This spring, Michelle Villanueva – a high school senior – will graduate alongside Lydia Barerra, her mother.
Both are members of Adelante Mujeres, an Oregon-based organization that empowers Latinas to lead in their communities. Adelante Mujeres guided each woman along her academic journey, while offering a strong support network and a space to feel heard outside the classroom.
Visualizing such a future can be a barrier for many prospective first-generation college students, for whom a college campus can feel inaccessible and unwelcoming.
That’s why Adelante Mujeres takes girls as young as third graders to visit colleges, making places of higher education feel familiar and within reach.
More than an opportunity to tour both campuses, these visits provided students an opportunity to see what their own futures might look like. Students spoke with
Packed with self-reflection workshops, the experience also provided a forum to reflect on how their Latina identities have shaped their journeys and how stereotypes will not limit their successes.
Lucila Gambino, a youth facilitator with Adelante Mujeres, believes such reflection in a space where participants feel heard helps them to develop “personal poder” – personal power.
“The chicas feeling heard celebrates their identities and voice and encourages them to use it in the best way they can,” Gambino explains. “Education empowers. We’ve learned that educating women and girls helps the community as a whole story.
For Villanueva, the experience was a reminder of how close she is to achieving her dream of higher education.
“It’s right there," she concludes. "I just need to open the door.”
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