Like a GIRL!


First aired in June 2014, the Always commercial “Like A Girl” pointed out a phrase that’s normally used in society—a phrase that, whether you realize it or not, has some very negative connotations.

In the commercial, people—men, women, and boys—were asked to do something “like a girl.” When asked to “run like a girl,” each person exaggerated their movements, acting weak and flimsy. When asked to “hit like a girl,” people made a show of hitting clumsily, or sometimes just slapping instead of hitting. When asked to “kick like a girl,” some pretended to drop a ball. One person, in their acting as a girl, added with a falsetto voice, “Oh, but that’ll ruin my hair.” But when the same questions were asked to young girls, they ran, they hit, and they kicked hard and forceful, like anyone would. So what does the phrase “like a girl” imply? That to do something like a girl—to be a girl—is to be weak and clumsy and, in general, to do it badly. The girls in the commercial certainly showed that this is definitely not the case.

Gabriela Moreno, a middle school student at Regents School of Austin, helped illustrate this point: “This guy told me I hit like a girl. So then I hit him like a girl and he never said that again.”

The phrase “like a girl” shouldn’t be negative—but it’s used that way.

Have you ever used the phrase “like a girl” to describe something someone’s done badly? You’ve at least heard it. Many don’t even realize what they’re implying. As school director Monica Moreno pointed out, “I have heard that expression for a long time and haven’t felt that it was something sexist. But then I realized that it’s used as an offense. That shouldn’t be an offense. It’s the same thing as the phrase ‘be a man!’. A woman can be strong and tough, too. Actually, we are. We need to educate people, show them that these phrases are wrong…most people don’t realize what they’re saying, we should show them what it really means.”

When doing something like a girl is an insult, how does that make girls feel? “It makes me feel weak and embarrassed,” high school sophomore Mackenzie Henson said, “It bothers me because there are girls who are stronger than most guys. By saying that you are demoting girls and making them feel inferior.”

So what does being like a girl truly mean?

Being a girl can be tough, especially when using expressions such as “like a girl” negatively is so prevalent in our society. But being like a girl is anything but bad. It’s being awesome, true to yourself, strong, and confident in who you are. Westlake High student Hannah Young adds that “Being a girl means that you can kick butt and wear high heels at the same time. It’s the ability to never let people belittle you or make you feel bad just because you have boobs.”

Just look at all these women in history who have left a mark on the world: Rita Moreno is a legendary singer, dancer, and actress and is the only Latino who has won the prestigious EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony)—like a girl. Mexican Hilda Solis is the former labor secretary and helped labor unions by pushing wage and hour laws and job safety regulations—like a girl. Julia Alvarez, a Dominican poet, essayist, and novelist, wrote pieces that changed the world—like a girl. The list could go on forever!

Gender should not stop you from being strong and powerful. “Being a girl is amazing,” says 15-year-old Rachel C..

“If you want to do something, do it. Being a girl does NOT make you handicapped at ALL. It makes you who you are. If someone says anything like “you ____ like a girl” you should say it’s because you are a girl and believe in yourself,” she adds.

So run, kick, hit as hard as you can. Be yourself, be proud of being a girl. And next time, whenever someone says you or anyone around you does something like a girl, you can go up to them and say, “That’s a nice compliment!” Because it really is.

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, “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.

Street Harassment

Written by Rebecca Jackson

Latinas and women around the world are thinking creatively about ending street harassment. From sharing their experiences online, to writing poetry and taking photographs of their harassers, women and girls are doing their part to put an end to the fear and intimidation.

What is street harassment?

StopStreetHarassment-2Street harassment is just a new name for an age-old experience: women and girls receiving unwanted comments or gestures from strangers (mostly men) in public. In a 2010 study, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control identified street harassment as “harassing the victim in a public place in a way that made the victim feel unsafe.” Unfortunately, street harassment happens to ladies of all ages living all over the world. Gabi Deal-Marquez, 23,  recalls that, “catcalls have been a part of my life, a part of growing up as long as I can remember.” In the United States 33.7% of women will experience street harassment in their lifetime. The percentage is even higher for Latinas, 36.1% of whom will experience street harassment. Internationally, studies have shown that anywhere from 70% to 95.5% of women living outside of the U.S will experience street harassment in their lifetime.

