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!

Girls in Sports

Young Latinas are showcasing their athletic power, strength and competitive side in a wide range of sports. Girls are making a mark on the wrestling mat, golf course, soccer field, dance stage and many other sports arenas. Joining a sport has many benefits such as staying in shape, being healthy, learning how to work in teams, making friends, meeting new people and having fun. The choices can vary from dance, golf, soccer, fencing and even joining a wrestling team. Here are the stories of some Latinitas who are in different sports and love them!

Jessenia Marie Zambrano is a fifteen-year-old musician, artist and athlete from New York City. Jessenia is an active competitor of the sport fencing. She is coached by Buckie Leach, who has helped Olympic champions in the past, at the oldest Fencing School in America, The NY Fencers Club.

Fencing is a very unique sport. Not that many kids grow up and think that they want to be an Olympian fencer because the sport is not as common as swimming, ballet or baseball. I began fencing when I was 6 years old. Going on  10 years now fencing, and its still a big part of my life since the day I started. I love the intensity in fencing and how people have different styles of displaying their flow of the game. Some girls are smooth, elegant and light on their feet. Others can be aggressive, mean and passionate in their yell when they score a touch. It’s an  intense logical sport. It’s also emotional just like any other sport can be. All kinds of people fence. Some do so because they compete and others fence because its simply fun! It’s playing with swords. Who cannot see that as fun? Don’t worry that blades are zero percent sharp.” – Jessenia

Jocelyne Hernandez is a junior in high school and serves as team captain of her golf team. She also likes to play soccer. She encourages other girls to join sports as well because it teaches hard w0rk, goal-setting, team work and discipline.

“I am more of a soccer player, but I barely joined golf. Although I’ve played for a short time, I love hitting at the range. Golf is not an easy sport but I’ve learned to be self- reliant…I think its great that girls join sports… Girls who are in sports do better in school… Playing sports helps build character, you learn what teamwork is all about and you set your goals.” – Jocelyne

Jessie Nicole Barron is a high school junior and has been a wrestler for about a year now. Jessie also thinks that wrestling is a hard sport because it is physically and mentally demanding, but encourages others girls to step up to the challenge.

“I’ve been in wrestling since the summer of 2012… What I love about wrestling the most is that I can get rid of any stress and building muscle… The hardest thing about wrestling is everything! It is not like another sport, it’s not for everyone. In wrestling you need to be mentally, emotional, physically and spiritually strong…Wrestling is a challenging sport; however, if you are interested in trying it, you should! It’s always good to take a challenge and see how far you can go.”

Gaby Werthmann is a freshmen in high school and is in the dance team at her school. She enjoys a sport that lets her get fit while being creative and artistic at the same time. She thinks the most rewarding part of being in dance is the feeling you get when you learn how to do something that you have been working on for a while.

“It is good for girls to start dancing because it is a good way to stay in shape, and there’s always something new to learn and accomplish… Just the smile on your coaches face that tells you you did well, it makes me want to try harder and go to the next level because I know I can do it.”

Leslie Perez, 20 Latinitas Under 20

Name: Leslie Perez

Age: 17

Heritage: Mexican-American

Hometown: Galveston, Texas

Volunteer Experience:

She is heavily involved in her community in numerous ways. She is the president of Galveston’s Lulac organization youth council #12. She is a church volunteer at Strong Tower Christian church and was crowned Outstanding teen United Southern States 2010 as well as Miss Galveston teen 2011 and Miss Texas Lulac Sweetheart 2010 & 2011. She constantly volunteers in beach clean ups and at the Ronald McDonald house in Galveston.She is passionate about health issues and children’s rights because she has dealt with a health condition herself.

What challenges has she overcome?:

This amazing young lady is diagnosed with congestive heart failure. It is a huge part of her life and one of the main reasons she is as mature and strong. As she has mentioned every single time she talks about her ‘companion’ as she calls her condition she always makes it clear that her companion “limits [her] but does not stop [her]“. She has faced what others can only imagine.

What makes her a leader?:

She is the president of Galveston’s Lulac organization youth council #12. She is a church teacher volunteer at Strong Tower Christian church. She is a student teacher and a part of the program B.E.S.T.T. She is crowned Miss Lulac USA and supports the American Heart Association as a ‘marina’.

