Staff Spotlight: Jasmine Villa, Editor Behind the Scenes

Meet our amazing Editor who helps amplify the voices of young Latinas by serving as a role model, mentor and writing coach for our Latinitas. 

Q: How long have you been working with Latinitas and what motivated you to apply at this particular organization?

A: I’ve been working with Latinitas for 4 years. My academic interests in intercultural rhetoric, community involvement, literacy, and educational discourse led to volunteering and joining the Latinitas team in 2012. I love the organization, and I am simply in awe and always inspired by the work ethic, dedication, and passion the Latinitas staff have for the community. While I had professional and academic interests in mind, I was motivated to apply to Latinitas because of the environment. Everyone is supportive, and they really do treat you like familia.

Q: What are some of your job responsibilities?

A: I work collaboratively with the staff and interns in order to empower the awesome chicas in our writing programs. I assist with the workflow of the magazine, similar to the Editor-in-Chief/Managing Editor duties, like assigning and editing content for Latinitas Magazine, creating a publishing calendar, and I oversee and guide most of the writers for Latinitas Magazine. In addition, I promote the Youth Editorial Advisory Board (YEAB), help with recruitment and marketing for YEAB, and create content for the YEAB. Occasionally, I will assist with the creation and editing of content for the El Paso office and I assist with social media when I can. In addition, I moderate and provide feedback to written pieces when needed. We are a small organization, but I’m always eager to help wherever and whenever they need me.

Q: Describe your educational and career background prior to working with Latinitas?

A: I worked customer service jobs and as a Properties Designer/Manager prior to working with Latinitas. My career shifted when I began graduate school in 2012.

After concurrently completing a BA in English and American Literature with a minor in Professional Writing and Rhetoric and a BA in Chicano Studies in 2011, I wanted to explore opportunities that would supplement an alt-ac career during graduate school. From 2012 – 2014, I worked with Latinitas while pursuing a MA in Rhetoric and Writing Studies and while working as a Teaching Assistant at the University of Texas at El Paso. My educational background and interest in community engagement intersect, which has led me to pursue a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition. I work as an Assistant Instructor, and I am an advocate of community engagement within my classroom.

Q: Describe a moment or challenge that you believe has prepared you for your current career as an Editor.

A: When you’re juggling being a full-time graduate student, teaching 1-2 classes by yourself, and working part-time, it can be overwhelming. The workload eventually takes its toll, which can affect your emotional and physical state. Juggling multiple roles and tasks has taught me the value of self-care and time management and organizational skills.

Q: What is your advice to young Latinas who aspire to be editors?

A: As an editor, you need compassion and empathy for the struggles writers face. Everyone has different writing styles, skills, and ideas, and, as an editor, you need to be aware of them and find ways for writers to enhance a strength they didn’t know they had.

Don’t compare yourself and self-worth to other writers. There’s always going to be someone whose writing and skills are better than yours. There’s only one you, and what YOU have to say: your ideas, writing, etc. are more valuable than you think. What YOU have to say/think IS important. Don’t be afraid to share that voice. Our community needs it.

Q: What do you like to do on your free time?

A: I have a hectic schedule due to being a full-time PhD student (2nd year), Assistant Instructor at the University of Texas at El Paso, and working with Latinitas, so I try to spend my free time doing things that are not associated with school and/or work related. I need a day where I’m not glued to my laptop, book, or scholarly articles. If you want to be technical, I travel frequently, catch up on movies and tv shows (current favorites are Jane the Virgin and Game of Thrones), and spend time with loved ones (family and friends).

Code Chica Spotlight

2016 Code Chica Conference Testimonial: 

“My daughter Trinity enjoyed Code Chica so much she hasn’t stopped talking about it. She’s also made a second webpage and is teaching her friends at school what she’s learned!” – Trinity’s mom, Chevaun

Why Code Chica?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, by the time girls in middle school now go to college, there will be one million more computer science jobs than computer scientists to fill them. When we look at the number of females pursuing that career path, things look bleak, women of color pursuing technology – nearly nil . Less than one percent of high school girls express interest in majoring in computer science in college and the American Association of University Women reports only 19 percent of computer and information-science majors are currently women, less than one percent of engineers right now are Hispanic women.

Latinitas Empowering Using Media and Techology!

