Dressing For a Petite Frame

For many Latinas and girls of Hispanic ethnicity, being petite comes with the territory. While this is not true for every Latina, for those who are, it can be challenging to find something to wear that is both flattering, and not made to fit a small child. Being petite has its perks. The petite frame allows for shorter (but not too short) skirts, the ability to wear a nice pump or wedge and not look ridiculous, and the bragging rights to being “fun sized.”

Here are some tips on finding clothes that celebrate and flatter a small frame and some that give the illusion of a couple of added inches:

1. The Pencil Skirt Might Not Be Your Friend

For things like interviews and semi formal events, avoid the pencil skirt. They are most likely snug in all the wrong places and too lengthy. You want to be comfortable and chic at an interview; instead, opt for a flowy A-line skirt that will hit at your knee or just above it.

2. Matching Tights and Shoes

In the fall and winter seasons, wear solid colored tights underneath your skirts or shorts with matching shoes for a lengthier illusion on your legs. For example, if you are wearing black tights beneath a dress, opt for black shoes for a longer leg illusion.

3. Avoid Ankle Cuffs

Shoes that cuff, or stop at the ankle, can make a short frame appear shorter.  For this reason, look for shoes that don’t cut off the view from your leg to your foot. Ballet flats, sandals, and/or pumps won’t make you appear shorter as long as they don’t have a cuff.

4. Peplum Blouses

Shirts that cinch at the waist and flare out look great on pretty much everyone. Peplum blouses especially show off a curvy figure and look great no matter your height. This type of shirt or dress is always flattering, and having one or two in your closet handy for a special occasion, or even just a day where you don’t want to wear jeans and a t-shirt is a must.

getting dressed

5. Maxi skirts and Dresses

Maxi length bottoms and dresses might make you turn away with thoughts of tripping over the pretty hem, but have no fear. You too can rock a maxi skirt without stumbling. The key to wearing a maxi skirt is making sure it fits your waist nicely and that the length comes down just over your feet and not an inch longer. This is different if you choose to wear wedges or heels with this piece, and in this case you can afford for your skirt to drag if you try it on without these shoes.

Quince Project

All in fairytale gowns and glamorous hair and makeup, Hope, Diana, Yareth, and Yeneira made their grand entrance into the Sand Dunes ballroom on August 21, 2014 to celebrate their Quinceañera as part of the Quince Project! The Quince Project is a charity program that works to put together a free Quinceañera celebration for girls selected in the El Paso, TX area who show strong leadership, academic, or volunteer experience, and who have overcome obstacles or financial hardships. Throughout the summer, the four girls were both involved in the organization of their quince, while also getting to learn more about their heritage and this traditional celebration.  The event relied heavily on donations, sponsors, and the help of a committee of Madrinas who volunteered to pull everything together. Madrinas and the girls received a great amount of support from the community!

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The morning began with hair and makeup for the girls at Tri-State Cosmetology Institute. Each girl got the star treatment and came out looking glamorous with their makeovers.

“I really loved getting our hair done, that felt really special,” Yeneira shared.

The girls then changed into their gowns, were dawned with princess-like tiaras, and had a photo shoot at the park before heading over to Sand Dunes hall.

“I felt nervous at the beginning of the day, but once we started practicing the dance and arrived at the hall, I got much less nervous. I started to get so excited and happy to see everyone here,” Diana recalls.

After a reception and dinner, the girls made their way for the grand entrance, accompanied in by family members. Next was the doll and shoe ceremony, followed by a fun dance set to the upbeat “Follow the Leader” by Jennifer Lopez, and slower waltz with loved ones. Hope, Yareth, and Yeneira all recalled the fun dance as their favorite part of the night, remembering that despite feeling that they messed up the choreography a bit, they improvised, and had great fun doing so!

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At the evening’s toast, in accordance with the butterfly as the symbol of the Latinitas organization, each girl was presented with a “set of wings,” recognizing each girl for her unique qualities and strengths.

