The nature of Latinitas brings volunteers to our doors as old as 70 and as young as high school, but when young people do volunteer we get extra excited. That kind of initiative is unique, especially for a college freshman just getting her bearings in Austin, TX. Lucero Estrella came to Latinitas Austin in the Fall of 2014 looking to continue a thread of social justice advocacy and mentoring she started living in Brownsville, TX where she worked with youth tutoring and instilling cultural pride through a city program. She took to leading a Latinitas club like a mariachi to tight decorative pants and mentored 20 girls at Zavala Elementary last year. This past summer, she was back committed for 4 weeks of leadership and currently she is our facilitator on site at the Housing Authority of the City of Austin teaching families how to use digital technology to record memories, goal set, create a permanent resume and more. Grateful for volunteers like Lucero – we wanted to get to know her a little better and asked her about herself.
Boris Pilev started helping Latinitas last year first with some great workshops on taking advantage of Google’s suite of free apps and then later providing strategy support for Latinitas’ alumni. His enthusiasm for matching his technology savvy with non-profit need is so appreciated by Latinitas staff, board and program participants. We asked him a little bit about himself and what he liked about volunteering at Latinitas.
Q: What do you like about Google’s outreach programs to community?
A: Being able to help in the communities where we work and live has so much impact because I am able to see the changes in front of my eyes. Austin is a special place and I am still in love with the community here.
Q: Talk about your origin and how that relates to helping a group like Latinitas –so focused on culture.
A: I was born and raised in Bulgaria, small country in Eastern Europe. My family immigrated to the US when I was in my last year in high school. Moving to central Illinois I found myself in predominately Latino neighborhood where most of my friends were Spanish speaking. This is how I started speaking Spanish, even before I learn to speak decent English.
I am fortunate to have lived in multiple different cultures – some widely different than the others but this to me is an incredible gift. I can relate to more people, I can find common language ( literally).
The moment we came to the Latinitas offices I felt taken back to the organizations in Urbana-Champaign, IL who helped my family – the vibe was the same.
Q: What kind of training did you have to work at Google?
A: I can speak of my personal background. I have undergraduate degree from University of Illinois in International Studies with minors in Anthropology and Spanish and Masters in HR Management, with added focus in European studies and Portuguese. When I finished, I joined Deloitte Consulting in their Human Capital consulting practice where I spent 2 years before joining Google as Recruiting Coordinator for Latin America.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I am an avid photographer and I travel as much as I can (both are very complimentary). Experiencing new places and meeting new people is another form of education for me and I cannot get enough of it. My last voyage was to Perú this summer and I am already working on my next trip
The Latinitas team would like to thank our Business Chica planning team members. Special thanks to our committee members who help in organizing our Business Chica conference with the aim of inspiring the next generation of business leaders. Our planning team members help with event planning, coordinating the agenda, recruiting speakers, obtaining event donations, promoting the event, recruiting girls and helping plan a wonderful experience for our girls. Our team members share why they are passionate about giving back to the community and helping encourage girls to become leaders:
I would like to use my marketing and PR skills to help one of the most important and vulnerable groups of society- Hispanic young girls. I would like to share my experiences as an immigrant and mother of two young girls immigrants with them. I would like to share my advice with El Paso young Latinas about the importance of education and hard work in this country. I want to encourage them to pursue their goals.
I enjoy helping people as much as I possibly can. I feel that it is important to expose our young women to great opportunities in the area of business. Education is the start of a great things to come for each and every one of them. I feel that our society does not emphasize the importance of education enough. We need to encourage our Latinitas that with education the sky is the limit. I can not stress the importance of education enough. I want to encourage girls to be involved in community events as much as possible and to surround themselves with positive people.
Christian Alexis Salas
I love the opportunity to impart some of my learning experiences with young girls to help them in their future. Youth need mentors and role models. I enjoy mentoring teens because there is still so much they haven’t discovered about their gifts and talents. I know I could learn from their childlike imagination! It’s fun to see them discover and develop their abilities. I want to encourage young leaders. Girls that love what they do, know how to do it and are willing to show others!
Video Production Intern
UTEP, Junior, Multimedia Journalism Major
“I like participating with Latinitas because it is local and I’m 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. Latinitas will help me reach my goals by serving as a stepping stone and a foundation to what my future may hold. Latinitas will help me see what side of multimedia journalism I’m more comfortable with. It will also serve as a window to view what could potentially be my ultimate career!”
UTEP, Senior, Media Advertising Major
“I think that Latinitas is important for young because it gives them a chance to step outside of their culture and look beyond the expectations that society places on them to realize their true potential through education. What I like most about Latinitas is that there is a focus on empowerment through media and technology. This is because I think that it is important to have a space where Latinas are able to challenge discourse and the stereotypes that come along with being a woman or a Latina by making their mark in the media.”
