Olga Ochoa, a volunteer since 2012, started as a Youth Outreach Intern and is now one of the coordinators for the Girl Talk workshops hosted by Latinitas at the JuvenileDetentionCenter. Olga is a key leader in guiding young women in the detention center through hands-on self-expression activities. The goal of these activities is to boost their self-esteem, promote good decision making and encourage girls to take steps towards a positive future. Girls have participated in projects to help them share their own experiences, and discuss important topics like healthy relationships, goal setting, education and confidence. “[Latinitas] is important for young girls because it helps them see and think ahead. I would recommend it to others because it is a great way to establish motivation among young girls and guide them to succeed in their future,” says Olga. Olga is an inspirational role model to young girls. She graduated from UTEP with a BA in Anthropology and is currently wrapping up her last semester as a Masters student.
Maribel Padilla has been an integral part of Latinitas since 2012. She started as a Club Leader and is now our go-to person for multimedia design and video editing.
“I believe very passionately in the goal Latinitas is trying to reach, which is that of empowering young Latinas to follow a career path in media and technology. As a fellow media maker, I believe the best way to strengthen my skills is to try and teach it to someone else,” adds Maribel.
Estela Casas inspired Maribel Padilla over 10 years ago when Estela asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up, Maribel answered she wanted to be on TV just like Estela. Forward to 2013, and Maribel just graduated last December with a Creative Multimedia Degree from NMSU and is on her way to become a leading Latina in the film industry. She is currently part of the Production Crew for KCOS-13 and aspires to one day “move to a big city and work on big film productions.”
Her advice to future journalists and filmmakers is to “get involved in as many extra-curricular activities. Colleges like students who like to get involved.”
Briana Castrejon, a student at the University of Texas at El Paso, is a natural-born leader. She has led several workshops in our after school clubs and in our Be YOUnique, College Chica, Healthy Chica and Wellnes workshops, and the Aim High Conference. She loves leading activities and helping inspire local youth, because these programs allow them to start thinking about college as well as boost their self-esteem and self-worth.
“My sister became an intern at Latinitas, and would talk about her exciting experiences in working for this organization and the different people she was able to meet. This is what motivated me to join Latinitas…The most rewarding experiences is being able to interact with the young girls in both the workshops or the clubs. They are so happy to be with you as you are to see them. You are always learning through each other by talking about new experiences and discussing difficult topics.”
These chicas are at the forefront of making a difference in our after-school enrichment programs, Club Latinitas.
Bianca Castrejon, Social Work major (UTEP)
“Latinitas is important for young girls because the organization can help them with self esteem and self assurance, where it can be tough to come by at a young age. What I like most about Latinitas is its goal to empower and provide leadership skills for all Latinas. I want to help out in our community especially with empowering young Latinas.”
Gabriela Griego, Psychology major (UTEP)
“I was interested in Latinitas because I think it is important to have as young women someone to look up to besides your parents and I think being able to empower them is also important. What I like most about Latinitas is the fact that it gives exclusivity to the girls in order for them to be in a comfortable environment where they are able to express themselves.“
Stephanie Hernandez, Women Studies/Linguistics major (UTEP)
“I was interested in Latinitas because the idea of empowering young women through creative outlets sounded like something I’d enjoy and would love to do. [I like that Latinitas] offers guidance for young girls as well as a safe and comfortable environment. I believe [Latinitas] is important because it exposes them to different ways of having fun, educates them and gives them confidence through self expression.”
Daniela Lagunes, Psychology major (UTEP)
Daniela is a seasoned Club Leader veteran. She started volunteering for Latinitas in 2010. Her advice to young Latinitas is to
“not let yourself down just because they make fun of you. Use it as an experience to respect others and the way they look [and treat you]. Be strong and speak up!”
Dayna Quezada, Counseling major (UTEP)“Being a female Hispanic myself, I feel a personal connection and duty in trying to reach out to other young Latinas. What I like most [about Latinitas] is that it is an outreach organization for mostly females and I feel this group of females are the ones who need the most support.”
Mara Rivas, Psychology major (UTEP)
“[I like the] opportunity to change and shape the young girl’s future and hopefully make their lives happier. I think this organization is extremely important for Hispanic girls, so they can get to know themselves better and get help from us to guide them in their future careers and personal development.”
Iliana Rosales, Social Work major (UTEP) “What [made me decide to intern] with Latinitas is that the organization helps Latina girls, and, since my major is social work this is a great opportunity. What I like the most about Latinitas is that it helps teens and girls with any issues; [volunteers] are their mentors.”
Dominique Gonzalez is a valued Latinitas member. For the past three years, she has been returning from college at UT-Austin to her hometown and sharing her time and talents with girls in El Paso. Her leadership and vibrant personality make her a positive role model for other girls. This past summer, she organized a series of Saturday Creative Expression Classes on a weekly basis where she encouraged girls to express themselves as they explored photography, filmmaking and art. She is passionate about writing and is the editor for the Youth Editorial Advisory Board, as well as a top contributor to Latinitasmagazine.org. When asked to share advice to younger girls, she says: “Advice I can give to other girls is to never allow other people to tell you who you are. Every girl needs to search within and discover who they are, especially Latinas. We can’t give into stereotypes and let them define us. I believe learning to love yourself as you are and appreciating where you came from are the most rewarding accomplishments for a Latina.”
