Latina Spotlight: Isabelle Salazar

I’ve met a series of professional women throughout my life. Whether they’re engineers, teachers, or business women, they’ve all influenced me in some way or another. However, none of them had managed to leave an emotional impression on me that went beyond awe for their strength and determination.

It feels as if I’ve been searching for a role model my entire life. I’ve been looking someone with whom I can connect with beyond professional and polite conversations and smiles. I’m well aware of what the role of a mentor is supposed to be – I’ve had the definition drummed into my head through countless business seminars.

Isabelle Salazar changed my life. She is not only my journalism adviser – someone I automatically respect because of her position of power as my teacher – but she has also become a close friend and confidant. She’s the person I come to first when I have an issue I need help dealing with or when I have good news to share. She has gone above and beyond her responsibilities as my adviser and words cannot express how thankful I am to have her as a mentor. I’ve known Ms. Salazar for the entirety of my high school career and with high school graduation being nearly two months away, the four years of knowing her seem like a lifetime.


Maroon News editors working SXSWedu. Photo credit: Isabelle Salazar, @ibellesalazar

Ms. Salazar is the person that made me realize that I wanted to pursue a career in journalism. Since the moment I realized what I wanted to do with my life – pursue a communications degree, work for Univision – I’ve worked hard to prove not only to myself but to her that I have what it takes to achieve my goals. I’ve attended session after session of social media and journalism trainings to become better at what I do.

Ms. Salazar changed my life for the better because she’s been there for me when I need her. She was one of the first people I told that I am an undocumented, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) student and since then, she has stopped at nothing to help me on the path to a higher education – including, accompanying me to St. Louis, Missouri when my parents weren’t able to do so due to their immigration status.

Our relationship is all about giving as much as we get. She shares with me as much as I share with her. I’ve told Ms. Salazar some pretty emotional and deep stuff. She’s seen me at my worst and she’s seen me at my best. Through our time together, she’s almost become a second mother to me, although her young age says so otherwise.

I have spilled the darkest secrets of my past that aren’t really so secret anymore. She was one of the first people I told about my past before coming to Austin – from crossing the Mexico-U.S. border to living with an abusive father. Ms. Salazar helped me free myself from what was holding me back: fear of judgement.

I’ve always been ashamed of my immigration status and I’ve always been ashamed of revealing any details of my abusive childhood. The fear of judgement plagued my mind for years on end and it severely damaged many relationships for me.

However, she encouraged me to share my story through The Maroon, our news magazine that has an audience of about 2,100 students, staff, and faculty. I wrote a commentary piece that spread over nearly four pages. I wrote my story with great detail and poured my heart into it. After the story went into print, many of my peers came up to me, thanking me for sharing my story with raw honesty. They trusted me enough to share with me that we’re not so different; they trusted me enough to tell me that they too are undocumented.

I would have never dared to even think of sharing my story with more people than necessary if it hadn’t been for my adviser. Ms. Salazar has not just been a mentor and a friend. She gave me courage and she gave me strength, and I will always be thankful for that.


Career Spotlight: Press Secretary- L.A. Federation of Labor

Gabriella Landeros

Name: Gabriella Landeros

Job Title: Press Secretary for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO

What are some of your job responsibilities?

I support over 300 labor unions in their media needs, prepare the Federation’s Executive Secretary-Treasurer for all media and speaking obligations, write speeches, and plan and execute media strategies for the organization’s campaigns. I also edit and assist in drafting policies and manage the organization’s digital channels.

What is your educational background?
I graduated from the University of California, Riverside in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Media and Cultural Studies and minor in Spanish. I also spent my junior year abroad studying in Madrid, Spain.

Describe your college experience and how it helped you prepare for your career:
I always loved writing, but I was interested in news writing in particular. I volunteered at my university’s radio station (KUCR 88.3 FM), and I was on-air every morning reporting the news for the day. I was also a student reporter for The College Network and writer, editor, and reporter for my university’s virtual newspaper. During study abroad, I also got the chance to take radio and production classes with students from around the world. To top off my college experience, I interned in Washington, D.C. as a Congressional Reporter for the Talk Radio News Service. It was in D.C. where my love for writing and politics joined forces.