“The best part of the night was when we did the cake ceremony and gave a toast, and got to thank everyone. Sarah gave us our wings, and I was very happy to hear her words. They were really meaningful. It almost made me cry, but I had to remember my makeup!” Diana laughs.

During this special moment during the celebration, Hope was awarded the wings of Confidence, Yareth received the wings of Cheerfulness, Yeneira was presented with the wings of Optimism, and Diana earned the wings of Courage.

“I felt just like a princess! It was just like I had pictured it,” Hope shared at the end of the night. A

fter a night full of dancing, great food, and memories, the girls reflected on their special day, and what it meant to them.

“This Quinceañera meant becoming a young woman, and getting to share that special moment with my family and friends,” Diana said.

As the night came to a close, each girl left with a few words of gratitude for all of those involved in the making of this memorable event.

“I would like to say thank you to everyone for making our dream possible. I enjoyed today so much,” Yareth shared.

“Thank you so much to everyone for your hard work,” said Hope.

“Thank you for making our day special, and for making it all possible. I hope it’s possible again for other girls like us next year!” Yeneira added.

Diana shared, “Thank you for making my dream come true, for helping me and the girls out through it all, and allowing us to share this important moment with our friends and family!”

As a young Latina, a Quinceañera marks a meaningful time in a girl’s life, and these four girls expressed such joy into being able to take part in this celebration.  This magical Quinceañera night proved to be a great success, thanks to the girls’ hard work, and to all the volunteer and community support aiding in the Quince Project!

High School Survival Guide

latina student with backpackWhen middle school is finally over, you feel great about yourself and are exited to start a brand new experience at your future high school. Some girls feel completely the opposite; they are scared to set foot on unknown lands. If you have a headache or your stomach hurts by just listening to the “H” word (high school), here are some tips to start high school on the right foot.

1. Speak up! Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get along with your teachers.

 Sometimes we see our teachers as being super mean and strict, but, in reality, they are not so bad. Teachers are the best people you could ever meet. To be honest, you do not want to be on the bad side of a teacher, because sometimes they will make your year suck. Be friendly with them, try to talk to them and soon you will realize that they can help you with any problem you have with the class or even life. If at any time you do not understand something about the lesson, do not be afraid to ask questions. Trust me, they do not bite.

2. Make new friends!

Alexis Bobadilla, Club Leader for Latinitas, says to not close yourself off from people when you enter high school. Being shy is not a bad thing; for at least one day, try to talk to the girl or boy that sits next to you. Maybe she or he might end up being your best friend in the future. Open up and be friendly. You do not have to be Miss Popular, but trying to make new friends with the people you are going to see for the next four years will make high school more fun.

3. Explore the school! Know where everything is located before you start the school year.

High school has some pranksters, especially the upperclassmen (juniors and seniors). When you are a freshmen everything is new, so explore the school or look at a map before school starts to see where the main stuff is located (library, computer lab, your classes, etc.). It will come in handy in case you come across a prankster.

“I remember that the seniors will tell us that the pool was at the 4th floor of the building;  little did we know that we didn’t have a 4th floor… or a pool! It sucked,” shares Alexisis.

Watch out for the pranksters! Knowing where your classes are and where everything is located boosts your confidence and makes you stand out from most freshmen.

4. Get involved! 

Try to get involve in school activities, such as clubs, sports, etc. School activities can definitely help you with your college applications, scholarships, and even work applications.  They are also a great way to make new friends, meet new people (students, teachers, etc.) and learn new skills.

5. Always be yourself!

Do not be afraid to show off your amazing personality and stay true to yourself. Peer pressure will happen, but you are the only one that knows what is right in this situation, not your friends. Your parents taught you to be an amazing, honest, and trustworthy person, so if your friend is telling you to do something your not comfortable with or know is wrong…. do not do it! It is very important for young girls to appreciate and value themselves; do not let anyone put you down.  Always remember that you are a beautiful and your personality is just as beautiful — embrace and love it! Your friends will love you for who you are, so do not pretend to be someone you are not just to fit in.  a

High school should be one of the best experiences of your life, but sometimes it will be tough. It is up to you to make the best of it. Be yourself, get involved, and make new friends. After high school, you will be remembered for how you treated people and what you did.