Women Fighting Back

While the statistics are bleak, Latina responses to street harassment provide practical guidance on living with street harassment and inspiration for ending it entirely. “Early on I was taught by my mother to keep my eyes open, know where you’re going, look street smart,” says Deal-Marquez. Jocelyn Cardona, 21, shared her techniques for dealing with street harassment, “I want to feel safe when I am walking. Sometimes I would make a funny face or ask them to mind their own business. . . Now I walk down the street and the expression on my face is hard, cold, and unwelcoming.”

While many women can share their methods for avoiding street harassment, it is important to know that street harassment, and sexual violence of all kinds, is never the fault of the victim and always the fault of the person doing the harassing.

Lauri Valerio, 23, shares that “To me [street harassment] represents a power struggle. It seems that when I am cat called or shouted at on the street, or when someone makes those gross kissing noises, it has nothing to do with how hot or not I am and everything to do with the fact that I look vaguely female from where the harasser is standing.” Street harassment is about men displaying power over women and it is unacceptable. Valerio went on to say that “talking about it, for now, may be my main way to find comfort and solidarity and put up a little fight against it.”

The power of talking about street harassment is the founding principle behind Hollaback! “a non-profit and movement to end street harassment powered by local activists in 64 cities and 22 countries.” Research by Hollaback! shows that responding to street harassment, instead of ignoring it, can help women ward-off feelings of isolation and powerlessness. Writing about your experiences, taking a picture of your harasser on your cell phone, and even giving you harasser a pointed glare can help minimize trauma. The organization provides a forum online for women to share their experiences with street harassment, enjoy international solidarity around the issue, and brainstorm ways to end street harassment for good.

Artist Hannah Price uses her camera to respond to street harassers. Price takes photographs of them after they call to her on the street. Price shared with NPR that, “just turning the photograph on them kind of gives them a feel of what it’s like to be in a vulnerable position — it’s just a different dynamic,” Price says. “But it’s just another way of dealing with the experience, of trying to understand it.”

Overcoming Street Harassment

Whatever their age or location, women are taking inspiring and innovative approaches to making  the street a more welcoming place for all of us. You can be a part of that change! Remember that street harassment is never your fault! If you encounter street harassment don’t be afraid to share your experience with Hollaback! or a trusted adult. Older women especially will likely understand your experience and offer you support.  Walking in public in a group may help you feel less threatened if someone yells at you on the street. If your harasser is someone you know report the incident to a trusted family member or teacher. If someone you know is harassing someone else, challenge their behavior if you feel safe doing so. Ask them if they understand how their actions impact others. Tell them it isn’t funny and make your disapproval clear.

How to Prepare for a Job

Are you ready for your first job? Knowing how to act professional is the first step in getting ready for job hunting and starting in workplace. Being professional means acting respectful, mature, polite and responsible. There will be times when you will be required to behave professionally in any job you hold.  Here are some tips that will help you earn brownie points both at work and in life.

1. Appearance: Always dress professionally, maintain a clean appearance, keep a good posture and smile. Make sure to wear clothes appropriate for the event or environment you are entering. And ladies, avoid wearing provocative pieces like short skirts or low cut blouses. Instead, standard dress for the office is a solid color blouse, a blazer, chino pants and some flats or kitten heels. For your hair, try a simple up-do or bun to leave a clean appearance. During your interview you’ll be able to see the office dress code leaving you room to try and match it.  

2. Persona: Observe proper etiquette, maintain eye contact and don’t be afraid to voice your opinion in a respectful manner. Always stay calm and controlled,  carry yourself with professional confidence and  keep your chin up regardless of the situation. When going into an interview stay confident but always polite, let the employer know you work well with others. While in an office meeting, express your opinions and give comments when you think it’s appropriate that way your employers know you are participating and care about your job. Always stay friendly and keep an attitude targeted towards teamwork. It’s always good to have reliable friends in the work place.

3. When speaking: Be clear and concise and set the context for your audience. If you are asked to make a speech, prepare before hand. Speak at an understandable pace and engage your audience in your presentations.  Make sure to be clear and understandable in any situation so that it’s easier to get your ideas across. Make sure to keep your boss informed of your progress and ask questions when you need something clarified. Communication is key in any relationship, especially in the office.