To combat the current underrepresentation of women in the tech industry, Latinitas, in a partnership with Google’s Made with Code campaign, developed the Code Chica Conference with the aim of getting girls excited about coding and sparking an interest in tech jobs. The first Code Chica conference was held on October 25, 2014 at Austin Community College’s Eastview Campus. Sixty girls and teens at the conference were introduced to coding with the help of professionals and graduates from local coding academy MakerSquare who facilitated the coding seminars throughout the course of the day.

Kick off! The event kicked off with a key note address from Latina engineer Karen Siles who spoke about being one of the few female employees with her job title at IBM in Austin, TX. She shared, “There is jobs waiting to be filled by a qualified woman candidate. The issue is not that there is not jobs for women in technology, the issue is that women are not choosing to take the path of attaining degrees in computer science.” Tung Huynh, an admissions recruiter at ACC Eastview, also spoke about working in tech with just one female colleague.  His company eventually hired more women who became some of the best product managers, coders, developers, engineers, account managers, and sales directors. He explained, “That’s the whole funny thing about this- girls are shy about competing and then they come in and they do better than the guys do.”  Similar to Siles experience, there were more jobs than women applying. He said, “I think today is going to go a long way towards changing that.”

Coding Begins!

Girls were introduced to the concept of coding as a means to create actions with a visual demonstration of a robot. One of the Makersquare seminar facilitators pretended to be a robot and the girls had to direct the robot to the door.   Then, they visited a Disney website and were guided through the process of using code to change a website, font colors and sizes, and delete pictures. They also used an online web based coding platform and CSS to embed video games. Girls expressed excitement as they passed from one level to the next.

Women in Tech at Lunch

At lunch girls were visited by many local powerful women in technology today. These women shared their personal, academic and professional journeys in technology. The roundtable set up made the connections more personal and powerful. Women came from Rackspace, Google, Dell, BB&T Bank, local PBS station KLRU-TV, Accruent and start ups like and SheHacksATX.  . Miczeh Reeze (A code chica) expressed how she will remember how the speakers gave inspiring quotes to follow their dreams.”  Jackie Lopez also noted,” The one thing that I will remember from this event are the people that visited the tables.”

Miranda Dawn from TV’s “The Voice”

It wouldn’t be a Code Chica event without having just as much “chica” as coding and so Latinitas welcomed former volunteer and current alumni from last seasons’ “The Voice,” Miranda Dawn (Miranda Oropeza), a singer/songwriter and member of her own band Dawn and Hawkes. She performed but also invited girls on-stage.

Code Afternoon:

When the “Code Chicas” returned to their assigned computer labs, they continued coding and practiced manipulating code by changing the Latinitas website. Over 60% of the attendees surveyed said they had never been to an event like this. Many of them expressed how they wished they had Latinitas at their schools. Several of the girls were also active members of Latinitas clubs and camps and expressed excitement about Code Chica. When asked if they would tell their friends about Latinitas programs and events, surveys showed a resounding “yes!” Seventh grader Elizabeth Hernandez said, “I would absolutely tell my friends about Latinitas because it’s a place where girls can dream big and have fun.”  She also said,”I liked the fact that girls were able to connect with technology.”

Code Chica presented coding on girls’ terms through fun exercises that incorporated some of their favorite brands and videos.  Coding was demystified for many girls and thanks to dedicated instructors, lunchtime career presenters and Latinitas model of empowerment, more chicas in Austin are putting themselves into the shoes of developers, designers and definitely: coders.


Chica Power Fest Testimonials


What did the girls learn at the Chica Power Fest?

  • I learned to love myself the way I am and to be more confident.
  • I learned that I am beautiful and that having confidence is an amazing feeling.
  • Although there are challenges, you need to push forward and keep trying.
  • That you must never quit.
  • I learned that there are many career options for young women.
  • I learned that confidence and respect is important.
  • Although college is hard, it will be hard it is definitely worth it.
  • College gives you opportunities.
  • I learned that I am thoughtful, courageous, and that I am a good leader.
  • I learned about how to make wise money choices.
  • When you are a leader you can bring people information as to what needs changing.
  • I learned about many different careers.
  • I learned that being a leader is about responsibility and charisma.
  • I learned that we can all be leaders.
  • I learned that it is important to have confidence to succeed which then gives you self-esteem.
  • All you need is yourself to have self-esteem.
  • I want to go to college because I want a better future.
  • After these talks I really want to go to college.
  • I wish to graduate with a Master’s degree so that I can be more successful.
  • I appreciate the talk I received and I feel more prepared for college based on their stories.
  • I learned that it is important to go to college and pick a career that is best for you.
  • That you can try whatever you like, and see if you love it.
  • I learned that there are many types of leaderships.
  • I learned that it is important to be a leader because a leader has many qualities.
  • I learned that we need leadership, and there are different kinds of leaderships.
  • I learned that a good leader builds people up and will be a follower to help others be leaders.
  • I learned that a leader is a role model to others, and there are different kinds of leaders.
  • I learned that we need to love our body and we should be proud of it.
  • I learned a lot more things about early college.
  • I learned there are so many great things college has to offer.