Early College Program: Worth It?

Photo Credit: EPCC.edu

Photo Credit: EPCC.edu

Written by Joella Methola

 My experience with the early college life is remarkable. I attend the El Paso Community College (EPCC) as an early college student. As an early college student, this means that I go to both high school and college. It is a unique campus environment where I earn college credits, a high school diploma and an associate’s degree upon graduation. It is a great educational program, plus it is free.

Enrolling in an Early College Program
Applying for an early college program takes a lot of work and effort. Applicants need to have one available in their city, complete an application (submit by the priority deadline), write an essay (why you want to go an early college), meet the compliance with state attendance policy, have an GPA of 90 in core subjects during the student’s 8th grade year, submit 7th grade STARR scores, and, finally, submit a letter of recommendation from a teacher.

Benefits of Being an Early College Student
The transition from middle school to an early college is not that easy and it took me a while to get used to it. After all, going to an early college after middle school is a great jump but a grand opportunity. Being enrolled in an early college program has helped me grow academically and personally. For example, I have learned how to manage my time, how to use and improve my strengths, open my mind to new ideas, and how to be aware of my surroundings.

It is rewarding process because you learn to be a more mature, responsible and successful college student. I personally believe the hard work is worth it because you have the opportunity to learn in a college setting with other EPCC students. This type of environment helps you decide which route to take when you  continue your education to earn your bachelor’s degree.

Myth VS Reality: Is It Worth It?

The early college is not all work though. There are a lot of rumors saying that when you attend an early college you miss out on a high school experience; however, you do not. There are clubs and activities you can participate in. For example: Mock Trial, Science Bowl, High Q, Piano, Moot Court, Fashion Club, Community Service, Business Professionals of America, National Honor Society, National Technical Honor Society, Spanish Club, and more! Plus, we have scrimmages against each other on sports like basketball, volleyball and soccer. One other cool thing is that all students (freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors) can go to prom and homecoming! We also have a lot of school spirit.

Being in an early college has been the best choice I have made so far. I believe that others should follow the same path. It is very fun but also challenging, which is a good thing. It challenges you to be a better student.

Packing for College

Photo Credit: Studentuniverse.com

Photo Credit: Studentuniverse.com

Ah, the dorm life! A new room, a new roommate and, most importantly, a place to call your own. Whehter it’s your first time moving out or returning back to campus for the second year, prepping and decorating your dorm room is a pretty big deal — especially if the dorm is in another city away from home.

Here are some tips about essential and definitely non-essential items to pack in order to make that suitcase (or u-haul) a little lighter this upcoming semester.

1) Learn to downsize:

“But what about my 80 pairs of shoes?!” said almost every girl ever. In college, especially if your campus is a large one, you’ll be doing a lot of walking in great distances in not the perfect air conditioned weather. So having 50+ pairs of heels in all colors and hues of the rainbow won’t be necessary, and it’ll be especially difficult to fit into that small dorm room! The same goes for plain t-shirts. Generally, five is a solid maximum number — unless you’re into band tees or something unique like that. Otherwise bring only a few as there will be free t-shirts galore at college. When packing clothes, don’t bring your entire wardrobe. Select your favorite piece and include one or two business-casual outfits for  job interviews, meet and greets, career fairs, etc. Love the nightlife? Pack a dressy outfit or two if you plan to join a sorority. Keep in mind that the less you pack the more room you’ll have in your room. Most college students agree that their suitcase grows while in college because of all the new trendy shops they discover.