4. First Impressions: A strong  first impression will always lead the way for a good first impression.  Stand up straight, smile and make sure to give a firm, confident handshake making direct eye contact with the other person. If you are sitting down, it is proper to stand up and greet whomever you are being introduce to as a sign of respect.

5. Superiors: Always respect your boss regardless of the situation. Make sure to refer to them by their last name unless given permission to do otherwise. Try and have a sense of humor but only at the appropriate times, never during a serious or very import task.

6. Don’t chime in on conversations you over hear: Even if it is work related and you know the answer to their question, do not jump into conversations that aren’t being directed at you. It is not polite and they could get the wrong idea about you. Avoid gossip and do not get involved in problems or drama.

7. Phone calls: Phone calls at work should only be work related. While talking on the phone, be polite. Don’t use inappropriate language at any time even if the person on the other end is being rude. If the person is upset, allow them to vent and tell you their side of the story. Instead of raising your voice to the match the caller’s volume,  keep your voice calm, so that things don’t escalate further.

8. Be polite: Do not look down while walking because it shows lack of confidence, fear, or nervousness. Always carry yourself with confidence, and be friendly with those you encounter. Be polite to strangers by saying ‘Good afternoon’ or ‘Good morning’ and greeting them with a smile.

9. Internet:  Keep computer and internet activity work related. Always keep your websites PG-13 at all times. Be as respectful to people online as you would offline, or face-to-face. Use proper language and make sure to respect everyone’s ideas or comments online. Do not surf through websites you know you shouldn’t be surfing through.

10. Cell phones: Never be on your cell phone while speaking to someone else, it is rude and very distracting. Cell phones should only be used to answer emergency calls or during break time.

Professionalism isn’t just for the adults you see working in banks and law firms wearing their pinstripe skirt suits. Get a head start now in preparing for future success by practicing these professional tips.

Road to Success: Internships

With the tough economy and competitive job market, more and more high school and college students are turning to internships to get that extra experience. Internships are also a great way to network and make connections with different people.  There are two types of internships: physical (on location) and virtual (work from home).  But which type is better or are they both equally beneficial?

Virtual Internships

Pro: They are often more flexible

Con: There sometimes is not as many mentoring or networking opportunities

Current college students with internship experience were asked about their views on virtual internships and whether they were any better or worse than physical internships. The overwhelming response was that virtual interns’ schedules are generally more flexible- so flexible that they often have time for more than one internship. However, at the same time because virtual interns do not meet in person with their supervisors, communication can be more of a problem and it can be difficult to network with coworkers.

Some responses from college students:

“Virtual internships give you more independence and not as much mentoring as on location internships. For virtual internships you also have to organize your time wisely and respectively and wait for online advice from your supervisors. It is very doable and rewarding.” Laura Werthmann

“Virtual internships give you that freedom to have more than one internship or job at a time. For example, I’m working full time for a campaign, but I’m also a virtual intern for Latinitas and the Independent Voter Network.  Both virtual and physical internships are just as rewarding though- you just have to balance your time wisely” Gabriella Marie Landeros

“I am currently doing three different virtual internships. This is my first time doing virtual internships and I admit I actually do like virtual internships over physical location internships. Sometimes it depends on where your internship will take place, but since I have had several other internships where I had to physically go to work I enjoy working from home and school. The only down part about virtual internships is that you have to schedule the time to sit down and do all your duties. I work on-campus part-time in a department and go to school full-time, but once I am done with all my work duties and school work, I dedicate the rest of time to my virtual internships. We communicate with the entire team and the bosses via emails, Skype, phone and text.” Shanette D. Buford-Brazzell

“Virtual internship do provide a little of independence and freedom, but they also force you to learn how to communicate a lot better. For example, without the communication skills you need for a virtual internship, it would be really hard to pitch article ideas and suggestions without having an interactive, personal conversation. They are incredibly beneficial for anyone wanting to learn how to better their personal skills in whatever work they may be pursuing, and also in instilling independence and self-guidance as well as strong communication skills.” Mary Ruiz, high school student.

