’s story is all about how Milly finds herself in her American culture, but also her Latin one. She learns to embrace who she truly is after hiding it away for so many years.

Alvarez also leaves out the name of the country Milly is from so that readers can imagine it as any place they like, maybe even the country they are from. She describes the country well enough for readers to get an image in their head, but vaguely enough for it to be almost any Latin American country.

This book would be good for anyone to read, not just anyone that’s been in that situation. Although everyone is different, and there might not be anyone in the exact same position as Milly, readers learn what someone they know might be feeling if they are in a situation similar to this. And if the readers don’t know anyone who has had to go through this, the novel has a good plot that will keep readers interested until the very end.

My Mom is Special

Latinitas share why their moms are special.

“My mom is special to me because she has been my best friend throughout my life. She is a strong woman and caring to my two brother and I. She is a very funny person and you can always count on her to trust your deepest secrets. She will always try her best to help and guide you to the right path. I love my mom with all my heart and I am sure I would be lost without her. Her name is Maria Luisa, but her friends call her Malicha. I can tell you that she is always smiling and having fun. As a regular mom, she has had her battles in life. She is always pushing herself for better opportunities and looking for the best way to educate us. She is my Super Women and I want to have the same spirit as she has. I own her tons! I know that I haven’t been an easy daughter, but she has been my best friend, partner in crime and my teacher thoughout my school years.” -Ariadne Venegas

 

“The most influential person in my life is definitely my mother. Growing up she always set an example of independence and what it meant to do things on her own without a husband. I remember seeing her come home from work when I was young. Even when she was very tired, she would kick off her heels and join me on the couch to watch movies and catch up on how our day went. She made me believe that everything was possible, being a great mother and having a career. I remember daydreaming of the day that I would be able to work and go to college, the very situation I am currently in. Seeing her busy and always having something to do was something that I always admired. The most important thing that I admire about my mother is her honesty. She never strays away from those hard questions that would reveal something about her not being a “perfect” mom. I think that all of those hard stories she told me about her personal life to answer my “life questions” definitely molded me.  My mother’s honesty is something that I have. I’ve always had an unfiltered way of looking at the world. It has helped me communicate better and ultimately it is responsible for my choice to stay in the communications field.” – Jackeline Gomez

 

“I want to say I am so grateful with God for giving me the best mom that I could have. My mom has always been there for me even in my worst moments where I have felt so sad and I just go up to her and cry. She is always there to hug me and comfort me. She always talks to me for a long time and always lets me know how much she loves me no matter what. I am really very thankful with God because he is so good to me that he gave me my family that is the greatest gift I have. I can remember that my mom has always been there with me in my good moments and bad ones too. When I was little, I remember she would always go and volunteer with my pre-k teacher to go to the field trips we had. I have so many memories with my mom of when I was a little girl. When I look at the pictures I have with my mom on family vacations, I always smile. I will always cherish the moments I have with my mom. I don’t know what in the world I would do without my mom. I think I would feel a big emptiness because she has a very special place in my heart. I know of all the struggles she has been through, but she is very strong and still keeps her smile. I have seen her cry and it breaks my heart to see her sad. Every time she cries, I end up crying too. I always tell her that the problems and bad situations in our life are not forever. Everything has a solution in this life. She has done so much for me, she takes me to school whenever she can. She always cares for me and my little sister and brother. I would never let anybody hurt or talk bad about my mom or my family. I also have videotapes that my mom recorded when me and my brother where little, she loved to record every single moment she had with us and we have so many pictures together. My mom is always giving me advice  and is always there when I feel confused, sad or mad. I love to spend time with my mom. Whenever I don’t have something to do, we go to eat together, shopping or to watch a movie.” -Vanessa Ramirez

Find Your Perfect Career

Changing a career path is quite normal, and for Melissa Sanchez, her story of following her dream is one example that resonates with many young professionals.

Melissa Sanchez was a paralegal for ten years and it wasn’t until her experience with Bossed Up, an organization that provides a holistic approach to professional development, that inspired her to open up her own business, Belle Bayou Dessert Catering, in Houston, TX.

As a Latina, sometimes one undergoes the pressure from parents to follow a certain career path, but according to Sanchez it is crucial to follow your heart. Sanchez has always done dessert catering in some capacity, but it wasn’t until recently that she took this full-time leap and opened up her own catering business.