2) Pack the essentials:

First-aid is important. Be sure to bring a first-aid kit in case anything happens unless you’re prepared to become bests with your neighbors.  Plus, it’s good to have in case of emergencies. Speaking from personal experience, I’ll never forget the time my friend recalled her first day of move-in after her parents left when she accidentally cut her finger and then had no first-aid kit. Yikes! It’s also very awkward to feel independent one second to completely dependent the next simply because you literally do not have the basic supplies to take care of yourself. A first-aid kit is a must but so is stocking up on your flu remedies/medication. No matter how immune you are to getting the flu or a stomach virus, living in a new city/environment will eventually catch up to you, like realizing you have allergies after moving from your home in the desert to the humid climate of the east coast. Avoid the hassle of leaving the comfort of your bed when you’re sick and stock up on ck-day(s) essentials like decongestant, stomach medicine, ginger ale, saltines and other medicine-like or edible essentials to help with your sickness.

Don’t forget to pack stationery! If you’re planning on sending handwritten letters to friends and family or want to submit formal letters to organizations, purchase a few standard sized envelopes, large manila folders, stamps, and paper.

4) Declutter your dorm, leave these things behind:

Now to things that should be forgotten, a good golden rule for this is if you only need it to go camping then you probably don’t need it at all (unless you plan on frequently camping). Leave things like mosquito-repellent and fly swatters at home. Being in a cement-surrounded room deep inside a building, you won’t be seeing much flies. Some exceptions to this rule are raid and a sleeping bag. In college, one learns and experiences the “all-nighter,” which in some cases, may involve needing to sleep someplace other than their bed. These also come in handy when needing to stay at a friend’s place last minute, or basically anywhere else that’s not your dorm.

Regardless of how far you are going, these tips can be useful when preparing to live in a dorm room for the first time. It’s important to remember the essentials and to plan ahead for what you will need a lot of, versus what you will need a little bit of. Lastly, one of the biggest things you can learn before moving out on your own for the first time is that you cannot learn EVERYTHING you need to know before actually moving out.  One of the biggest lessons you’ll learn is that mistakes are inevitable and some can only be learned after experiencing first. Pack a few keepsakes, but don’t overpack and bring your entire bedroom, childhood toys and all, with you.

Latin Beats: Raul y Mexia

Photo credit: Latinousa.org

Photo credit: Latinousa.org

Have you ever noticed just how much Latinos are surrounded by music? Think about it, whether you’re listening to your parents’ favorite rancheras on a Sunday afternoon or dancing the night away at your quinceañera, Spanish music is almost always playing wherever Latinos are gathered. For most music-loving kids, a desire to be a famous Rock Star seems like nothing but a dream, but for Spanish pop duo, Raul y Mexia, they’ve made their dreams a living reality.

Raul y Mexia say their passion for music runs in their blood because they’re the sons of artist Hernan Hernandez from the legendary Mexican group, Los Tigres del Norte. “Our father would take us on tour with him and introduced us to various instruments, like the accordion,” says the eldest brother, Mexia.

While famous Latino artists would often visit their house to have “jam sessions” with Señor Hernandez, the brothers say they got the best of both music worlds as their mother also played popular American music. Raul y Mexia say growing up in a bilingual environment has helped shape their career. “We definitely are proud of our roots and want to showcase that but we were born in the U.S. and have our own musical tastes so I think that makes it easy to relate to a younger audience, ni de aqui, ni de alla,” says Mexia.

The San Francisco Bay Area native group defines their music as Urban Cumbia and says they want to use their songs to shine light upon their beliefs and passions, like immigration reform. Their song, “Somos Arizona,” Raul says, may be considered political and controversial but plays a crucial role in giving Latinos a voice. He knows his lyrics and band mates need “to be smart and educated about the topic they are fighting against.”

Karen Gonzalez, a Political Science major graduate from San Jose State University, says she enjoys listening to Raul y Mexia because they use their talents as a platform to positively speak out to Latinos. “Latinos in media is essential for growth of our community. If Latinos can be an influence, we can essentially share our culture our style and every other aspect of our roots.”