How did you find your current job?
Networking! I met my now coworker during a media training in Washington, D.C. We had a lot of things in common, but the most striking coincidence is that we both grew up in the same area. She told me about the Press Secretary position at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, and I jumped at the opportunity. I am grateful for the chance at giving back to my community, while being close to my family. My mom and brother are proud union members, and I knew I wanted to find a career that involved advocating for good jobs and fair wages.

What did you do to prepare for this career?
I wrote and read a lot. Since college I maintained a blog and contributed stories to different news outlets, such as Latinitas Magazine and the Independent Voter Network. You have to enjoy writing and stay up-to-date on the news everyday. Part of my role involves being contacted by the media if breaking news occurs in relation to my organization. I not only have to be quick on my feet, but I have to understand what is going on and how I am controlling the message.

My past positions that include campaign work and serving in the Obama Administration, also prepared me for the long and unexpected hours that come with a career in communications.

What do you like most about your job?
I like being able to control the message and pushing the values my organization represents, which I also identify with and believe in. Whether it’s a campaign or issue I’m publicizing, I feel satisfaction knowing the amount of workers it will impact. Most importantly, I feel like I’m making a difference.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is writing in someone else’s voice that is not my own. With communications, you often have to write from a different perspective that you may not be used to. Although challenging, it makes you think out of the box.

What advice would you give to help a girl prepare for a job like yours?

  • Start building your portfolio now. Any job that involves writing or the arts, is going to ask for samples of your work.
  • Write! Write about anything you’re passionate about, and do it often.
  • Never take someone else’s work for your own.
  • Stay up-to-date on current events.
  • Read books.
  • Take advantage of internships.
  • Never give up!

What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?
I enjoy running. Running is my version of yoga – it relaxes me. It helps me de-stress.

¿Quien Soy Yo? / Who Am I?

AriadneThere are many things that shape who you are, your identity. For me, it deals with my name, nationality, roots, and family history. They have shaped me who I am today, but it hasn’t always been easy. So, who am I? My name is Ariadne and I am 24 years old. This is my story.

Some say your identity starts with your name. For me, it’s a more personal story. The first time my dad saw me he wanted me to have an original name. The origin of it is Greek and it belonged to a princess who protected the entrance of the infamous Minotaur’s cave. I know most of my professors don’t really know how to pronounce my name and I deal with it every time I get to know someone new. I like my name, don’t get me wrong, but I wouldn’t be mad if I had an easier one. My name shapes who I am, but so do a lot of things.

Finding Strength through my Roots
For the most part of my life, I have attended only Mexican schools. I consider myself a Mexican, even if I was born in El Paso, Texas. My parents and brothers were born in Ciudad Juárez, and, for that reason, my roots are stronger than my nationality. As I said, both of my parents were born in Ciudad  Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico.  My maternal grandmother was the daughter of a Spanish colonist who settled in Parral, Chihuahua then later came to Ciudad Juárez to have a  better life.  Mama Quecha, what she likes to be called, is the “patriarca” of my mother’s family. Mama Quecha  was married to my Papa Grande, whose father fought in the Mexican Revolution.

I have Spanish roots from my grandmother, and I must say that I am the only red head with curly hair in the entire family — which I love. My grand-grandfather was a red head with white skin among the indigenas. When my  abuelita had nine sons, one of them came out a red head with blue eyes, too. My dad’s  family also has some Spanish roots, too, but those roots are not as strong as my mother’s family. My Spanish roots shape my physical appearance and are a part of my identity, but who I am comes from living in a U.S.-Mexico border city and relationship with my family.

Living in a U.S.-Mexico Border City
I had difficulty adjusting to the environment of both cities (El Paso, Texas and Ciudad, Juárez) because the people were so different from one another. My dad used to tell me that he didn’t want me to be like a chicana. I didn’t understand why, but I thought that it was something bad. My dad referred to them as  stuck up women covered with tattoos. During my first two years of college, I was able to meet and learn more about the Chicano culture. The Chicanas were so different and nothing like my dad had described them. The Chicanas helped me be confident and not scared of college. Now, I’m a junior majoring in Multimedia Journalism and close to getting my degree.

