Melissa Ushakov: Latina Program Manager at Rackspace, Inc.

Representing Latina Women in the Technology Industry is Melissa Ushakov, Program Manager at Rackspace Inc. We are delighted to have her melissaushekovvolunteer at Code Chica Conference 2015, where she’ll be able to talk about her passion for coding and will be able to show her expertise in the field.

Q: Why do you think it’s important for girls to code?
A: It’s important for girls to be exposed to a variety of fields so that they can make informed decisions about their future. Software plays an important part of today’s and tomorrow’s world. I read in U.S. News that demand for software developers is targeted to grow by over 22% in the coming years says. Unfortunately, many girls rule out a career in software because of stigmas associated with it. I would love for young Latinas to have the confidence to explore their capabilities, whether they fall in the coding or not.

Q: What motivated you to volunteer for Latinitas?
A: As a professional in the technology industry, I know firsthand how important diversity is in creating successful companies. Latin women are underrepresented in the technology field, making up only 1% of the workforce. My hope is that my passion for technology will inspire Latinitas to consider a career in technology. I also hope to show that it’s not impossible to be a successful Latina in this industry. If I can do it, they can too!

Q: Where are you from and how did you get to the States?

A: I’m from a little city outside Reynosa, Mexico and went to school in the Rio Grande Valley, to the University of Texas at Pan Am. My dad traveled for school and work as someone who worked in agriculture. We lived in the student housing at Texas A&M at College Station when I was kid and I was exposed to a lot of friends and other kids from other countries. After graduating UT Pam Am I got my first job in Harrisburg, PA where I met my husband who is Ukranian.  He let me convince him to move closer to Mexico and that’s how we got to Austin.  He and I work together at Rackspace.

Board Spotlight: Jennifer Rodriguez


We would like to extend our deep gratitude to our Board Member Jennifer Rodriguez for her outstanding efforts as the Event Chair for our College Chica Conference. She serves as the Assistant Director of the UTEP Center for Civic Engagement where the coordinates service-learning programs for university students. The proud mom of two daughters is passionate about encouraging girls to focus on education, grow as leaders and develop confidence.

She was motivated to get involved in empowering young Latinas to help boost their confidence. “Young Latinas are facing many critical issues today but in my opinion, the most important is that of self-confidence/self-esteem. Lack of self-confidence/self-esteem in young Latinas can lead to a variety of problems and societal issues.”


She supports Latinitas efforts in “allowing for a safe place for young Latinas to discover their cultural heritage, beliefs, morals, network with others. This will allow for them to freely express themselves and discover who they really are. This will build the self-confidence needed to allow for them to positively grow and contribute to the public good,” she shared.

Yendri Longoria: An Emerging Leader

yendriSix months ago, Yendri Longoria an Elementary and Special Educations major studying at  Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA  joined Latinitas’ program staff to fulfill an educational and leadership internship.  Since she’s been a powerful manager, mentor to dozens of girls and inventive curriculum generator.  Houston-born Longoria heard about Latinitas researching non-profits in Austin. When she read about the opportunity at Latinitas she knew that she wanted to be a part of the team to impact the lives of young girls. Her dream is to travel the world and teach abroad. Yendri would like to teach for several years and then work on becoming a special education specialist or a school psychologist. Eventually she would like to begin a career in education policy, where she hopes to advocate for special education and work to improve public schools and close the achievement gap. Below, Yendri shares her accomplishments, her experiences, and her favorite memories at Latinitas.
Latinitas thanks Yendri for her unconditional support and her dedication to the organization as well as her students.
Why did you choose to intern at Latinitas?
YL: I chose Latinitas because I think it is an organization that really makes a difference in the lives of young girls and because everything that Latinitas stands for are things that I am really passionate about. I have always been passionate about education, my heritage, and helping people.
What has been your biggest accomplishment?
YL: My biggest accomplishment I would say is that I have touched the lives of about 30 young girls and feel like I have led them in a positive direction. I know that my students are fully capable of changing the world and have bright futures ahead of them, and I think that I have helped them realize this too.
What have you learned through your time at Latinitas?
YL: I have gained hands-on teaching experience and improved my leadership and public speaking skills. Through Latinitas, I have been exposed to the planning and organization of workshops and conferences, and I have developed curriculum, trained club leaders, and encouraged my students to participate in this year’s Hour of Code in which they learned software languages like Java, Python and HTML. I will be taking these skills along with the memories I made back home with me.
What will you miss most about Latinitas?
YL: What I will miss about Latinitas is working alongside amazing women who work extremely hard to support this organization and of course most of all I will miss my students who have made a tremendous impact in my life.