Physical Internships

Pro: There is more direction and it is often easier to network

Con: There is not as much flexibility

Although physical internships are not as flexible as virtual internships and often do require a set weekly schedule (and transportation!), there are usually more opportunities to make new connections and to develop more of a relationship with supervisors and coworkers. Plus, you can get more of a feel for the work environment to see if that career path is right for you!

Responses on physical internships: 

“Physical internships are great because you get to meet new people, and network easier, and become a little more involved in behind the scenes action.” Laura Werthmann, St. Edwards University graduate

“I had a virtual internship last year that I learned from, but definitely would have gotten more out of it had it been at a physical location…On the other hand, I’m currently a virtual intern at iAcquire, an SEO company that I worked at physically in NYC this summer.  This experience has been just as rewarding as when I was in the office because…I’m doing a lot of independent work. However, this is possible because I started in the office and was taught a lot in person for the first few weeks of my internship before I was able to do everything on my own without having to consult with people.  So overall I would definitely say that having an internship in a physical location is better.” Amanda Gallucci

Overall, both virtual and physical internships have their own pros and cons. They both provide great experience so go get those internships, Latinitas!

Chica Who Care: Isabel Rivera

Ever visited your local rescue shelter for homeless pets?  It’s downright impossible for your heart not to melt at the site of a wide-eyed puppy or kitty staring back at you from behind a cage. The sad truth is that an overwhelmingly high number of homeless pets are put to sleep on a daily basis across the nation.  Their heartwarming little faces, unfortunately, are not enough to save them.  The good news is, you can help!  One volunteer shares how she got involved in the “saving lives” cause with her local Humane Society and how it totally changed the direction of her life!

Full Name: Isabel Rivera

Age: 15

School: Transmountain Early College High School, El Paso, Texas

Organization: Humane Society of El Paso

What is the Humane Society? Tell us about the organization:

The Humane Society is a nonprofit organization with a small dedicated staff and large amount of dedicated volunteers that help save lives of animals that roam the streets of El Paso.  We give them a second chance at life by rescuing homeless pets that are scheduled to be put to sleep at Animal Services. They also provide other services and enable pet owners to improve pets’ lives through community events and fundraisers.

What made you want to volunteer ?

Two main reasons: First, in order to graduate from my high school you need volunteer hours.  Secondly, I wanted to do more than just meet the requirement.  I wanted to make a difference and stick to the commitment for the rest of my life.  I had heard of the Humane Society, but never actually visited.  On my first visit, I saw how caring and truly dedicated the volunteers and staff were to saving the animals and giving them a new life.  It was inspiring.

What are your responsibilities at the Humane Society? Can you give a description of a typical day?

I volunteer at the offsite adoptions on weekends. The purpose of offsite adoptions is to make adoptable pets more accessible to the public. We take about 14 dogs each time and assist potential adopters in finding the perfect companion.  We educate about the importance of spaying and neutering while trying to get as many adoptions as possible.  We make them understand that the animals also have hearts and are capable of loving.  I also go to the shelter and mentor new volunteers that come on Sundays to help and may not have as much experience.  I am also an Adoption Counselor in which my job is to match potential adopters with the perfect pet.

Tell us about some of the events/fundraisers that you’ve helped out with:

Ohhh! I love this topic because events are fun. I have been volunteering for more than one year now and have participated in several events.  The first one was the Humane Society’s annual Telethon on Channel 7 News.  The program ran for half the day in effort to get donations from viewers as well as showcase adoptable homeless pets. It was my first day volunteering and I had so much fun!  It was great because so many homeless pets were adopted as a result of the event.  Another event was the Dog Fair. All the local animal shelters and rescue leagues were present and we were able to adopt some pets out that day.  The public were able to bring their pets to the event which made it family and pet friendly.  Another big event was the El Paso Marathon where volunteers worked a water station dressed as dogs and cats!  Our goal was to promote the Humane Society and win the “most flamboyant” contest for prize money.  We won third place which was so cool!  It was great to see the tired runners smile at us as we tried to motivate them to keep going.

Why is Humane Society important to you?