Even though I wasn’t born in Mexico, my culture and roots come from there. I feel very proud to say I’m Mexican and I’m not scared of my beautiful Ciudad Juárez. I have a lot to be thankful to that city, and I’m not ashamed to say where I come from. I grew up and lived there, I have friends and I even prefer to have fun in my beloved Ciudad Juárez. I’m happy to know that my family has a rich diversity and history in Mexico, but both Mexico and the city of El Paso has helped shape who I am.

Finding the “Right” One: College Edition

Preparing for college will be one of the hardest decisions you’ll make in your life, but by being reflective of your strengths and passions will help make the college decision process feel like a breeze! Here are some helpful tips for the college search process:

Finding the “perfect” college

First, make a list of all the colleges/universities you want to attend, be realistic and choose twelve at most. Then, look at the programs each college offers and select the one that fits your college plans. During your college search, be sure to look up the percentage of admittance, the overall accepted GPA, population of students,  job/internship opportunities, financial aid opportunities, and how accredited the college claims to be. These areas will help you get a better understanding of the campus, student population, and whether or not it will be a good fit for you.

Another great deciding factor in choosing a college would be to decide where you want to live for the next few years. Look at the schools’ hometowns and research those areas, then whittle your choices down to which university or college offers the best programs and opportunities for you. If you’re torn between staying home and going out of town for college, realize you are beginning a new chapter in your life. You’ll never know unless you try. Rocio Rangel, an admissions officer for St. Edward’s University stated, “College is a time to put those values your parents gave you to practice. It’s also a time to become independent. If it had not been that I left home to go to college, I would never have known how to pay my own bills, or what it meant to provide for myself. There’s a great sense of pride in that.”  Living independently is terrifying, exciting and rewarding.


Selecting the right major/area of study

Think about what you enjoy doing,something you excel in, and/or something you see yourself doing for many years. Selecting the right major will depend on your interests, passions, and, most importantly, how much time and money you see yourself realistically investing in. If you’re still in a slump on your future study subject but want to go to college right after you graduate high school, don’t stress, most colleges offer an “undeclared” major which gives you a whole year to contemplate. And if that’s not enough, every college requires a few general courses and electives that will help you discover what you’re really interested in. You are young and have the rest of your life to figure out who you are, but it takes a lot of reflection in college to figure out your strengths and passion in life. Try different extracurricular activities and volunteer opportunities to find out what you like and don’t like — trust me, experiences outside of school will help give you an idea of what your future career will be.

Still need help narrowing your college or area of study down? You might want to talk to your educators, parents, older siblings or friends who have already been to university.



Celebrating Culture in Music

Mexican culture itself is unique, colorful, vibrant and expressive. Singers often share their cultural background through music. Through their music, these artists tell new generations about the history, daily life, and/or  his/her dreams  and/or culture.

Ana Lila Downs Sánchez, best known as Lila Downs, blends Mexican and American cultures together in her music.  She is a talented American–Mexican singer-songwriter and actress, and her talent is to mix Mexican traditional and popular music. Her unique touch is to incorporate indigenous Mexican influences, such as Mixtec, Zapotec, Mayan, Nahuatland Purépecha.

Her use of language showcases the landscape of Mexico.According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Mexico is the 14th largest country in the world, with an approximate  population of 122.3. Spanish is the predominant language among Mexicans and is spoken by 92.7 percent of the Mexican population. An estimated 6 percent of the population speaks Spanish and indigenous languages, such as Mayan, Nahuatl and other regional languages.

Lila was born and raised in Oaxaca, Mexico where she studied at the Institute of Arts by Oaxaca. Later, she briefly attended the University of Minnesota. However, her passion for music was bigger, therefore, she decided to focus on her musical career. Wherever Lila goes deja bocas abiertas with her innovating style that captures traditional Mexican music and new musical trends. She has performed at well known venues such as Jazz at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, both located in New York City. Lila was invited to sing at the White House to perform on the 75th Annual Academy Awards and Latin Grammy Awards in 2012.