Volunteer Spotlight, Maritza Lopez

maritzaMaritza Lopez is an outstanding Latinitas volunteer who is passionate about ensuring a healthy community as a health educator with El Paso First Health Plans. As a Latinitas volunteer, she has served as a guest speaker with our members, led health and wellness workshops and helped organize a Stay Teen workshop for our girls and moms. The Latinitas team greatly appreciates her excellent volunteer support as the event chair for our Healthy Chica conference. She has taken on a strong leadership role in coordinating this event by helping provide an event location, offering wellness workshops for girls, recruiting health speakers and hosting an excellent opportunity for our girls to grow strong, confident and healthy.

Why do you think it is important to promote health and wellness among young girls? It is important to promote health and wellness among young girls in order to empower them to care for themselves and have a better opportunity of success in life. Without health and wellness, young girl will have a much harder time excelling in school and eventually their career.

What health issues are you concerned about that impact the Hispanic community? Some of the health issues I am concerned about that really impact the Hispanic community are young, overweight girls which in most cases is a result of a poor and innutritious diet and lack of exercise. Another health issue is teen pregnancy among young Latina girls.

Why are you passionate about empowering young Latinas? Being a Latina myself, I think it is important to teach and encourage other young Latina girls to honor and respect themselves as well as their heritage by being strong and independent women. I believe it is through empowering young Latinas to care for themselves and become successful in life will ultimately create a stronger Hispanic community.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering with Latinitas? I really enjoy interacting with the young girls and talking to them about their interests and how they can use those interests to find out what careers and opportunities best fit their own, unique talents.

Teen Leader Volunteer Spotlight

The Teen Leader program invites local high school girls to make a difference, mentor younger girls, help out our girl empowerment programs, serve as peer leaders, gain leadership experience and earn community service hours. These young women are already demonstrating excellent leadership skills and serve as wonderful role models for our younger members. A few of them talked about why they are passionate about serving as young leaders with Latinitas.

Ashley Rios, age 17

“I would like to influence other girls to continue going to school and to never give up on their dreams. Just because we are Hispanic, it doesn’t mean we don’t have a great future we can fulfill.”

Kristin Portillo, age 16

“I would like to be apart of the organization because I feel a strong need to help those in need in any way possible and I love to contribute to my community in a positive way. I hope to gain a greater amount of leadership skills as well as have the opportunity to meet more people and grow both emotionally and mentally.”

Laura Rodriguez, age 16

“I am very interested in becoming an activist in the future after I graduate. I have a strong sense for women power and this website will help me gain work experience. The name caught my attention and I decided to check it out. I am really looking forward in volunteering and helping.I hope to gain experience, encouragement, friendships, and help with my communication skills. I’d really like to gain experience from this organization, especially since I am a girl and Hispanic. I want to gain encouragement to fulfill my future goals of becoming an activist and help females in the Middle East”.

Risna Ainurahimah, Age 17

“I want to share about everything with other people and I want to try to work with other people. Latinitas is pretty interesting for me.I had read about Latinitas and that was really interesting for me. I want to know more about Latinitas.”

Camila Marie Mosier-Giovine, Age 14

“I would love to influence in a good way young girls and I want to have the experience of getting to know them. because I like what your organization does, and I would love to be part of it. Getting to influence young girls, telling them the importance of education, and extracurricular activities, Getting to share the experience of my title as Miss El Paso’s Outstanding Teen while I have it with them, and to get to know them.”

Ashley Nava,17

“I find the Latinitas organization to be amazing. I like the message it is sending to young girls. As an aspiring journalist myself, I know the importance there is to having a voice and letting it be heard. Living in a community where there isn’t a ton of support for females, I want to be able to be a part of this change. Starting in an early age, encouraging young Hispanic females to explore different avenues such as journalism would help diversify the profession that desperately lack diversity on a national level .I hope to gain experience in the profession that I would one day like to be a part of and to be able to create an impact on my community.”