To date, Raul y Mexia feel their proudest moment as a group was when they were featured in both Billboard Magazine and The New York Times. They say there’s definitely more to come, but the best part of these experiences is sharing them with family. “We travel together so life on the road doesn’t seem lonely. We are able to share successes and failures and lean on each other when one is down.”

Los Tigres del Norte offspring say they credit much of their success to the work ethic and determination their father instilled in them and say they want to help spread that message to those looking to go into the music industry. “If you love to rap, sing or just play instruments, practice daily. The most important thing, though, is having love for what you want to do,” says Raul.

To learn more and hear Raul y Mexia’s music please visit their YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/raulymexia/videos

Living on the Border

Laredo_Border_Crossing_25Living in a border city has perks unique to its citizens. Growing up in a city where Hispanic culture is the majority and the norm, makes for a very comfortable and connected life in the community. Ideas and traditions are generally accepted across the board because people have very similar backgrounds. Whereas speaking Spanish in another part of the country is an exceptionally valuable and marketable tool, it is just another part of living in a border city. The Spanish language is not an exception, but, almost like a form of currency, the more you know, the more you have access to the culture and the people that surround you. The border city examined in this article is Laredo, Texas. Located on the southwest border of Texas and Mexico, it houses one of the largest import sites in the nation. Visiting Mexico from Laredo is easy, just a fifteen minute drive down the highway and you have access to another country. Along with foreign goods, the Mexican culture transcends the border and infiltrates the city, and for this reason living in Laredo is truly a unique upbringing.

Leaving a Border City

Leaving the comfort of a city where most of your friends and peers have easily relatable backgrounds can be quite the experience. Trinity University student and Neuroscience major, Alyssa Izquierdo, shares what it is like to leave  Laredo and attend school in San Antonio, Texas. “Being right next to Mexico, you [notice] how easy it is for Mexicans to assimilate to Laredoan culture. It is a catholic majority… the culture is mexican, my family is all mexican,” she says. Establishing a circle of friends at Trinity University who vary in ethnicity and culture, she realized that speaking Spanish became an exceptional ability, one that she was grateful for. Surrounded by people taking Spanish language classes, she realized that the culture of her hometown was something not to be taken for granted.

Sharing Your Culture

On her thoughts about being an American of Mexican descent outside of Laredo: “I think living in a border city has helped me communicate better with the hispanic community- as in carrying a conversation with someone in Spanish. It has also helped me realize the opportunities that people have when they cross. I am grateful for having been born in the United States. [It] helps me see how lucky I am.”

Essentially, the culture that makes you unique is something to be cherished and never to be taken for granted. If you have the privilege of growing up surrounded by those with a familiar culture, take advantage of it, because it may not apply in other parts of the United States. On the flipside, embrace your culture in a diverse environment- you can start with showing off your mother’s wonderful enchilada recipe by sharing your home cooked meals with others.

Advice: Job Hunting

now-hiring-signIt is absolutely horrible, it really is. It is hard and, let’s be honest, really tedious. No one wants to fill out application after application and have to buy 37 ink cartridges for the printer because you’re printing out 4507315435 copies of your resume. That being said, jobs are necessary. You can’t get away from it, but there are ways to make your life easier during the job hunt. Here are tips for job hunting, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

1.     Make sure you have a really good résumé.
Every career driven girl knows that a resume is the most important thing. Employers ask for a résumé all the time, so it’s really helpful to have one on file at all times. Make sure that you have your résumé updated so that it includes all your recent accomplishments, jobs, volunteer positions as well as current personal information.

Nothing looks more unprofessional than having typos and incorrect grammar on a résumé. After using spell check on your computer, have your parents or a teacher look it over. If you’re a college student, you can take your résumé to your university’s career center — an office that helps students with free career and interview advice.