Anna is passionate about promoting leadership, civic engagement and education among local youth. “I have always loved to work with youth, and most importantly inspire and guide them to thrive within education choices and thus teach them about giving back to their community,” shared Anna.
She enjoys encouraging girls to break stereotypes and reach their full potential. “Textbooks, through images and vocabulary, have a deep impact on girls’ and boys’ attitudes over their career choices. I would like to break those gender stereotype career choices that these girls have learned that they need to follow,” she added.
She decided to join Latinitas because she wanted to “see participants gain knowledge about the opportunities education can offer them.”
Selena Blanco, Camp Outreach Intern
“I fell in love with what the Latinitas mission is and am very excited to help out. I want to be able to make a positive impact with anyone that I can, and I think that this is the best was to achieve this. Not only do I think that this will help young Latina girls, but I think that it will also help me out as well. I will learn so much from this and the young Latina girls as well, and it will just be an awesome experience overall.”
Kaitlyn Jackson, Photography Intern Pace University, Freshman, Arts Management Major
“I would like to help Hispanic youth in any way I can. Hispanics will soon be the majority in America and empowering our youth now will only benefit our country, and the world in the future.”
Zaira Lujan, Editorial Intern
“I want to be able to reach out to young Latinas and help them find their voice. Latinitas offers an opportunity to do so through digital media, which allows anyone with internet access to come across the magazine and benefit from it. By sharing my stories, my experiences, and my thoughts, I would hope to act as a mentor and a friend to a Latinita. By doing so, I can hope that they can realize their full potential and strive to excel in the path they chose to take.” Celeste Ledesma, Editorial Intern Bryn Mawr College, Sophomore, Gender Studies Major
“I think having an internship with Latinitas would prepare me well for my future academic pursuits and career because it will give me a reason to continuously read, learn, and write about the issues that affect and influence the community that is close to my heart.”
On June 13th, the Latinitas team collaborated with the Wise Latina International organization to co-host a youth track as part of the women’s summit. To inspire the next generation of Wise Latina leaders, girls in middle and high school were invited to hear inspirational presentations from women leaders, view informative documentaries on issues facing youth, participate in service projects, and get helpful advice for their future success. The girls participated in hands-on workshops focused on self-expression through photography, film, creative writing and art. Our presenters included educator Georgina Cecilia Perez, activist Amie Flores, poet Maria Maloney, actress Andrea Gordillo, filmmaker Jen Lucero and counselor Celeste Nevarez. The workshop topics included cyberbullying, confidence, self-esteem, media literacy, stereotypes and cultural pride.
The Latinitas team would like to express our deep gratitude to mural instructor and guest artist – Dave Herrera from 3G Murals & Sign Co.
IMPORTANCE OF CONNECTING YOUTH TO THE ARTS
“It’s important and essential to expose youth to art because : You are enriching their lives, as a parent It is a blessing to pass on to our children the best things in life that can inspire, motivate, empower and educate them. Art is one of the many precious attributes in our humanity that define us as people. It allows self discovery and expression. It is powerful and explosive. Art allows us to find ourselves and create within. It makes life colorful and positively enlightening. The question should be why would we not introduce youth to art. The most important benefit I’ve witness from my self and working with others is that it is a therapy. A therapy that allows our minds to ease the anxiety, fear, pain and help turn that into joy, pride, and peace. It breaks down barriers and creates bridges. Art is a gift to humanity in many forms. What kind of a world would we live in without the arts. It is the sweetness in our souls.”
PASSION FOR MURALS
“I passionate about murals- Murals are the birth of human communication through written codes, words and expressions. Murals are the finger print of our humanity. In our savvy world of high tech we quickly forget that the most delicate things in life don’t require a battery boost or usb. What if the circuit grid lost power? Then what? It would be a manifestation of how much humanity we have lost due to tech dependency. Murals are still hand made by the soul. It’s a bonding of humanity when they are created through thoughts, voice and wireless communication. Murals preserve our humanity.”
Latinitas would like to extend our deepest appreciation to our Aim High Co-Chairs – Lucia Hernandez and Stephanie Moreno. Both women have educational and career experience in the science field and took on the role of inspiring the next generation of female leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
Lucia Hernandez was motivated to join Latinitas because she wanted “to give back to my community.” She has a masters in public health from UTEP and currently works at the YWCA coordinating the Two Should Know program. “I feel that with my experience in the work force I have skills that can help move the mission of the latinitas forward. I hope to help young Latina women embrace themselves and become strong, confident, independent woman.”
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.”
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 Stretchrecipes.com 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.
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.