I love animals and volunteering helped me make the decision to become a veterinarian.  I am making a difference and I feel a bond with the volunteers and animals (It is bittersweet when they find a forever home). I get involved by educating my community about saving homeless pets’ lives. It changed my life and that was the goal I hoped to achieve if I were to volunteer.  Help is always available for humans, it’s the animals’ turn.

What are your future goals and dreams? How does volunteering  play into your plans for the future?

At first I wanted to be an engineer but volunteering with the Humane Society made me realize I can do something even better- save lives.  I now aspire to be a veterinarian in animal welfare and can’t wait to make saving lives a career!

What advice would you give to our readers who want to get involved and volunteer?

Open your eyes!  Look around for animals roaming the streets that need to be rescued.  Call or go to your local Humane Society or Animal Shelter and find out how you can help.  It’s easy to get involved!  Spread the word around your school about the cause.  Shelters are always in need of supplies.  Start a drive at your school for shelter items.  Ask the shelter if you can set up a donation box at your school.  Stay connected with them in case they need extra volunteers for an event.

Is there any particular pet success story you would like to share with our readers?

A Great Dane mix named Roxy. She was shy and very protective of her space and because of that she was at the Humane Society for two years.  One volunteer named Alex spent a lot of time getting her comfortable with humans.  Over time she finally understood what it meant to be loved.  She finally found a forever home with a family that fell in love with her the moment they saw her.  She was a little scared at first but quickly warmed up to them and they adopted her.  She remains with her forever home to this day which is absolutely wonderful.  I truly believe Alex was the one who helped give Roxy a new life.

Teen Business Tycoons

Women are up and coming in the business world, and many of them had an entrepreneur vision from a very young age. Owning your own business can be difficult with permits, loans, rental space, and not to mention money, but these young Latinas are proving no challenge is too big for them.  These young Latinas have transformed their passion and hobbies into business ventures. They are taking their business to the next level while striving in college.

Ashley Rodriguez was 18 years old when she started her business. What began as a hobby quickly turned into a successful boutique. “I love fashion and designer labels, but being on a budget as a college student played a huge part in starting my business,” says Ashley Rodriguez, owner of Encore Exchange. She wanted to launch a consignment store for others who were in her same situation. She takes clothing and accessories brought in by customers and she splits a certain percentage of the sale with the owners once the item has sold. Everything in her boutique comes from local clientele, even her jewelry displayed is handmade. The purpose of her boutique was to take out the middle man. Nothing is ordered, customers are the ones who restock her store. Thanks to her business, she has gained valuable experience in speaking to customers on a daily basis, keeping strict budgets and getting organization.

“I opened up after my first semester at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). After I got my family’s support, we needed to find a place with manageable rent. I didn’t take out any loans and the majority of my financial stability came from financial aid and scholarship money I had earned,” says Ashley. Although Ashley has worked very hard in managing the boutique, she feels strongly supported by her family. “Everyone says it’s my company…but I feel it wouldn’t be mine without their support which is why I always say it’s our store,” says Ashley. Owning your business entitles you to more responsibilities “I can definitely say I’ve matured since I’ve opened my business. I’m not a shy person but this made me feel more comfortable speaking to people and handling any crowd. ” says Ashley.

Julianna Sanchez started her cake business at the age of 19 with her older sister Claudia. They first got their idea when they began making cakes for family events instead of buying them. They not only saved money, but developed their talents and expanded their network of contacts. Soon, family and friends began to make requests  for their cakes and recommend their business to others.  It’s been over three years and their business has boomed. “We’ve grown a lot. We began making 30 cakes the first year, and now we make about 60 cakes a year,” says Julianna.

“We were tired of buying cakes at the supermarket where they all looked the same just different colors,” says Julianna. Together the Sanchez sisters, Julianna and Claudia, started making cakes in their household kitchen. Although their little cake business emerged from a hobby, they would like to one day expand and open their own place in the downtown area of El Paso, but for now they are building up their clientele. “We don’t do it for the money or fame, we do it because of the people. We are giving something different and we become a part of their special day,” says Julianna. People tend to take photographs of their cakes right before they devour the savory dessert. Their cake business has allowed them to work closely with customers when creating an idea for a cake. From flavor to design Julianna has learned to keep customer satisfaction to expand her business. Both sisters can agree that creativity has been the most important ingredient when keeping a cake business.