College is Important

Why is College Important?
Latinitas partnered with the UTEP Center for Civic Engagement to give local pre-teen and teen girls a tour of the college campus and host workshops on the importance of college, how to prepare for college and about financial aid. Below girls share why they think college is important:

College is important because it helps you to have a good job and fulfill the future that you desire. To prepare for college, you have to be committed to school and work hard. Always do your best. Put in your 110%. -Vanessa

College is important because a better education helps me get ready for my future and get a better job. -Brianna

College is important because it is the first step into adulthood and you will gain study habits to prepare you for life. It is where you will learn what you want to be and do for the rest of your life. I will prepare for college by practicing my study habits. I will start learning and asking ways that I can pay for college. –Sabrina

College is important, because it can help us with our future and education. It can help us to explore better careers. I can better prepare myself for college by getting good grades and doing my homework.-Maria

College is important because you learn more things and you learn what to do when you get a job. The way to prepare for college is to study, work hard and pay attention. -Adriana

College is important, because you need to have more knowledge. -Jennifer

I think that college is important, because it helps you to gain more knowledge and opens paths towards your career in order to be prepared for college. It helps you set your priorities straight and understand managing your time. I will take the first step in preparing for college by joining mission early college. -Maxie

College is important because it brings you so many opportunities for an amazing life. Without college, it would be harder to get a job and maintain a stable home. I already have a savings account. -Ariana

College is important because there are many careers to choose. You can get a Bachelors and Masters. -Angelina College is important because it opens doors for us. It will change my life. I will get AP classes. -Brenda

College is important because it is where you learn what you are going to be. I learned that you can have scholarships and that my GPA will be very important. – Jacqueline

College is important to prepare myself. I will start behaving good, paying attention in class and get better grades. It will help you get a nice job and know what to do in my future. -Leslie

Workshop Testimonials

“Thank you so much for the opportunity to participate in such a wonderful event.  My daughter Fabiola truly enjoyed the game design adventure and is excited about starting her own game.  She is already talking about who might be her “BETA” testers. I am very impressed with your program.”

Maria Guadalupe Palop

Mother, Software Engineer

Latinitas Alumni Profile: Sara Martinez

In 2004, a 6th grader, Sara Martinez joined Club Latinitas. She  now is currently a journalism major at UT Austin. Recently, Sara came full circle back to Latinitas by joining our youth editorial advisory board. We are so proud to have her back! Eleven years ago, Sara Martinez joined one of the first Latinitas after school programs at Martin Middle School in Austin, TX. Her journey from then to now – becoming a musician, traveling to Japan, studying cosmetology, using that skill to afford college and apply to the University of Texas at Austin and now plans to be an international journalist is more than inspiring and impressive – it’s the dream we had for every chica who walked in Latinitas’ door!  Below Sara shares what Latinitas meant to her growing up, but also, more so, what a dynamic and thoughtful person she has always been.

What did you like about cutting hair/studying cosmetology?

SM: Ever since I was a little girl. Something that I cared about was my hair because I felt like it was part of my identity. A different style, color or cut can dramatically change a person’s image and self confidence, and that was something that attracted me to cosmetology. I liked studying cosmetology because I enjoyed watching how a person’s self confidence would go up after getting something done to their hair. Seeing their smile after seeing the finished product was something that kept me going throughout my years at cosmetology school.

What is it that draws you to journalism?

SM: When I was younger, I was very shy and stuttered frequently. I felt like I had no voice so I really liked to express myself through writing and social media which I discovered through Latinitas in middle school. Deep down inside through my years in high school, I felt that I wanted to study in college something that would help improve myself as a person. Because of my love of journalism, I have a physical voice now because I want to be heard. My stuttering and shyness in front of big groups of people has gone away because of my love of expressing my opinion. Majoring in journalism not only gives me the chance to be a voice but to also make sure that other people’s voices are being heard as well.