Lila Downs is a real life example of how to success in the music industry can happen without sacrificing your cultural background. Always remember and be proud of where you come from, always aim high, and do not let stereotypes or negative comments about your culture bring you down.

College Talk: Financial Burden

Every typical family, no matter the demographic, has financial concerns to think about, such as bills, mortgages, and weekly expenses, just to name a few. However, when we do take families’ backgrounds into account, a different perspective on the possible financial grind of American life is revealed. Latino households are still feeling the effects of the recession that hit the nation starting in 2008, which was a nation-wide lag in economic activity. While there are many American families who can say they have recovered from the hard times the recession imposed, there are a number of Latino families who are having to make financial decision with the weight of the recession still on their shoulders.

So for the Latino families still feeling the recession, what expenses will have to be put on the back-burner? Well, the answer to this may be different for each household depending on the family’s needs. However, one particular expense to highlight at present would be the cost of higher education. Teens in high school are typically encouraged by counselors and administrators to consider college. It is not unusual for parents to want their children to lead lives more successful than their own, which, for many Latino teens, especially first-generation U.S. citizens, this would mean attending college and perhaps earning multiple degrees.

Although Latino parents would likely want their teen to be looking into higher education, there is still the issue that this might be a financial burden on the family. It is common in a family for the parents to want to protect their children from the world of “grown-up concerns,” one of which is money. However, teens are old enough to know that they are not guaranteed a place in an American college or university without work, motivation, and money, so what is the conversation about the prospect of college like between Latina teens and their parents, if there even is one?

For El Paso teens Camila Mosier, 15, and Melissa Acosta, 13, conversations about college have definitely been held at length before. Both girls’ parents have expressed that they want them to attend college although they understand it might be a financial strain. That is why they have also encouraged the girls to stay focused and work hard throughout their high school years, allowing them a better chance of earning scholarships. Although she is only a first-year in high school and won’t be making serious choices about college for a few years, Melissa Acosta has shown that there are ways in which she as a dedicated student can make sure she has a better chance of attending college.

“I decided to attend Valle Verde High School. It’s an early-college school, and I am planning to study psychology…I hope that with great effort and work I can be valedictorian,” says Melissa.

Because she is attending an early-college high school, Melissa will be able to graduate with her associate’s degree and will have the opportunity to graduate from a Texas college or university in fewer years than most.

“My parents have started a fund but these days that’s obviously not enough,” says Camila, who has the understanding that what she pursues now will influence her college applications.

Camila plays the cello and acts, and although she doesn’t know what she wants to study yet, she knows that she can continue to grow in her skills as a cellist and actress and use these skills to her advantage.

Latina Artist Spotlights

“Latino Art is often not integrated into the narrative of American Art” –Minimalistic artist, Jessie Amado

The world of art is known for its very different, and sometimes weird and beautiful, perspectives of artists. We present different contemporary voices from prestigious galleries, such as: “Y Qué?”, “Young Latinos Artists” and so much more.

Nanibah Chacon
A Navajo and Chicana artist, Chacon is prominent muralist. We all have done some garabato on our notebooks at school, but Chacon made it into a career! She began doing graffiti as a protest for feminist’s rights, and then began doing acrylic paintings.  She is recognized as an artist whose paintings try to place women in the contemporary era.  Recently, she revealed Apart Together  at “Y Qué?” Exhibition in Austin, TX.

Olga Albizu
We go down hasta Puerto Rico with the amazing Olga Albizu. Her paintings have vivid colors and geometrical figures, which are mesmerizing and can instantly catch a viewer’s attention. Chica, if anyone knows how to master the abstract, it is  Albizu. She has studied with German painters and has sold her paintings to museums in Paris.

Natalia Anciso
Natalia Anciso, she is one of the known artists who emphasizes borders. Her paintings are recognized for sharing a story with her viewers about the life near border of US-Mexico; one of the paintings that describe this type of life is Pinches Rinches. She uses the word “Rinches” to form a reference for the Texas Ranches illustrating the sad and discouraging behavior these people make on the lives of millions of migrants along the US-Mexican border zone. So chica, if you want to know more about life near the edges, you should look at Anciso’s artworks.