Maria Fernanda Govea , age 16

“I would like to volunteer for the Latinitas committee to help younger girls like myself become more educated and confident throughout their journey to make the world we live in a better place, as we’ll as I will not only be helping younger girls expand their knowledge about our culture but I will be contributing to our community as we’ll as they will help me grow into a more confident and successful young lady. “What I hope to gain from contributing with the Latinitas is a valuable experience that will teach myself and other young girls the importance of our culture and of our hard work, I will like to receive the satisfaction that I am working with my community in making the world we live in a better place ,as well as I hope to gain and to enhance my people skills and to receive community service time as I will be registering as a senior in high school next year.

Lucia Hernanadez, age 14

I would like to help to empower young Latinas and I hope to gain experience and to help people.

Volunteer Spotlight: Business Chica Chair

Latinitas would like to express our deep gratitude to Angela Sustaita, ourIMG_0766 Business Chica Conference Chair. As the conference chair, Angela helped with organizing an excellent event focused on inspiring the next generation of business leaders through career & college panels, presentations on business planning and sessions on financial literacy.  She also helped offer hands-on activities to help girls develop their own business venture ideas, marketing plans, business plan and advertisements. Angela played an instrumental role finding the conference venue, organizing speakers, recruiting volunteers, planning the agenda, getting donations, sponsoring food, serving as a speaker during the event and helping make sure the event was a success. Thank you to Angela for all your wonderful efforts to help inspire the next generation of business owners!

Angela talked about her experience with the Business Chica Event.

“I think the Business Chica event really opened girls’ minds to entrepreneurship. A lot of girls are only given a few options to plan for their future. It is important for girls to start thinking early about their future. I think the girls learned that you don’t have to be a specific age to start your own business; they can start early to get an advantage. It is great for the girls to know the basic steps they can do to start their own business. The panel of business leaders was wonderful. It is important to give girls real world examples and to show them successful women. It also showed them that these successful women are humans and they aren’t perfect. I think the girls can relate to them because they started just like the girls. Many of them had barriers and faced challenges, but that didn’t stop them.”

Volunteer Spotlight, Stephanie Moreno

Stephanie Moreno has been one of our most dedicated volunteers over the last five years. She has taken on leadership roles in helping run an after-school club, serving as a guest speaker on multiple times and recently acting as our event chair for our Aim High Conference. She shared some of her experiences as a volunteer…

I wanted to get involved with the Aim High STEM event because I feel passionately about exposing girls to science and technology and the opportunities it can offer them in the future.

It is extremely important to connect girls to other women and girls that they can look up to because it gives them an example that they can look up to.Having a good role model can inspire the girls to set goals to grow up and become successful women.

Volunteering with Latinitas has been an extremely rewarding experience all around but the best part has been connecting to the girls and learning about their future dreams and goals. It has been very special to work with them and make an impact in their lives.

It is important for girls to start learning about possible career options early because this will help them prepare for their career goals. As the world has gotten increasingly competitive it is important to teach the girls how to set goals and long term plans that will get them there.

It is very important to me to teach young girls about opportunities in STEM because many branches still suffer from a lack of female professionals. It is important to society as a whole to develop a well represented group of professionals and events like this can show them the various options available to them.

If I could give a message to younger girls it would definitely be to never give up no matter how difficult or out of your league a dream might seem. Dreams are for everyone and anybody with the drive and perseverance can achieve it.

The message and central focus of Latinitas is very close to my heart because it speaks to the younger versions of myself. Programs like Latinitas are crucial to developing young girls’ confidence and belief in themselves, and when we do that anything is possible for them.

Intern Spotlight: Fall 2014

Giselle Portillo
Graphic Design Intern
EPCC, Marketing Major
I was in the Graphic Design program at my high school for the last three years. I would like to continue learning and developing those skills as well. Graphic Design ignited my creativity and helped me grow as a designer.To gain “real-wordl” experience in the field of advertising and graphic design. I am also a Latina, and I would love to be able to gain this experience that I am eager to work for by interning at “Latinitas” and be able to help a helping organization like this one grow. I would like to become a part of “Latinitas” to learn from it and contribute to it in order to help the organization grow and therefore help impact more Latin girl’s lives.An internship with “Latinitas” in the field of marketing and graphic design will help me gain experience and grow as a marketer/designer. As a Latina I would also like to help out other Latinas and through this internship I believe I would be able to do that. This internship will help me gain the right type of experience and skills that I need in order to reach my goal of becoming an experienced marketer/graphic designer to help grow and advertise “good for the community” services and organizations like “Latinitas” that care and are willing to help communities. “Latinitas” would be the first step to help me gain the experience and exposure that I need in order to reach my goal of advertising and letingt people know about good intentioned products, services and organizations.