What’s next for Sara Martinez?

SM: My dream is to become an international music and fashion journalist. I’m expected to graduate with a degree in Journalism and a minor in fashion design next year. I’ve been studying Japanese for about four years now and I got a chance to live there during the summer of 2013; it is an experience that I hold very dear to my heart. I’m hoping to relocate to Japan after graduation so I can become a native speaker and attend a Japanese language school while looking for work. I want to find work in the Japanese television and magazine industry because that is a big market in Japan. During my trip, I discovered that although American pop culture is well known there, our actual culture is confusing to understand at times because it is completely different compared to Japanese culture. I want to become a bridge and a voice that will help Japanese people understand as to why things are the way they are in America. My love of learning and culture is something that has set me apart from a typical Latina and I think its because of my mixed heritage and being a first-generation american in my family. Given the chance to go to one of the top universities in the world and being part of a top ranked program has taught me that if I try really hard and follow my heart, then amazing things are possible. I want to be a person that can be looked up to.

What’s something about you that sets you apart as a “Latinita?”

SM: Latinitas was the reason why I was able to work my way to becoming the person that I am today. Coming from a family that is considered lower class here, made me think that I wouldn’t be able accomplish much in life. But looking back, I feel that I have accomplished so much and I haven’t even graduated college yet. Being a Latinita brought my self-confidence up and has given me the drive to make a difference like Laura, the CEO of Latinitas Magazine. What sets me apart as a “Latinita” is that I am confident and although I know that I make mistakes, that will never bring me down. Being mentored by Laura taught me that many things are possible and that dreams do come true if you are strong enough to pull through all the hard obstacles that come our way. Being a “Latinita” is something important because wherever this life takes me, the lessons and experiences with Latinitas will always be with me and giving me the drive to make a difference.

Business Chica Testimonials



In December, Latinitas hosted the Business Chica conference to connect girls with role models, help girls discover career options and to promote entrepreneurship. Girls had a chance to meet inspirational business owners, participate in financial literacy workshops and hear from college mentors majoring in business. During a hands-on competition, girls worked in small groups to develop their own product ideas, create a marketing plan, design a promotional poster, make a radio advertisement and to create their own business plan. Special thanks to Southwest University of hosting our workshop on-site, Angela Sustaita for co-chairing the event and for all the outstanding volunteers who helped make this event a success.

100% of girls reported discovering new career options
100% of girls reported learning about the importance of college
94% of girls reported developing new leadership skills
100% of girls reported learning valuable steps to becoming business owners

Several of our Business Chica participants shared these thoughts about the event…

What was your favorite part of the Business Chica event?
I liked the presentations that helped us think about what we want to be when we grow up. -Angelina
I enjoyed making the product ideas. -Ariana
I liked socializing with new people it has always been hard for me, but it came easily today.
I enjoyed doing the presentation with my friends and with other chicas. -Senorina
I liked learning about different businesses and designing my own product! – Faith
I liked the competition. – Vianney
When we got to plan our business and share and present. – Alyssa
I liked the business presentations. – Avery
I enjoyed the icebreakers and the presentations. -Andrea

What did you learn about career options & professional skills?
I learned that I can be who I want to be. – Andrea
I learned about some jobs that I didn’t know about before like owning a business.- Ariana
I learned about entrepreneurs. – Victoria
I learned that we have to save for college. – Senorina
Never give up. – Avery

What did you learn about leadership?
Women can be leaders too. – Andrea
Don’t be a follower and be a leader. – Senorina
Sometimes you have to take control of the situation and make it your own. – Ariana
I learned a good leader should surround themselves with good people. -Victoria

What did you learn about college?
We learned that all these successful women have college degrees and maybe more than one. -Ariana
Don’t quit on school. – Melanie
You can get a full scholarship or a half scholarship. – Melanie

Former Austin ISD Principal Raffy Garza-Viscaino

“It is I who is honored to support you and the wonderful work you do. I saw firsthand the positive difference Latinitas makes in the lives of our Martin Middle School girls. I am thrilled to see that Latinitas has continued to grow and touch the lives of young women. I am so honored to support this awesome organization.”