At the age of 32, Sanchez realized she didn’t want to continue on the law school path. “Your parents will want you to have a job that makes you the most money possible, and that is understandable. Most of our families came to the United States to escape poverty and struggle daily to make ends meet – this was my family as well. They want our lives to be easier than theirs are.  But from my own experience, I can tell you that having a high-paid job does not necessarily make you happier.  It isn’t easy to go against your family’s wishes, but at the end of the day, it’s your life and you have to stand up for your own happiness – you deserve to be happy,” stated Sanchez.

According to Jonathan Clements, author of Jonathan Clements Money Guide 2015, “If possible, never work just for a paycheck. I believe the keys to a fulfilling life are spending our days doing what we’re passionate about and our evenings with friends and family.”

Ultimately, what one wants out of a job is up to each individual, but being happy is so intrinsic to one’s well being and a career plays a big part of that. It doesn’t matter how old you are, life is about trying out new things and making a set of goals that will put you on a path to success.

When you’re young it’s also easier to switch jobs more often. According to Ladders.com, “Job seekers in their 20s are long on enthusiasm and education but short on experience. Family and financial responsibilities tend to be limited, so it’s a good time to take chances. It’s also a period during which you can take some time to figure out the ways in which your talents and skills can best be applied.”

It is okay to have different jobs, especially when you’re young, because that is not only how you learn what you want in a career, but it is how you will grow professionally and personally as well.

According to Melissa, her advice for all young Latinas is a three-prong process that has given her success: visualization, organization, and association.

  • Visualize Your Dream:
    “Visualize your dream – do you want to start a business?  Want to be a doctor or an engineer?  Have an idea for an app?  Start visualizing your dream and what it looks like – be specific!  When I thought of my business, I imagined what my logo would look like. (And now I have it!)”
  • Research & Create a Plan: 
    “Once you’ve visualized your dream, start organizing and planning. Research what you need to do to make it happen. Write out the big goal and the little goals it will take to get there.  Set a timetable to keep yourself moving towards your dream.”
  • Find Role Models:
    “Last, and very important, associate yourself with people that have done what you want to do and learn as much as they will teach you. Associate yourself with people that are positive and have their own dreams – you will encourage and support each other along the way.”

Following Melissa’s advice may even lead to finding new things about yourself that you never knew existed.

Latinos in Media

Do you ever feel like you don’t see enough Latinos in TV and movies? Have you ever felt like the Latino characters you do see are often stereotyped negatively? A new report confirms that many Latinos are not alone in feeling stereotyped and underrepresented on TV and film screens. The ”Latino Media Gap” report conducted by Columbia University  delves into the lack of media representation of Latinos as well as highlight the fact that this dilemma endangers society with the possibility of causing long-term damage to American Latinos. photo.jpg

The study took a close look at the number of Latinos in front and behind the scenes in both TV film. The study points out the following key findings.

Latino talent in major movies and television is less than two percent and not increasing anywhere near the rate of the rise of the U.S. Latino population

The study done in 2014 points out how Latinos make up 17% of the US population and surprisingly make up almost half of  the population in Los Angeles, home to Hollywood. From the years 2010-2050 Latinos have the fastest projected growth in population. Despite these numbers, from 2010-2013  the percentage of writer, producer, and director positions held by Latinos in Network TV never reached up to 6%. This indicates that the majority of what is on television does not account for the current marginalization of Latino talent or stories. The report states that the Latino media exclusion is equivalent to the exclusion of more than the entire states of California and Illinois from American media culture.

 

Latino stereotypes are extremely prevalent in mainstream media

Latinos are typically cast as unfavorable characters. The principal investigator spearheading the report was, Frances Negrón-Muntaner a filmmaker, writer, and scholar. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Negrón-Muntaner  stated that, “People largely imagine themselves and their relationship to others according to the stories circulating in the public sphere; they also act according to the information provided through news outlets. So, if Latinos are not part of the story and the information available is limited and biased, this has at least two major consequences. One, many Latinos will internalize that they are not valuable human beings, leading to diminished aspirations and wasted potential. Two, many non-Latinos will also incorporate these ideas and feel that they have a license to marginalize and even physically harm Latinos. Either way, we all lose.” The news also contributes to the misrepresentation of Latinos, according to the study, “stories about Latinos constitute less than 1% of news media coverage, and the majority of these stories feature Latinos as lawbreakers.”

 

Latinos audiences expand viewership

According to Columbia’s study, if US Latinos constituted a nation it would be the 14th largest economy in the world. Latinos buy 25% of all movie tickets) to watch cable and other types of programming to only view negative representations of themselves.

 

 

Representation of Latinos is important.