Karla Castillo
Web Design Intern
UTEP Computer Science Major
I wanted to join because I heard that working with your organization was a lot of fun. You only don’t learn about one area, you could learn much more than that. I am currently working for a certification for Dreamweaver, and Flash from Adobe because my career goals are to focus on being a webmaster. Latinitas will help me reach my goals because I can gain real life experience. I want to learn more about web pages and gain some real life experience.

Michelle Bretado
Marketing Major
UTEP Media Advertising Major
The first time I heard about Latinitas was at Chalk the Block. I’ve had several friends intern with Latinitas and they had so many positive things to say about the internship. I can express my creativity, utilize my communication skills, and learn from my peers. Participating in an internship with Latinitas will allow me to gain experience in my field as well as empower young teens in a positive way. This internship will help me explore my career interests and gain experience working in my field of study.

Ariana Ortega
Editorial Intern
UTEP Multimedia Journalism Major
I would like to apply for this position for the experience and to further understand and learn more about the field. I would like to participate in an internship with Latinitas because it is local and while learning about the field it also involves helping young girls in various ways. My career goals are to graduate with a bachelors degree in Multimedia Journalism and continue on to work for a masters degree. This internship with Latinitas will help me reach my goals by serving as a stepping stone and a foundation to what my future may hold. It will also serve as a window to view what could potentially be my ultimate career!

Volunteer Spotlight: Service Learning Students

Latinitas teams up with the UTEP Center for Civic Engagement and the EPCC Service Learning Department to offer hands-on service learning opportunities for college students to gain hands-on volunteer experiences to compliment their educational experience. We are grateful for these student leaders who serve as mentors for our youth, help lead workshops, assist with our after-school programs and help at our special events.

Valeria Rodriguez
UTEP, Education Major
“I want to be part of the successful and exciting motivational organization Latinitas provides. I want to give back to my community and to learn more about my culture.”

Teresa Turon
UTEP, Criminal Justice Major
“This committee sounds like a fun and empowering environment! I was interested in the program you offer for young females. I would like to help out the community. I’d like to help these young ladies to be helpful and orient them to become successful in their future. I would like to be a role model for them and help them in anything they would need. I’d like to gain knowledge to help in any way possible. This program would help me in my Juvenile class I’m currently taking and in future classes.”

Marisela Ramirez
“I hope to gain experience and to learn more about the community.”

College & Career Day Volunteers

In November, Latinitas hosted a college & career day in our after-school program to give girls an opportunity to meet local female leaders, gain an understanding of the importance of college and learn about different career options.  We we appreciate our volunteers for sharing their time with Latinitas, serving as role models for girls, promoting higher education and helping expose them to a wide range of career opportunities. Here a couple of our volunteers share why they are passionate about inspiring local girls…

Carolina Chianelli
EPCC, Biology Professor
“As a Hispanic female, I think we need to show more positive Hispanic role models. We need to empower these young women and showing them that there are opportunities available to them is extremely important. For example, I never met a female engineer while I was growing up but I”m sure that engineering would have been an ideal field for me. Had I met a female engineer, I may have been an engineer instead of a Biologist! Giving back to my community gives a sense of fulfillment.”

Anna Haro
EPCC, Library Clerk
“I have always loved to work with children/youth, and most importantly inspire and guide them to thrive within educational choices and thus teach them about giving back to their community. My thesis focused on gender construction, through government-issued textbooks, and its influence over career choices. Textbooks, through images and vocabulary, have a deep impact on girls’ and boys’ attitudes over their career choices. I would like to break off those gender stereotype career choices that these girls have learned that they need to follow. As a volunteer with Latinitas, I hope to see participants gain knowledge over the opportunities education can offer them.

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