Chaparral NM School Thanks Latinitas

The Latinitas team had the honor of presenting our body image and media literacy presentation to all the 5th and 6th grade girls at Desert Trail Elementary in Chaparral, New Mexico. We discussed the unrealistic portrayals of beauty that is often seen in mainstream media and we talked about confidence boosting tips. The girls created their own mini-magazines highlighting their own advice to have a healthy self-esteem. We were delighted by the message we received from the school….
Dear Latinitas,  I greatly appreciate your visit to our school. After your visit, my girls came up to me about how much they enjoyed your presentation. They have been deeply inspired with your presentation and magazine cover they created  resulting in their next project of creating a monthly magazine over their accomplishments in school. If your organization would like to come in the Spring for another presentation we would be grateful. Again, thank you for motivating the girls in our school.  Many come from low socioeconomic area and your organization has provided inspiration and encouragement to succeed.
Sandra Silvas
Desert Trail Elementary School Counselor

Latinitas Encourages Girls to Aim High

Each fall, Latinitas El Paso hosts its annual Aim High Conference focused on encouraging career exploration among girls. Our members had an opportunity to meet local women leaders, hear about different career options and try hands-on activities that help them envision their future career. Girls had a chance to meet professionals in a wide range of fields especially career paths where women are still underrepresented such as science, technology, engineering and math. Our girls interviewed professional like meteorologists, doctors, computer scientists, physics professors, health professionals, science and math teachers. Our girls also had a chance to design their own bridge structure in an engineering activity, create their own computer game and interview college students about their career aspirations. Our girls also created their own video and photography project sharing their future career goals. Here are some comments from our participants….

100% of the girls reported that they learned about new career options
100% of the girls said the event helped boost their self-esteem and confidence
100% of the girls said the event helped them learn about ways to prepare for college
98% of the girls said they learned tips to become stronger leaders.

I liked how we learned how to be prepared for college and what career we should start thinking about. I liked how they motivated you. – Aracely

Everything was wonderful! I liked everything from the guest speakers to the different career choice stations. – Zavia

I enjoyed everything because it gives me many options I could do and it is something that interests me. -Shamila

What I enjoyed the most was doing different activities that helped me understand more about leadership.

I enjoyed everything! I can’t just choose one. I liked when I made a bridge, took a video as a doctor, played medical bingo and more. -Victoria

I enjoyed hearing all sorts of people talk about their careers, what to do in college, what my career path can be and to help others. -Anassa

I enjoyed learning about the things that help me for college and the experiment that we did with the marshmallows and how to build. -Kiara

I liked all the cool people, the great experiences, some projects and all the great memories that were made today. -Gabrielle

I liked working together to make a bridge with my new friends. -Alondra

I enjoyed the guest speakers that talked to us about their career experience and just giving us young teenagers motivation and confidence. I just loved the guest speakers.

I enjoyed the hands-on activities like building the tower and watching the balloon inflate. – Ariana

I liked everything when the professionals were talking to us about their conflicts and what they went through. I liked so many groups talking to us to do what we like.

I enjoyed when our three role models talked about their experience.

I liked looking at the different careers. – Faith

I think what I enjoyed the most was the fun activities and listening to the different careers and how they pursued them. -Selene

What I enjoyed the most was learning the different careers that you can choose from and how to get there. Also, how people came across their career and how they never gave up. – Karla

What I enjoyed the most was how to prepare for college. Also, I enjoyed participating in the computer science activity. – Emily

I enjoyed meeting people who go to college. I liked hearing their stories and how they improved themselves.

I liked the engineering class. – Victoria

I enjoyed when the three girls were presenting their careers and what they did to become what they are now. – Aileen

I liked how they helped us to get ready for our future. – Melissa

I liked the physics booth the most.

I liked when we went to the computer science class. – Estrella

I enjoyed the games because they showed you that you don’t always need to study you can have fun and play games too. -Vivian

I liked when we went to the computer lab and decorated using the scratch program. -Genesis

I liked when we went to computer science group and played with scratch. -Nadia

I liked the physics part the most. -Cinthia

I enjoyed bingo because I got to learn about the body parts and what they do to help you keep healthy and energetic. -Nayeli

I liked the computer science the most because it was challenging.

I liked meeting the medical school group.

I enjoyed the hands-on activities like making the marshmallow tower and the butterfly. Thank you. – Zenia