Volunteer Spotlight: Stephanie Moreno
Stephanie Moreno was the mastermind in leading and coordinating some of Latinitas girl empowerment programs this summer. Stephanie Moreno is an outstanding volunteer and former Club Leader. Stephanie aided with the Smart Chica Camp at local housing communities where she encouraged girls to reach their goals through career exploration and college preparation. She believes Club Latinitas and Latinitas workshops have made a tremendous impact on local youth, because it allows them to feel like a part of a group that really cares about them. “I loved being a Club Leader and watching the girls grow and mature. I especially liked that they told me and the other volunteers that we are their role models,” exclaims Stephanie proudly.
Throughout the last six years, Emily Martin-Loya, Latinitas board member, has lived on both sides of the border working with community organizations in El Paso and Juarez, MX. She is currently the Chief Marketing Officer of KCOS. She previously served as the Community Initiatives Coordinator at United Way of El Paso County. In that position she launched El Paso’s Young Leaders Society in 2008, which provides networking, volunteering and leadership opportunities for local young professionals. Emily is proud to serve on the board of Junior Leadership El Paso since 2008. She’s an active member of the Public Relations Professionals of the Southwest Association and a volunteer translator at her church, Vino Nuevo.
When asked why she wanted to get involved with Latinitas, she shared: “I love the mission of Latinitas and want to use my skills to help further it. I’ve been familiar with Latinitas for over 6 years and have tried to support it through events and sharing about it among my network already. Being on the board seems like a natural next step to formalizing my support. I’ve worked with youth for many years and worked in communications and marketing as well and I believe Latinitas truly leverages media and communications for student expression, building confidence, and personal growth.”
Bianca Castrejon, Social Work Junior at UTEP
I want to take part in empowering young girls and teens, especially at these ages when self-esteem and confidence can be hard to come by for any young girl. Participating in this internship with Latinitas will help me gain the experience and confidence in working with youths especially through creativity which I take great interest in.
Danielle Ortiz, Psychology Senior at UTEP
I can mentor those young women who are Latinas such as I am. Getting an opportunity to help young girls, especially those in my cultural community is an exciting thing for me.
Lilia Hernandez, Marketing & Finance Senior at UTEP
I want to develop and practice my skills in leadership, creativity and team work. I can gain work experience, help people and this organization helps me grow at the same time.
Mara Rivas Cano, Psychology Senior at UTEP
Latinitas allows me to be in contact with children to mentor them and apply my knowledge in Psychology to better their lives and enrich them as much as possible. For me, working with young people is not a job it is my calling. I think that been a part of children’s lives is a responsibility to young adults and older people in the sense that we can make an impact in their lives and change them in a good way.
Alexis Bobadilla, Communication Disorders Sophomore at EPCC
I want to participate with Latinitas to help Latina youth. My career goals are to someday be a speech pathologist in an elementary school. Latinitas will help me gain more experience with young children. I hope to gain knowledge that will help me in the near future when I begin my career with young students.
Daniela Lagunes, Psychology Senior at UTEP
I had a blast with these amazing young girls. Their smiles are contagious as well as their energy and enthusiasm. I hope we can share more time together.
Sonia Rangel, Graduate from UT-Austin
It is important for pre-teen and teenage Latinas here to have a voice. It’s more about culture, why we’re proud to be women, why we’re proud to be Latinas.
Denise Riojas joined Latinitas in the 7th grade at Martin Middle School and participated until she graduated 8th grade. Quiet and thoughtful, Denise took a little time coming out of her shell, but when she did, her take on Latinas and media representation opened up. “Latinitas made me feel proud of my culture, something I had been waiting for since I was a girl. I know Latinitas has made me a more confident person.” Denise really enjoyed the opportunity to express herself through media making websites, producing ‘zines and short “webisodes” about life in middle school. Now a junior at the University of Texas Austin studying nursing, Denise returns to help Latinitas in a leadership capacity making presentations on health and fitness during our summer camp series and by managing workshops at Latinitas’ annual Chica conferences focused on tech in 2012 and college attainment in 2013. Denise helped girls produce their public services announcements on using technology for good and topics related to going to college. Denise is certainly paying it forward in the cycle of mentorship.
Board Member Spotlight: Gracie Cain
Gracie Cain, Latinitas Board Member, has been the heart of our marketing and event planning committee. Gracie has helped coordinate several Latinitas fundraisers, such as the Butterfly Effect, Fashion Shows, and, most recently, Tiara Tuesday. Gracie joined Latinitas to help make an impact in addressing some of the challenges girls face: “In my opinion, important issues facing Latina youth today would be education, teen pregnancy and self-esteem. As a member of Latinitas, I love being able to impact these areas in a positive manner.” Gracie is a native El Pasoan with experience in business consulting, marketing, event planning, media and sales. She is also the founder and Creative Director at Emajj. Gracie studied communication at the University of Texas at El Paso. She began her career in the El Paso Channel 44 where she served as a producer and worked in the traffic and marketing department. She is highly active in her community with volunteer experience with groups such as Drawing Smiles, YMCA, Humane Society, MHMR, Homeless Shelter and Rock Faith Center.