What extra-curricular activities is she involved in?:

She is a part of Ballet folklorico from Galveston. She played varsity soccer until a few months ago until she was forced to stop because of her companion. She is a student athletic trainer for the soccer team and student teacher for the program B.E.S.T.T. She loves to read, dance, play piano and sing.

How is she a good example and positive role model to other girls?:

This amazing young lady is not only one of a kind and unique. But beautiful both on the inside and out. She has a saying, “I will be the person I would want to follow” and she sticks with this through everything she does. There is never a banal moment with this girl, her ever present smile and personality just light up the room and take over in an exquisite hard to forget manner. Good grades, outstanding personality, and amazing heart she is the girl you are looking for.

Dominique Gonzalez, 20 Latinitas Under 20

Name: Dominique Gonzalez

Heritage: Mexican-American

Hometown: El Paso, Texas

Volunteer Experience:

Most of the volunteer experience she has is with Latinitas. Because  she is so passionate about the Latinitas mission to empower young Latinas, she decided to devote much of her time volunteering with this organization. Other than being a part of the Youth Editorial Advisory Board, she is also a Latinitas Club Leader in guiding a weekly after-school girl empowerment activities. Every week, she volunteers for a couple of hours after school teaching the girls in the club how to use media and technology, become media literate, and be proud of who they are as Latinas. She has also been a summer camp leader. She really enjoys being a big sister and mentor to all the girls in her clubs.

What challenges has she overcome?

Since she left home for college her grandmother’s dementia has advanced and most of the burden of taking care of her has fallen on her mother. Dominique has previously mentioned, “Sometimes I can’t help but wonder how much my help would have made a difference if I were home. It has really been a struggle for me to leave home for college in general, but to be away while my family needs me is even worse. It has really taken a lot of inner strength to convince myself everyday that finishing my degree at UT is what will really make both myself and my parents proud.”

What makes her a leader?

Dominique’s leadership and vibrant personality make her a valued Latinitas member. Through the Youth Editorial Adviosry Board (YEAB), I have seen Dominique grow as a writer and as an editor. She has assisted others find their true voice through their writing by taking on the leadership role as the YEAB Editor. She offers feedback on the article to each member and ensures each member understand the writing process towards submitting content to the magazine. She is a natural born leader and I am grateful for her contributions to the YEAB program.

What extra-curricular activities is she involved in?

Dominique is a Club Leader with Latinitas in Austin and is the YEAB Editor for the YEAB program. She is passionate about Hispanic literature and hopes to one day return to her hometown of El Paso to promote both youth and adult literacy. She loves to teach, dance, shop, cook, travel and above all try new things.

How is she a good example and positive role model to other girls?

She is a vibrant and compassionate individual and is not deterred by obstacles. These qualities, on top of her natural leadership qualities, make her a positive role model for other girls. Her involvement with the community and dedication to empowering Latina youth is admirable, because she is representing traits a strong Latina should have: courage and passion. She is passionate about writing and has made an impact towards improving the writing process and helping find the YEAB member’s voice through their writing.

When asked to share advice to younger girls, she says: “Advice I can give to other girls is  to never allow other people to tell you who you are. Every girl needs to search within and discover who they are, especially Latinas. We can’t give into stereotypes and let them define us. I believe learning to love yourself as you are and appreciating where you came from are the most rewarding accomplishments for a Latina.”

Geneva Marie Salinas 20 Latinitas Under 20

Geneva Marie Salinas, age 16
Hometown: Corpus Christi, TX
Nominated By:
LULAC Council #1 Feria De las Flores

Volunteer Experience:
She currently volunteers at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas. As of this summer, she has volunteered given over 270 hours to the hospital in the past year.  She is also a Youth Leader at her church, Holy Family, where she spreads the Word of God to teens and been an alter server for over five years. She inspired her little brother to become an altar server, like his big sister.  She is passionate about children and her goal in life is to change at least one child’s life for the better.  She plans on becoming a Pediatric Occupational Therapist. Her motivation to be the person she is today is her family, and of course God.

What challenges has she overcome?:
She believes that a good education opens unimaginable doors for the future that can make a very significant impact on one’s life.  A recent challenge she is working on is earning a spot in the top ten percent of her class.  So far she has worked her way from top twenty to top fifteen percent.