Judithe Hernandez
Hernandez has made massive works in galleries, such as The Juarez Series, The Adam and Eve Series and Expo Line Station Santa Monica. Her paintings emphasize surrealism in its higher presentation. She specializes in pastel paintings, and has made a great contribution to the western aesthetic tradition.

Suzy Gonzalez
Gonzalez, the girl from Texas, showcases feminism in her zines and paintings. A couple of her exhibitions include Feminized, Converge, and Art as Activism and Craft of Time: Essential for Craft Labor. Her paintings portray the feminism side of the contemporary youth.

Myrna Baez
This Puerto Rican descendent is actually one of the few that portrays Latino America and Puerto Rico in her paintings. Although her portraits is her preference, her painting is heavily influenced by her daily life and activities.  She is a great example of how embracing yourself as a women and as a Latina in a self-portrait is both moving and a form of creative expression. We should follow her example, chicas!

Literature Picks for Spring Break

For book lovers, it might seem that there are endless lists of books to read, but we’ve stumbled across a couple of selections that you might pick up during your Spring Break vacation.

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
This historical book is about the famous Mirabal sisters who lived in the Dominican Republic and defied the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. The story follows the lives of the sisters from young girls to marriage, womanhood, motherhood, and to their incarceration. This is a must-read as it recounts a heartbreaking story of Latina woman who fought for freedom in their country during a time when women were expected to be obedient, let alone not meddle in politics. The work of Alvarez makes the reader feel the oppression and fear that Dominicans felt during Trujillo’s regime, while trying to live their lives as normally as possible. This book has been adapted to movie starring Salma Hayek.

The Selection by Kiera Cass
While the story might not center around the Latino community, this author is Puerto Rican who has found immense popularity in the literature realm. The Selection is the first part out of a 4-book saga; it follows the main protagonist, America Singer, who has been forced to enter competition called the Selection in order to compete against 34 girls to win the heart of the future king of Illéa. Unlike the other girls, America finds that being selection is a nightmare as she didn’t want to leave her home and her previous Love to live in a mansion where chaos and violence are constant companion. This book meets The Bachelor and the Hunger Games. The Selection is a must-read as it is important to support Latina authors in the book world where it is difficult to find books that have Latino protagonists or even written by Latinos.

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
Shadowshaper is the story with an Afro-Latina protagonist. This book is for those who are looking for a young adult fiction book that has magic and fantasy elements. Sierra Santiago is a young artist living in Brooklyn when at a party a zombielike creature crashes her world. Through this conundrum, Sierra discovers that her world around her consists of magic and that it exists in her ancestry.  Older’s book is a refreshing take on the female protagonist as she is not only strong but has a positive mentality of her body, which will pass onto the reader. There is romance incorporated into this book but it is not the main focus nor the goal for the protagonist.

Career Spotlight: Project Manager for IBM

IMG_3957Name: Karen Mariela Siles

Hometown: Born and raised in Cochabamba, Bolivia; moved to the US, Northern Virginia area when I was 15 however due to a full time offer I moved to Austin, TX after college graduation.

Employer : IBM Corporation in Austin, TX

Job Title: Project Manager for IBM Cloud Organization

What are some of your job responsibilities?
The goal of a project manager is essentially take a project from beginning to end, making sure that all the components that are needed are facilitated in order to get to our deadline. In my case, I work with software developers and ensure that we are reaching deadlines for our project to deliver cutting edge technology for IBM Cloud.

What is your educational background?
In May, 2007, I got my Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from George Mason University in Fairfax,VA.