2.  Apply everywhere.
Many upper-level jobs require some type of previous experience, and it is incredibly difficult to get a job like that without it. Now is a good time to get a head start. While it won’t sound too glamorous to say that you’re a sandwich artist at Subway, it will help you when you’re trying to get that job as an assistant chef at a classy restaurant down the line. Even if it’s not your dream job, you will pick up skills to boost your résumé and help you land your dream job in the future. For potential employment opportunities, look in your local newspapers employment section or visit websites like Monster.com and Indeed.com. Word of mouth can also be helpful, so ask your friends and teachers if they know of any job openings.

Jasmine Hansberry,19, recommends that girls try to apply to jobs that are closely related to what they are good at. ”If you are good at certain things, go after a job that you know you can work at and get promoted. For example, if you are good at talking to new people try customer service.”

Even though you are applying at several places at once, chances are you might not receive a follow-up e-mail or interview from each application. The more you apply means the greater your chances are of landing a job.

“I applied to a lot of places during the winter break and only one place called me back, but I ended up getting that job,” shares Marlett Mojica, 19.

Playing the waiting game can be stressful, but while you’re waiting make sure you practice for the next step in the job hunt: the interview.

3.     Make sure you’ve practiced for an interview.
 This is a biggie. Not only will it keep you calm but it’ll help you practice answering difficult questions like why do you want to work there and what you can contribute to the company.”Make sure you are friendly during the interview. Be nice and don’t be rude. Make sure you are honest in the interview and tell the truth… [and] say thank you for this interview at the end, ” shares Marlett.

It usually helps to have a parent, teacher or someone with a job help you practice your interviewing skills. When you get an interview, you need to make sure you are dressed professionally and be very respectful and positive during the interview.

4.     Make sure you play up your skills and talents.
 Ask your family and friends to share what they think are your biggest skills as a starting point. Are you a good writer, working with children, and meeting new people? Think about any awards you’ve won, any leadership roles you’ve held in student organizations, or any volunteer experience you have. You can use this to create a list of skills and talents to add to your résumé or mention in an interview. There isn’t anything bad with bragging about what you’re good at.  It makes you seem confident and it helps convince potential employers that you’d be really good at helping them.  Be careful though, don’t overplay it because you may run the risk of seeming cocky. Also, and this is a biggie, don’t say you have a skill you really don’t have because it can backfire.

Jasmine encourages girls to have confidence and not be afraid to step up and take the initiative to follow-up with a job application. “If there is a certain job you like, make the effort to call them. A lot of bosses will think that you really want this job and that they should give you a chance.”

Finding a job can be difficult, but always keep your head up. ”Even though it may seem hard, don’t quit. Give yourself a chance and you will find a job,” reminds Marlett.

Latina Spotlight: Cadet Jessica Soto

Photo Credit: http://www.elpasotimes.com

Photo Credit: http://www.elpasotimes.com

She is a fighter, a believer, a college athlete, an Army Cadet, and she is a Latina.  She is one of the few to take on a journey that most, if not all, would consider to be rare and irrational.

Cadet Jessica Soto was born on April 29, 1995 in El Paso, Texas. She grew up in the small town of San Elizario, Texas where she developed into the multi-talented young lady that she is now.  Growing up she dodged all the negativity that was thrown at her, which only caused her to become more determined and focused than those around her.

She is one of the few women to have been accepted into one of the nation’s most prestigious military academies known as West Point, which is located in West Point, New York-approximately 50 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River.

West Point Military Academy (USMA) only takes in the nation’s most outstanding students.  Not only do the students have to have exceptional grades to be admitted, but they also select students who are physically fit and have proof of leadership skills.  Students that are accepted into the academy receive fully paid scholarships and a monthly income.  Alex Hinojosa, an El Paso Times journalist,  reported that West Point received about 15,000 applications in 2013, and only 194 of the 1,200 cadets that were accepted were women.

Jess, as her closest friends call her, was one of the two women from El Paso to get admitted. Latinitas sat down with Cadet Soto to learn more about her inspirational story.

Q: What can you tell me about yourself-family, growing up, and achievements?

