“Muerto el perro se acabó la rabia.”
It’s no secret that the quality of education for working class minority communities in the United States needs to be improved. Statistics that were recently revealed serve as the latest example of the shocking disparity that exists within the American education system. The fact that American students from low-income families are taught by teachers with less experience can be considered a root cause for statistics such as over one-third of Latina students not graduating high school, according to a study conducted by the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.
On the other hand, a constantly growing grassroots movement has created social justice by providing mentorship, educational resources and career advice to young Latina students. The name of this movement is Adelante Mujer Latina (AML) and it has been organized by volunteers in the Los Angeles area for nearly two decades. Multicultural marketing maven Angelica Urquijo and linguist Sandra M. Gutierrez, two of AML’s many volunteers, recently explained their initiatives while preparing for tomorrow’s AML Conference at Pasadena City College.
Sandra M. Gutierrez: AML 2012 will for the first time have a strong focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. In anticipation of the diverse career opportunities which will be available in these fields in the near future, AML is hosting a STEM careers workshop featuring Massachusetts Institute of Technology alum Noramay Cadena. She is also going to make tomorrow morning’s keynote address.
Cadena will be one of 148 Latina professionals who have expertise in a wide range of industries and will share their knowledge with students tomorrow via workshops. In addition to this unprecedented number of workshops, we will offer workshops in Spanish for the student’s mothers and feature over 75 exhibitors representing colleges, universities, corporate and government employers and community organizations.
AML 2012 will also provide several new scholarships offered by Latina Fashionista ($250), Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne ($250) and $500 which will be distributed to several students thanks to the Pasadena Youth Center and Assemblyman Anthony Portantino
More than 20,000 Latina students have attended AML since 1995 and we have seen a steady growth of attendance every year at a rate of 8%. This year we will be welcoming 8% more participants than 2011 and we’re expecting around 2,000 in total.
LATISM: How long have you been involved and what has been the most memorable experience for you?
Sandra M. Gutierrez: I’ve been planning AML conferences for more than 15 years on the Advisory Committee. The most memorable experience was standing backstage at the conference plenary session, holding hands with the teens and leading them through a breathing exercise before they went on stage. Wow! All of the work throughout the year paid off when I saw the teens poised and standing proud before 1,000 of their peers.
Angelica Urquijo. I’ve been involved on the AML Advisory Committee since 2005. It is such an empowering day not only for the teens but also for the adults who serve as mentors, members of the advisory committee and the workshop presenters. I’ve witnessed with my own eyes how powerful it is for a young woman to seeLatina professionals sharing stories of the journey they have taken that ultimately led to their success today. Many of the girls attending the conference don’t have anybody in their life who can offer them hope for the future or who can offer them insight into how to beat the odds and attain their dreams to attend college. They walk into the conference lacking confidence in themselves and not believing that they have potential as professionals. At the end of the day it is so beautiful to see these young women leaving the conference energized, believing in themselves and ready to begin the process that will lead them to college. Thanks to the advice they receive, these young women learn to stand tall, walk with confidence, and develop the mentality needed in order to face the word, beat the odds and attain the American Dream. For us adults it is a reminder of why it is important to be there on that day for these girls because we want to make their journeys easier. In our hearts it is a little reminder of what it was like for us at their age. Oh, how I wish I would have had the opportunity to surround myself with successful Latinas when I was a teen.
LATISM: What is the most important reason you believe young Latina students need to attend this event?
Sandra M. Gutierrez: First: inspiration. We all need inspiration to give us courage to pursue our dreams. The Adelante conference provides inspiration. Second: a road map for success. The conference also provides the tools and resources to help the girls develop a road map for their success. Third: empowerment. With inspiration, empowerment and resources in hand, the girls are empowered to follow their dreams.
LATISM: Are there any plans for expanding to other cities?
Sandra M. Gutierrez: Not yet. Adelante conferences are planned locally in various communities throughout the Southwest. Our Pasadena conference reaches broadly through Southern California. We have families coming from as far away as Santa Barbara,Fresno and the Imperial Valley. The core of attendance is from theLos AngelesCounty area.
Last year, the PasadenaYouthCentersponsored the first Adelante Young Man’s Conference. Building on the successful model of the Latina conference, the young men’s conference promises to grow in coming years.
LATISM: What are some resources that you recommend to those who won’t be able to come to AML?
Sandra M. Gutierrez: I recommend visiting our website (www.pasadenayouthcenter.org). For financial aid resources, I recommend the College Saving Plan (www.scholarshare.com), Fastweb (www.fastweb.com) and the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website (www.fafsa.ed.gov).
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