What extra-curricular activities is she involved in?:

She competed in the 52nd Annual Feria De Las Flores and placed as the first runner up and Miss Congeniality.  She participated in HOSA, Health Occupation Students of America competing in Physical Therapy and making it to the State competition; she plans to continue next school year. She is also part of the dance department; this year she will be in dance two.  Also, she is in the Health Science Academy at Foy H. Moody High School and applied for a Co-Op Internship at CHRISTUS Spohn.  She will start interning at Spohn Shoreline as a Rehab Tech in the Rehabilitation Department. Her hobbies are playing tennis, dancing and swimming and enjoys medical shows such as Dr. G: Medical Examiner and Bizarre ER.

How is she a good example and positive role model to other girls?:

As someone who cares for the well-being of others, she does her best to try to brighten someones day, one person and one day at a time by always keeping a smile on her face no matter the situation, because she believes that staying positive makes an enormous difference in the end. She believes a simple smile or “Hi, how are you?” to someone can really make their day; one never knows how another’s day is going.

Emma Hernandez 20 Latinitas Under 20

Name: Emma Hernandez

Organization: Latino/a Youth Collective of Indiana

Age: 18

Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

Volunteer Experience:

Emma is an outstanding speaker and leader. She talks and leads from her heart and mind.  People listen attentively to her because they know something especially insightful and well expressed will be gained. People sense Emma’s intelligence and her deep kindness together. They are moved by her authenticity and they understand the points she wishes to make because she is able to bring everything down to earth while retaining clarity.  People deeply trust Emma because of her consistency, honesty, her humble but simultaneously strong manner, and her high integrity.

What challenges has she overcome?:

Emma was born into a mixed status family! Both of her parents are undocumented immigrants.  Emma recently co-wrote an article about the immediacy of the Dream Act which propelled her to become one of the Indiana Hunger Strikers. They very effectively secured a “YES” vote from both state senators as well as organize and mobilize alliances and community pressure on all 9 Indiana U.S. House of Representatives. This past summer, she led her Campesine Youth Academy team through a challenging participatory action research process that involved in-depth interviews, surveys, and producing a film that would be used to educate the community. Their film “Mamachismo” is excellent work! The issue they were investigating was the role of women in our society. She is a big reason why Latina/o youth in Indianapolis are standing up!  It is because of her heart and mind that she just received a 4 year full paid scholarship to college where she will double major in art and journalism.

What makes her a leader?:

She knows that education is for liberation and freedom. It is not just skills, higher income, and privilege. She wants an education to be an active agent in the process of cultural formation and cultural change; to get highly developed and go back and to give back to her community in Indianapolis, Mexico and the world.  Emma also sets an example to her two younger siblings and other youth. As an older sibling she has been a role model for not only her family but for aspiring and newly emerging Latina/o community in Indiana.  She is undoubtedly a one in a billion sort of person. She has a calling to make significant positive changes in society.

What extra-curricular activities is she involved in?:

Currently, Emma works with Indianapolis youth members of the Latino/a Youth Collective of Indiana, Campesine Youth Academy, and the Campecine Film Festival.  Emma operates within the philosophy that regardless of race, culture or social status, all students have the ability to acquire knowledge.  She believes in empowering youth to become critical change agents who are prepared to transform their communities while also developing within those communities.

How is she a good example and positive role model to other girls?:

In addition to her remarkable talent and determination, she remains riveted on the needs of children and youth, their families and communities, and their educational achievements. She pays attention to the goals of the organization, change strategies when necessary, and shares credit for successes. She is a reliable and an insightful critic of her own projects. A gifted, inspiring public speaker, she also knows how to work with small groups and individuals, engage in team building, and capture these interactions on tape. She is a leader and an excellent collaborator and colleague – another rare blend of character and ability.  She wrote, directed, and produced Mamachismo, Huevo Estrellado, and The History of the World as Told by Eggs. This summer she was the first from her family to graduate from high school.  In addition to receiving a full scholarship to college she volunteered this summer to expand the prestigious Campecine Youth Academy in San Antonio, TX. She traveled over 1,200 miles to the southside of San Antonio to work with a grassroots community based organization named Fuerza Unida. She successfully implemented a 10-week summer youth program and trained 13 youth in youth participatory action research, videography, and community building facilitation skills. In short, she is a role model for young women and young men.