A: “I was always around boys because I was the youngest of three and I was the only girl.  My parents are very traditional, typical Mexican parents; they have an old school mentality and they always thought I should clean up after my brothers, and, of course, I just never had any of it…I grew up around boys, always playing sports and I like to think that it was sports that taught me a lot of what I learned about myself.  It taught me how to be a leader and how to work hard for what I want, to ultimately be the best in anything.  Not saying that I was the best, but that was always what I aimed for.  I focused a lot of my time on becoming faster, stronger than anyone because I wanted to get out of here and play elsewhere.  I thought sports were my only way out, which is why I tried my best in school, to sell myself to colleges and universities.  I’d like to say that my biggest accomplishment has been an impact on younger girls that I played with, having someone look up to you and try to emulate you is…priceless.”

Q: At what point in your life did you decide that West Point was for you?

A: ”There came a point in my high school career when I realized that I didn’t want to play in college.  I loved sports, but it became more of a job to me because of the people around me who EXPECTED me to play D1 .  I read a book called “Battle Dress” by Amy Efaw and it was based on a girl’s experience of being a cadet in basic training at West Point.  Two weeks later, one of my teachers had a presentation about West Point and, as a second semester Junior, it became important to me to begin the application process.  At first I only applied because [after] hearing how hard it was to get in I became curious to know if I was good enough to go there.  As I became more engulfed, I realized West Point was the perfect place for me.  Soon enough, no other school compared to West Point so I didn’t apply anywhere else.”

Q: What was your reaction when you read the acceptance letter?

A: ”It took me a long time to receive my appointment because of my asthma. I was medically disqualified for months.  It took so many doctor visits and pulmonary exams to finally get a waiver.  The state senator denied me a nomination and you need one to even be considered as a candidate, but Reyes gave it to me before he left office.  When I finally got it, I was the happiest in the world!  I felt like all the weight was off my shoulders and all that stress had finally paid off.  I still remember the exact date, April 16, 2013.”

Q: What was going through your head when you had to say goodbye to your loved ones?

A: “I was so scared.  I began questioning if I had what it takes to make it through there.  My volleyball coach told me the day I left, ‘Don’t you dare come back here without a diploma in your hand.  You owe it to these girls that look up to you and this community that has given you everything.’  I just didn’t want to let anyone down, but I was excited and focused.  I felt ready to take on anything that would get thrown at me, the same way I took on any other challenge I had ever faced before… with a strong mind, leaving it all in God’s hands.”

Q: What challenges have you faced since your arrival at West Point, and are there any other Latinas that attend as well?

A: “I got made fun of for lacking military knowledge, and my accent was also made fun of.  People were very ignorant about my Latin culture.  I struggled academically; being a woman in an institution [whose population is] 14% women is hard.  We are objectified even though they advocate equality.  The profession itself is tough for women.  I had two major surgeries in one semester because of rugby.  There are few Latinas there, but they aren’t as culturally sound as I am.  They didn’t grow up in a border town, some don’t even speak a hint of Spanish, and if they do it’s very broken.”

Q: What advice do you give to young Latinas?

A: “My advice would be to have no limits, you have a dream, you go out, and you make it a reality.  There will always be people who will tell you that it is out of your reach, but no one can set limits as to what you can accomplish but yourself.  Step outside of your comfort zone, that’s where the magic happens.  It takes courage to stand up for yourself, to go out and do it.  Sometimes even those closest to you will think it’s impossible, but if you have the right intentions and the Lord sees it fit and if you work hard and never settle, then there is no saying what you cannot accomplish.  Once you accomplish that then you make a new goal, the key is to never be content with yourself or be complacent.  Never let your gender or race be a setback, embrace it and use it as a motivator.”

Cadet Soto is the perfect example of the American Dream. She broke both gender and cultural barriers in one of the most tedious professions, and was admitted to a highly prestigious school rare to women.  Jessica Soto is proof that if you’re passionate and determined enough, your dreams will become a reality.  She is an inspiration to not only Latinas but women in general looking to protect the country they call home.

