The Latino community faces many barriers with regards to education, health and economic opportunities. Cultural traditions do not encourage women toward educational or professional advancement. A report released in August of 2009 states that “41% of Latina students do not graduate on time with a standard high school diploma. As Latinos work to provide for their families, education too often takes a back seat to survival. Latina students must take on parental duties to either younger siblings, or, in a community with the highest teen pregnancy rate, their own children.”
MANA de San Diego’s Hermanitas program works to overcome these barriers, develop successful and responsible young Latinas, and to lower the Latina high school dropout and teen pregnancy rates while encouraging the pursuit of higher education. Created in 1987, Hermanitas has served more than 680 Latinas in middle through high school. The students are matched with a mentor and required to attend monthly educational seminars, complete community service hours, and various writing and reading assignments. Topics covered through the seminars and assignments include health and wellness, cultural awareness, self esteem, education, career opportunities, technology, and the environment. Mentors are women who are either pursuing a degree in higher education or have earned a college degree themselves.
Southwest Airlines has been a supporter of MANA de San Diego and its Hermanitas program for many years. Every year they provide airline tickets for twenty girls and chaperones to attend the National Hermanitas Leadership Institute usually held in Washington DC or Miami. The majority of the girls have never been on an airplane, much less traveled out of San Diego. The conference exposes the girls to Latinas in powerful positions in the fields of politics, law, technology and more. In 2010, MANA de San Diego hosted the Hermanitas conference locally and Southwest Airlines was the presenting sponsor. Lidia Martinez, SWA Manager of Community Affairs and Grassroots, served on the committee and helped recruit speakers and sponsors to underwrite expenses. Southwest Airlines also sponsored four Hermanitas to attend Latina Action Day this past summer in Sacramento. With the help of Southwest Airlines, MANA de San Diego is encouraging these girls to have high expectations of themselves and know that the sky is the limit when it comes to fulfilling your dreams.
MANA’s programs work toward making a difference for Latinas. The key to their success has been the sisterhood that provides support and encouragement for all Latinas of all ages, at all levels of their careers. Many women who have been beneficiaries of our programs have moved on to accomplish great things. Venus Molina was one of the first Hermanitas and now works as the Chief Policy Advisor for Councilmember Tony Young. Assemblywoman Mary Salas is a past MANA President and she credits her her MANAs for encouraging her to start her political ambitions. Past scholarship recipient Dr. Patricia Cantero now serves as the current scholarship committee chair.
2011 is MANA de San Diego’s 25th Anniversary and they are planning a spectacular celebration and the public is invited to get involved with MANA to commemorate this milestone! They need mentors for the Hermanitas program, volunteers, donations, in-kind contributions and your ideas. Everyone is invited to contact the MANA office to participate in an exciting new chapter for MANA de San Diego!
About MANA de San Diego:
MANA offers the following programs which have achieved much success:
· The Hermanitas Youth Leadership Mentor Program provides one-on-one mentoring for Latinas ages 12-18 and encourages the pursuit of higher education. Since 2006, 100% of the Hermanitas have graduated high school and 98% have pursued higher education.
· San Diego Dia de la Mujer Health Festival provides free health and wellness screenings to the underserved Latino population. More than 3,500 Latinas and their families have received services such as mammograms, glucose and cholesterol screenings, dental and vision tests, and much more.
· The Sylvia Chavez Scholarship Program awards Latinas scholarships for associate to post-doctoral degrees. Since its inception in 1991, MANA has awarded 288 scholarships totaling $287,500.
· The Latina Success Conference and Platicas programs engage Latinas with current social, economic, and professional topics that enhance their career development. MANA has empowered more than 2,000 women with professional development.