How did you find your current job?
I have been with IBM for eight years; this is my fourth career path that I have taken. My first job with IBM was due to an organization called Society of Hispanic Professional Engineer (SHPE). Through SHPE ,I was able to attend their National Conference that offers professional development, networking, and a career fair. Through these conferences IBM was able to recruit me and I was offered a full time position with IBM in Austin, TX

What did you do to prepare for this career?
I graduated as an Electrical Engineering in college but my first choice of major was Computer Science. I took a lot of programming courses so I got my first internship as a Computer Programmer during my Junior year of college. As a senior I had to opportunity to stay with CACI as a computer programmer, but I decided to take the IBM offer in Texas. My first job with IBM was a Software Engineer helping people with their middleware and making sure that I helped customers solve their problems.

What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my current job is when my team reaches their deadline and we have a developed product. The best part is always when you see that you have completed your project and you can see the affects of your work.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
I always find it challenging when developers need help but are not able to find the righ resources to get the help they need. As a Project Manager, I need to ensure that they have all the  capabilities in getting the right aid, but sometimes you depend on other teams to deliver their part before you can start yours.

What advice would you give to help a girl prepare for a job like yours?
In my opinion, everyone should study a career in STEM. The thinking and the tools that STEM classes give you are very hard to get if you are pursuing a non technical career. As a Software Engineer,  I wish I would have taken more engineering and computer science courses in high school. Some teachers at the university cannot spend a lot of time with you as a high school teacher can, so I wish I would have learned more basic science, engineer, math and computer science in High School. My advice would be to take STEM classes throughout high school; it will give you a strong basis for whatever you decide to do in the future.

What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?
Most of my career advancement was through my networks and meeting people who wanted to mentor me. Therefore, most of my free time is given towards community service organizations like Latinitas where we can empower young people, or mentor them to become amazing individuals. Giving back is the best part of my day and I like to spend a lot of time volunteering. However, if I am not volunteering, I enjoy spending time with my dog, Kasper. Currently, I am training for a half marathon, which has caused  me to enjoy running in my spare time. I did my first half marathon with the Disneyworld, Princess Half Marathon.  I am very excited for my first half marathon, but I doubt it will be my last.

Dealing with Family Problems

Hispanic girk looking sadFamilies are those whom we can rely on for support, for love and those whom we have a special bond with, but we don’t always choose to embrace our feelings towards one another.

According to Psychology Today, it is common to have family problems, especially when living with several teenagers at home with their parents. Some of these issues include alcoholism, abuse, feelings of guilt, depression, financial, and anger towards family members.

The Better Health Channel shares three tips on how to overcome these common problems that can be sometimes be too hard to deal with.

1. Communication
Even though it is a cliché when someone says “Communication is key,”  it is true. “A lot of the times, unwanted problems arise because we don’t talk to each other enough. If we could communicate more with one another, we wouldn’t have to deal with the extra stress of unnecessary problems,” says Bianca, 24. Talking might sometimes be difficult, especially when it is something that is bothering you, but even a small amount of communication goes a long way. Keep in mind that the idea is to resolve the conflict, not win the argument.

2. Listen
Try to stay calm by putting your emotions aside and don’t interrupt the other person while they are speaking. Sometimes we are too stubborn to realize that we are letting our pride get in the way of fixing our problems. Understanding what they are saying by asking questions through an open and honest discussion will be beneficial in the long run.

3. Seek Help
If it is a more serious problem where communication is not possible, seek professional help. “When I was going through some intense family problems, I didn’t know what to do. I decided to go to my school counselor and talk about it, it took a lot for me to go, but I couldn’t deal with it alone. And now I can talk to my family about it and things are slowly getting better,” says Mary, 19.

Whether it’s talking with your family or with a counselor, you are not alone. You don’t have to deal with your family problems by yourself. Millions of people are dealing with the same things you are. Communication is key, listen to your heart, and seek for what you need.

“My family and I don’t have a good communication environment. My parents are old school and they think their way is the right way. And there’s no way of  telling them otherwise. I was so fed up and tired with everything that I decided to take it into my own hands. I made my parents listen to me. I made them see how much stress and pain they were putting me through. And that was the smartest thing I could’ve done,” says 22 year-old Clarissa.

Even when you think it’s inevitable, something can be done about it. You just have to speak up, let your voice be heard. Clarissa adds, “I have never been this happy with my life, taking a stand for myself  was the scariest and the best thing I’ve done in my life.”