These stereotypes pose as a huge problem in our society due to the fact that these representations often set the foundation how the general U.S. population perceives the Latino community. People who may not know any Latinos are therefore susceptible to believing that all Latinos embody a negative stereotype that is manifested in the media. Negrón-Muntaner told the Huffington Post that the study highlights “ a growing and profound disconnect between the characters you see on screens and TV, and who is sitting next to you on the bus, teaching your children how to read or coming to your rescue in case of a fire.”

 

Latinos can ignite change through social media

As a solution to this dilemma, the study suggests that Latino consumer pressure can be effective when it comes to demanding new representations in the media.

 

Latinos are needed for new media production

Due to the lack of diversity of industry executives, there are stories that are not being told as well as people that are not being represented as they should. According to the study, there were no Latinos who were serving as studio heads, network presidents, CEOs, or owners.

 

DIY Vision Board

For many ambitious girls, there are plenty of goals that are waiting to be met. The struggle is staying focused and completing them. Whether it’s a short-term or long-term goal it can be done! Follow these DIY tips to create your own vision board to keep you on track to reach your goals.

Decide On Your Goals:
A long term goal can be to graduate with honors from your class, become a teacher, or even be organized. A short term goal can be to study for a test that week, exercising three times a week, or knowing your lines for the school play by the end of the week. Both short-term and long-term goals should be treated with equal importance because they are meant to be met no matter what. Once you have decided what your goals are, you can start focusing on making those goals a reality.

Create a Visualization Board:
A great way to begin brainstorming on what steps need to be taken in order to reach that goal is visualization. As the common term says, “Seeing is believing” its all you really need. Imagine seeing your goals every morning as you wake up as a reminder of what you want to accomplish.

Get Creative:
Create a board of pictures, words, drawings or quotes that represent what you want to achieve. Cutting out pictures and positive words from magazines help make your board be much more vivid. If your goal is to be more fit, cut out a picture of a woman exercising and print out a picture of your face and place it on the woman’s face. It looks funny, but it helps you see yourself in that position just like in any position.

Personalize It:
Don’t be afraid to use bright colors that will capture YOUR attention every day! You are personalizing your own goal board, so use your favorite colors or craft materials. It can also range in size, from a small board to a big poster board. The decision is up to the visionary, YOU.

Find the Right Spot:
When your masterpiece is complete place it somewhere where you will see it every day. Place it on your ceiling or on your door, a place where you know you’ll see it every morning when you wake up!

Reach Your Goals:
Everything takes time, but soon you’ll see your goals be accomplished and you’ll see your board with a sense of pride. Place stickers on the goals you have already completed to keep your board “alive”. The best thing about your board is that you can have as many as you want or change one every year, like a new year’s resolution with pictures!

Cyber Code Twins

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Cal State L.A.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Cal State L.A.

The Latinitas team got the chance to interview América Lopez of Cyber Code Twins. Latinitas Co-Founder Laura Donnelly sat down with this computer programmer and rising technology maven at the Hispanicize Conference in Miami where America was being recognized for using her technological genius to empower her community. Read on for her inspiring conversation with Laura Donnelly.

 

America: Hello, my name is América and my twin [Penelope] and I are co-founders of Cyber Code Twins, which is a tech company that focuses on making communities safer through mobile apps and mobile technology. We are very engaged community activists and we are trying to help our communities become more involved in tech, so we are holding high-school workshops. Also, we are hosting hackathons, especially in East L.A. because that’s where we were born and raised. [Editors note: Hackathons are events in which programmers and designers collaborate on software projects.]

 

Latinitas: How old are you?
A: We’re both 24. But I’m five minutes older.

 

L: What did you have to do to get here? What kind of training? What kind of education?
A: I did not learn programming in high school, but I am trying to make a stand that you can start at any age. I’m a community college student, so a lot of community colleges want me to speak at their classes because I’m a good role model for their students. I’m also asked to speak at high schools because they’re like “Hey, you beat the system. We know how difficult that is. How did you get started?” I actually learned programming going to different hackathons. And then we started winning.

 

L: What were some of the goals that you had to achieve at these hackatons? Was it inventing an app?
A
: Yes, when we won it was for an app making vehicles safer. We made a jacket that uses proximity sensors that lets drivers know if they’re within three feet from motorcyclist wearing jacket. This ensures they obey the ‘three feet rule’ [California’s distance laws for cars passing motorcycles]. They really loved that. We won $9,000 for that one. Now in a January hackathon, we won $10,000. We made a smart body camera. So it’s a wearable camera that can be used not just by police, but by gas station attendants, because I really think it’s awful that CCTV [gas station surveillance camera] can not get a good angle of who committed the crime.