Beat the Heat: Summer Recipes

Photo Credit: luxuryhousingtrends.com

Photo Credit: luxuryhousingtrends.com

Summer vacation is the perfect time to try out new cool recipes in order to beat the heat. Since we don’t want to turn on our ovens for that, here are some cool recipes to try that can help you beat the heat, not turn it up.

Mango Lassi

This is a type of smoothie recommended by Buzzfeed.com! This delicious smoothie can be made at any time of day. The ingredients consist of 1 mango, 3/4 cups of cold milk, 3 tablespoons of cold plain yogurt, 3 tablespoons of honey, 1 pinch of salt, 1 handful of crushed ice and 1 sprig of fresh mint.

Step 1: Take the mango and peel it. Try to get all the skin off of the mango. If you can’t, then it’s fine.

Step 2: Put all the other ingredients (including the mango) into the blender and turn on the blender for 20-30 seconds.

Step 3: Enjoy. If it is still too thick, feel free to add more milk. You can also add honey or yogurt if you feel it’s necessary, you can use your own judgment here.

 Ceviche

Here is an interesting take on ceviche, from Fod52.com, in more ways than one. Not only does it not require an oven, but it also includes watermelon as one of the ingredients. That’s right, watermelon. While it may seem strange, watermelon actually goes quite well with this dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 pounds fresh mild fish, such as striped bass, swordfish, or halibut
  • limes (just under 1 cup of juice)
  • 1/4 cup purple onion (or vidalia), chopped
  • jalapeño pepper, chopped finely (more or less to taste)
  • 1.5 cups of fresh tomato, chopped into cubes about 1/4″ or a bit bigger
  • 1.5 cups cucumber, chopped into cubes about 1/4″ or a bit bigger
  • cup watermelon, chopped into cubes about 1/4″ or a bit bigger
  • tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Step 1: Cut the fish into cubes that are about 3/4 of an inch on each side. Then, mix them into a bowl with the lime juice, onion, pepper and salt. Then, put the mixture into the refrigerator for 15 minutes to cure, stirring every five minutes.

Step 2: During cure time, take another bowl and mix the cucumber, watermelon, cilantro, oil, salt and pepper. Mix gently but mix well.

Step 3: Once the fish is cured (the fish should look “cooked”), pour the lime/fish mixture into a final serving bowl. You may “hold back” some of the lime juice if the amount is excessive. You can cure the fish for longer than the 15 minutes if you feel it is necessary.

Step 4: Lastly, pour the tomato mixture over the fish and mix well. Serve immediately.

Honeydew and Peppedew Gazpacho

Put some of that produce to good use and make Gazpacho for friends and family. Serves 4-6 and this recipe is done with a food processor.

Ingredients: 

  • large English cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • red bell peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • peppadew peppers, drained
  • large tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 red onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/3 of a large honeydew melon, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • cloves garlic, minced
  • 46-oz bottle of low-sodium vegetable juice
  • Several tea spoons of olive oil
  • Several glugs of sherry vinegar
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Step 1: Take each type of produce and put them in your food processor separately — this step is important, as they won’t come out the same if they’re in together– until the pieces are very fine.

Step 2: Once you have processed each one, put everything into the largest bowl you can find. If you have not added the garlic, you should do so at this point.

Step 3: Stir the mixture together thoroughly, cover with plastic and let sit in the fridge. Stirring occasionally. The gazpacho is best after it has sat in the fridge for a very long amount of time  – so the longer the time in the fridge, the better. Which makes it great if you won’t have time in the evening to prepare dinner.

Popsicles

 Last but not least, is everyone’s favorite summer treat, popsicles! This is a pretty traditional recipe that never gets old and has lots of room for creativity.

Step 1: fill ice trays or popsicle trays with juice (for something really experimental, add gummy bears to the juice) and stick trays in the freezer

Step 2: Let sit until frozen solid.

Step 3: Enjoy your summer popsicles!

Whether you’re looking for a snack or an idea for dinner, these summer recipes are bound to make your tastebuds dance with delight.

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