Michelle Deaver-Arce 20 Latinitas Under 20

Name: Michelle Deaver-Arce

College: McCallum Fine Arts Academy

Age: 17

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Honors: In 2010, Michelle was the youngest Artist (accepted by a Jury) to participate in the East Austin Studio Tour of over 400 artists.  She has been commissioned by the Austin Classical Guitar Society to create a painting based on of one of the themes from Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”.  One of her paintings was featured at the Austin’s Pictures performance on October 1st, 2011.

What challenges has she overcome?: Never considering herself a public speaker, Michelle has overcome a natural shyness.  She is thoughtful and articulate in her public announcements and introductions–ranging from describing her art and concepts to curators and critics, to fronting for her band in a crowd of peers.  Her artistic commitment empowers her in ever-increasing ways within her own age group and beyond.

What extra-curricular activities is she involved in?: Michelle’s hobbies include cycling and music.  She plays bass guitar in the band “Charlie Belle” formed with two younger friends.  For three consecutive years, her band has been invited to perform at several different venues for SXSW, an annual music conference and festival held in Austin, Texas.  The band was also invited to play at Pease Elementary’s “End of the Year” Festival for the last two school years as model examples of young locally-inspired musicians. They have also played at Cheer up Charlie’s, Antone’s, The Whip In, KUT Studio 1A, The Austin Convention Center, Planned Parenthood, and City Hall.

How is she a good example and positive role model to other girls?: Her busy artistic and family life often requires her to care for her two younger elementary age siblings, During these times she and her siblings have created handmade cards and paintings for homebound senior citizens, terminally ill patients, and many others. Soft spoken, Michelle has a balance of passion and compassion that is a rare gift in someone her age – yet she is still a very modern teenager.  After participating in the Young Artist program at Arthouse at the Jones Center, Michelle contributed three pieces of her art to be sold at the “Five x Seven” show, which is a fundraiser benefiting Arthouse’s other educational programs and exhibitions.

Cyndi Jimenez 20 Latinitas Under 20

Name: Cyndi Jimenez

Organization: Workers Defense Project

Age: 19

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Volunteer Experience:

As a youth member of a social justice advocacy organization Workers Defense Project (WDP), Cyndi has taken on a leadership role that rivals many of the adult members. She has run employment rights trainings in front of construction workers twice her age, and in addition to being able to hold her own and deliver the information, she is able to convince trainees to act out scenarios in front of the class. She has completed the leadership training course WDP offers and participates in monthly member meetings. Above and beyond her involvement as a member, Cyndi volunteers her time providing childcare, calling supporters about upcoming events, and contributing her ideas and energy to further the organization’s objectives. This is not simply volunteering: it is living as an energetic, active member of a dynamic community. At the root of Cyndi’s passion is her awareness that the issues she tackles with WDP are a matter of life and death, particularly in Texas, where every 2.5 days a construction worker dies on the job. Construction workers are subjected to unsafe working conditions that have cost many their lives and continue to jeopardize the safety of other construction workers, including Cyndi’s father.

What challenges has she overcome?:

As immigrants in the U.S., Cyndi and her family face challenges that most U.S. citizens do not think twice about. From workplace abuse to navigating the educational system to interacting with people and institutions that are unwelcoming and/or alienating to immigrants, Cyndi’s firsthand knowledge of injustice afforded her a unique perspective regarding inequality and the active role she can play in addressing and overcoming those injustices. Her high level of involvement with WDP connected her to others outside of school from which she could seek guidance in order to graduate from high school and prepare for college. As the oldest child in her family she uses her bilingualism to serve as the bridge connecting her parents to several institutions and to advocate for her parents and for her family’s well-being. Despite her young age, Cyndi has assumed responsibilities that one typically associates with adults/parents and displayed an exceptional degree of courage. Cyndi’s willingness to be so vocal and visible is even more remarkable given the anti-immigrant sentiment prevalent in Texas that has caused many immigrants and their families to remain silent when they are being taken advantage of and/or discriminated against.

What makes her a leader?:

She is a daughter, sister, friend, ally, and community leader. Working alongside her is confirmation that you’re on the right team. Through the hard work, time, and effort she contributes every day to building a strong community, she has made – and will continue to make – tangible, important differences in the world. The members, staff, and volunteers of WDP, Cyndi’s family and friends, and community members in Austin who fight for social justice have a lot to learn from such a vibrant, outspoken, inspiring, and fearless young Latina.