Her experience has made her more confident with handling customers and making cakes. “Not everyone can say they have fun while working. It doesn’t feel like working. I’m just doing what I like,” says Julianna. Her business has allowed her to keep focused in her college goals as well as make some extra money on the side. Being a business owner has allowed her to work around her school schedule and keep her goals within reach.

These young Latinas are breaking through many barriers with their businesses. They not only do something that they love but they also remain focused in their college careers. Although it may be difficult at first, family support was the most important ingredient for these young owners.

Occupy Wall Street

Vea este artículo en español aquí

You’ve probably heard about on the newspaper, in blogs or on TV. Occupy Wall Street is a movement fighting against inequalities and I’m proud to have been a part of the local occupy movement in my hometown. Occupy Wall Street is a national movement that has been going on since September 2011. According to, Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District.”  The movement has “spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. #ows is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movementaims to fight back against the richest 1% of people that are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.”

The fight is to stop huge corporations from the mistreatment and inequality in the work place, animal cruelty, over exaggerated student loan debt, the use of military and police force to prevent freedom of the press or of assembly, the power to charge us to hold money we EARNED, the drastic disappearance of benefits. The list goes on my friends, but you get the point.

This issue (as we all know) has been a problem since Thomas Edison decided to light up banks with light bulbs. I’m sure if he knew what their intentions were, he would have kept his secret on the down low.  The madness has taken over cities all over the U.S., as well as at the national level. This has triggered people to go out in the streets to demonstrate their frustration.

The issue has also hit my hometown.  In El Paso, Texas we have been demonstrating and occupying San Jacinto Plaza for about 2 months now. Being that the Plaza is the heart of El Paso, but most importantly we have three huge corporations right across the street – Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase. Our team of local activists have been camping out all this time! Our group has persisted disregarding the drastic cold weather we have had throughout the days. We have also had activist from Australia, New York and Chicago come to our occupation.

The community has helped by donating food and necessities every so often. Besides the purpose or the anger we have within, this is an amazing turn out for El Paso. Nothing beats the unity we have gained throughout these months. Yet, there is still a lack of support from our “so called” revolutionary generation. It has been very difficult to get our people there to support this cause. It is only a few who have been keeping the momentum.

This is an awakening to my city, to our city. We are all in this together. We should help each other out! Support one another! It is movements like this that make me feel the warmth of my city. It is the stupid mistakes that the government makes that unify us!

Now the question is.. Is success and comfort blinding us? I mean, we are aware what world we are living in right? How could one not stop and think about all those who are going through hard times? Or as long as we are “okay,” then nothing matters right? How could people preach for PEACE and wear their little cool peace shirts and bracelets, but don’t even bother actually giving that word life? I hear it again and again how horrible this world is.  My question to you is – what are YOU doing about it?

Get Involved in Your Community

Have you ever wanted to be a superhero? The real heroes of our community are emergencyWomen Fire Fighters responders like the police, fire department and ambulance technicians. You can be a hero too by volunteering to help emergency services that are always looking for volunteer aid with emergencies and disasters.

Help at Your Fire Department
“Volunteering with the Horizon Fire Department has been one of my best decisions I made when I was in high school. Everyone should explore programs around their neighborhood at least once. It’s a learning experience that you can really benefit from,” said 21-year-old Myra Martinez from Horizon, Texas. Starting in high school, Myra worked directly with the Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), made phone calls, helped talk to families in emergencies, conducted interviews and helped interpret.  As an added benefit, she took courses to learn how to help people with emergency medical assistance.

Assist Police Officers
Ramon Sanchez, a 20-year-old student at the University of Texas at Austin, was very active in high school in student council, Crime Stoppers, policy debate, track, editorial writing and UIL competitions. He still managed to find time to participate in the community through Police Explorers. “Working with Police Explorers, I was able to work with officers on the job and learn protocol. We would go around the city in the patrol car and respond to accidents, help control traffic when lights wouldn’t work, and carry out warrant missions. It was a great experience. I learned a lot about police work. It was never boring,” said Ramon. Many police departments offer a variety of service roles where volunteers can get first-hand experience with police work and help with assisting in fingerprinting, taking photographs and research. “Hands-on experience and knowledge helps you grow as a person, and it is a good feeling when you know you are making a difference,” added Ramon.