 

L: Why safety? Did someone introduce that concept to you?
A: No, it’s because in my neighborhood there have been a lot of shootings. Every couple of weeks there are shootings. It’s very active right now. And we’re very concerned, so that’s why we are trying to make community safer by making all these different types of technology, especially for vehicles sharing the road. We are motorcyclists and other vehicles really do not share the road! Our jackets will be flashing and they’re like why are your jackets flashing? And we’re like because you’re in our three feet zone! And we’ll yell at them.

 

L: That’s fantastic. So how do you guys split the workload? Is someone better at one thing? Is someone more visual…?
A: My twin is more spacial. I’m more linear. So I’m very super technical and she pulls me out of that when she needs to.

 

L: What about your parents? What do they think of all this?
A: It’s very funny because our parents thought we were going to nightclubs all the time, but we were just going to hackathons. So we would send them pictures of us programming with all the guys. And they were like “Oh there aren’t any other Latinas, but there a lot of guys. You sure you programming?”

But recently, after the big win at January’s hackathon, we got accepted to a Women in Tech start-up program in Silicone Valley and we realized there weren’t a lot of women in tech. It was a 2-week program and they helped me network, grow my skills, and think much, much bigger. And it made such a profound impact. We just finished the program a few weeks ago. And now our current company, Cyber Code Twins, we want to keep focusing on finishing our prototype and take it to the next level. Because usually at hackathons your prototype dies and nothing comes out of it. But at the workshop they told us: Finish it, get it out there!

 

L: So what do you guys do to relax?
A: Motorcycle riding, and we build drones and take them out with us when we ride and they follow us. Also 3D printing. And we are trying to get more into fashion tech because really for wearable tech in LA it has to be stylish.

 

L: So what does that look like when you envision it? What is wearable tech for you?
A: For me, it could be like a hat that has a UV sensor. If you’re going over your time it will send you a text or ring you your favorite song to remind you to put on your sunscreen.

Mexican Girl Genius

MexicanGirlGeniusPaloma Noyola Bueno has been called a genius and the “next Steve Jobs.” In 2013 Wired magazine, a popular American publication that covers technology and business, compared this Mexican girl to the technology innovator Steve Jobs. The magazine compared the ten-year-old Paloma Noyola Bueno to the creator of Apple, proclaiming her technological and mathematical genius. She had just achieved the highest math score in the country on an exam similar to the United States’ SATs. She also achieved the third highest Spanish score.

Paloma’s genius comes from a surprising place. When she aced her exams she was jus a little girl living in poverty in Matamoros, Mexico. Her father had died of cancer a few months beforehand and her mother supported the family by selling metal scraps and food. What’s more, the school Paloma attended was next to a waste dump and lacked basic facilities like running water. It was also located in an incredibly dangerous area where drug cartels often battled. Two of Paloma’s classmates had mysteriously disappeared earlier that year. But in an environment dominated by poverty and violence, and without the opportunities or education that someone like Steve Jobs enjoyed, this little girl is proving that anything is possible. In her own words, she told media she believes “if you want it, you can do it.”

Not only does Paloma believe in her own ability to succeed despite the odds, she wants to help others in the process. Speaking to Mexican news outlet Azteca Noticias in October 2013 she said: “No seré la próxima Steve Jobs. Seré más grande porque voy a perfeccionar y hacer más fácil la técnica de la educación en el país.” (“I won’t be the next Steve Jobs. I will be greater because I will perfect and simplify Mexico’s educational techniques.”) She went on to add that she would like to be a mathematics teacher and work to ensure better education for children throughout Mexico. She does not want to just give children work. She believes what is most important is teaching children how to study and how to be motivated.

Since Paloma’s appearance in magazines and news outlets following her amazing test scores she has been low-key, staying out of the limelight to concentrate on her studies. Nonetheless her remarkable mind has catapulted her into somewhat of a celebrity in Mexico. Just a few months ago local government and philanthropists combined forces to buy the young girl and her impoverished family their own home on donated land. Thanks to Paloma’s dedication to her passion her family has escaped the unsafe living conditions of their former residence. What’s more, the entire nation is still praising her talent. Matamoros’s own mayor, Lety Salazar, marveled at Paloma’s determination to fight for her dreams no matter her circumstances.

To learn more about Paloma watch her Spanish-language interview with Univisión Noticias linked here. She is truly an inspiration, and an emblem of great things to come in Mexico. Keep an eye on her!

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