What extra-curricular activities is she involved in?:

Given all of her involvement in her family and community, it is almost surprising that Cyndi has energy to commit to other activities, but she does, and she approaches her interests with the same fervor as she approaches all other aspects of her life. Cyndi recently graduated from high school. She will be taking her passion and talent for art and self-expression to Austin Community College to study graphic design and photography. Cyndi’s love of music, anime, and experimenting with make-up and fashion are also all a testament of her creative and unique spirit. In general, Cyndi is not afraid to push and expand boundaries not only for her sake, but also for the sake of others.

How is she a good example and positive role model to other girls?:

Cyndi has changed the lives of the people around her both through her commitment to advocacy and activism and through her compassionate, winning personality. The work she does changes the lives of people in her community, and the attitude she brings to it changes whomever she meets. Cyndi provides an amazing example of empowerment to her younger sister, who at age seven knows a good classroom rule is, “que respetamos a las mujeres!” She encourages the younger girls who participate in WDP to stand up for themselves and take care of one and other, and their adoration for her is proof that she has made a positive impact on their lives.

Bethany Noriega Ward, 20 Latinitas Under 20

Bethany Marie Noriega Ward
Hometown: El Paso, TX

Volunteer Experiences:
When she was living in El Paso, she was active in student council and NHS. They would volunteer with different organizations and programs as well as the school itself. She has also been active in volunteering with the Catholic Community as well. She is part of the UT Alumni organization in Austin, promoting and helping with school pride and spirit. She is very passionate about reading and writing. Succeeding in ALL her endeavors motivates her. Her Grandmother (deceased) instilled in her pride and hard work. Her memory keeps her very motivated to be the best she can be! From the work she has done with past organizations,the younger generation has benefited from her efforts. Whether it be with the elementary kids she helped coach for track and field events or the workshops she has volunteered with at Latinitas, the younger kids have learned a lot from her.

Challenges She Has Overcome:
She is shy and very quiet, that’s been her biggest obstacle. Since her completion of her freshman year at UT-Austin, she has blossomed into a very dedicated and out-going young lady.

Extra-curricular Activities:
She is involved with the UT Alumni Association and the TIPS program at UT. She loves to run, attend spin class and do yoga. She loves reading and writing.  If you don’t see Bethany with a book in hand… she is having an off day :)

Qualities as a Role Model:
Bethany is not only an outstanding student (Top 10 at her high school and Dean’s List in college), she exemplifies what it is to be an amazing young lady! She studies hard, follows rules and does not allow peer pressure to steer her from her goals. She is not afraid to be who she is! Bethany has always placed GOD and Family above all else. She has not forgotten who she is, where she has come from and who she wants to be. She is a young lady of great character. All those things make great role models for other girls.

Arlet Haro, 20 Latinitas Under 20

Arlet Haro
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
Nominator: Joyce Medina

Volunteer Experience:
Arlet participated in our Youth in Philanthropy program at the Arizona Community Foundation. She worked on a team that created a scholarship for Latino/a students to attend college. The team created an application, advertised the opportunity at the school, reviewed applications and selected three recipients. She is passionate about helping other young people learn about the opportunity to attend college. She is motivated by her own experiences in high school and believes that if students know more about the scholarships and service opportunites available, they will have a better chance at success! There are three students who will be attending college in the fall that can thank Arlet for her work on the scholarship project. In addition, Arlet is passionate about volunteering at UMOM, a shelter and comprehensive service provider for homeless families. She advocated to award UMOM a mini-grant at our end of year celebration.

Challenges She Has Overcome:
Arlet was born a premie and has faced health challenges all her life. She has since grown into a young woman and has never allowed those challenges to get in her way. Tragedy struck her family when their home burned down. That same weekend, Arlet participated in a community service event at the local food bank. In the times when her family was the most in need, she took time to volunteer and help others.

Extra-curricular Activities:
Arlet participated in the Youth in Philanthropy program and mentored students at Metro Tech High School in Phoenix during her freshman year at ASU. She is dedicated to helping other students get to college. While in high school, Arlet participated with the Be A Leader Club on campus, and now she volunteers with the group to mentor students.

Role Model Qualities:
Arlet has two younger sisters. The second time, the middle sister who is 16, said she wanted to be like her older sister and join the Youth in Philanthropy program in her senior year at school. Arlet had shared with her sisters about the volunteering and service work and the impact it had on her life. This is a great example of being a good role model, starting at home with younger siblings. Arlet serves as a model for other students she mentors and works with.

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