Promote Health & Wellness
With a passion for promoting a healthy community, Danielle de la Paz serves on the National Youth Advisory Board for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies where she makes presentations and promotes teen pregnancy prevention.  The high school senior is also a part of her local hospital’s Teen Advisory Board and helps make health and wellness presentations for other teens.  By talking to other teens, she hopes to help encourage them to make healthy decisions. Most hospitals also recruit volunteers to assist with nutrition services, physical therapy and art therapy for patients among other volunteer roles.

Volunteer At Your Local Hospital
Jessie Barron, age 15, likes to volunteer whenever she can at her local hospital where her duties have ranged from  giving treats to the children in the hospital to cleaning wheelchairs and organizing.  “I help in anything they need. I like it because I get hands-on activities and I get to help somebody,” shared Jessie. “It makes me feel so good about everything. I think it is important because a lot of people nowadays don’t understand. Once you start volunteering, you never want to stop.  It gives you a new perspective, it makes you feel good and it warms your heart.  It is amazing.”

On top of the benefits of feeling good about your selfless acts of service, Myra also recommends volunteering as a way to gain experience, build skills and explore career opportunities.  Myra started off volunteering in high school, developed new skills and worked her way up. For Myra, this volunteer role opened the door for her current job as an official fire fighter getting paid for her hard work. “When I first started, I wanted something different and challenging and something that helped my city, so I volunteered at the fire department,” added Myra.

Check out your local fire department, police department and hospital to find out how you can become a volunteer.

On the Job Hunt

After a long day of high school, with all the homework and the teachers and the gossip, who has time for a job? Is it not enough to have to worry about all of those things without adding on the stresses of working after school at the local burger joint?

Despite the many issues the average teen faces today, some are still deciding to add a job to their already busy schedules.

“I saw a lot [of expenses] coming: SATs, college application fees, and class rings.” High school senior Sonia Olivares said she soon realized “you’re not going to be able to count on your Mom for everything.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last year alone, Latina girls between the ages of 16 and 19, like Olivares made up 2.4 percent of the entire workforce.

Carolyn Woodul teaches a work-based learning course at El Paso High School in El Paso, Texas that requires its students to work or volunteer a minimum and maximum of 15 hours a week for a passing grade. Woodul, who has been teaching the course for nearly 17 years, said her students seek employment for a variety of reasons. These often include the students’ need to help parents with household expenses, gaining valuable work experience, and having something that will make them stand out on college applications are usually what push teens to tackle a job

Still, Woodul also recognizes the many factors that may prevent teens from obtaining jobs.

“A variety of employers are requiring a minimum age of 18, which eliminates most of our students,” Woodul said. She added that jobs in healthcare have all but diminished for teens mostly due to new policies.

“It’s hard, I feel like I missed out on my junior year,” high school senior Sonia Olivares said of her job as a librarian at her school. Currently Olivares has transitioned from being a paid employee to a volunteer at the library due to lack of funds.

Olivares’ classmate, Ashley Avalos also suffered from a similar setback last year. Avalos, who is also enrolled in Woodul’s work-based learning course, said that no matter where she applied last year, no one would call her back.

Finally, the 17-year-old said that through the course and Woodul as a reference, she was hired as an office assistant at a local middle school.

“I wanted to be able to start learning how to support myself, get experience, and let [potential employers] know that I am reliable,” Avalos said. The high school senior said she is using her earnings to prepare for graduation and help her parents with bills at home.

Avalos’ classmate Tanya Lopez said she finds juggling work and school difficult, but “worth it.” Lopez, a high school junior works as a teachers’ aide assistant at a local elementary school to help out her family and concedes that this experience is what she “needs now through college and beyond.”

With the economic downturn, the average of teens in the workforce is only expected to grow.

“Jobs available to teens do not vary much,” Woodul stated. She also added that programs such as the one she teaches are “not completely dependent of the local economy.”

Still, having a job while attending high school is something all three girls agree is a part of life no matter what the economy dictates.

“Education is just as important as work. I want to do well in both,” Avalos added.

February 2010