Latinas get recognition
Con Mi Madre recognizes some of Austin's most outstanding women and theircontributions to a better future
Con Mi MADRE is much more than a college preparatory program for Hispanic female students and their mothers: They're a support group, education advocates, agents of change and, based on the impact they've had in the Hispanic community in the last two decades, a group that will be responsible for transforming Texas into the largest bilingual workforce in the nation in the near future.
For the mothers and daughters that become involved with them, the people that work with them in Con Mi MADRE also become family.
Now, Con Mi MADRE is celebrating their twenty years and much more. The third Annual Mother’s Day brunch and award ceremony, to be held this Sunday, May 6, will recognize outstanding women who are making a significant impact in the Austin community.
"Since I was a little girl, helping others has been something I enjoy doing. I arrived in this country twenty years ago and I've learned a lot since then. It feels good to be able to use that knowledge to help others."
Silvia Martínez is one of the award recipients this year. She will be honored with the Mother/Daughter Award. Martínez came to the US when she was 16 years old; the struggles she had to endure and the uphill battles of those around her helped her develop a passion for helping others. She now attends English classes at Austin Community College and enjoys learning about how to better her relationships with family, friends and her community.
Martínez serves on the Board of Directors for the Workers Defense Project, where she works to improve the life for construction workers who sometimes do not get paid. She also volunteers for Sustainable Food Center, where she facilitates and helps educate people on how to eat healthy, and most recently was appointed to serve as a Board of Director for the Grupo de Crecimiento — she also has two daughters who are involved with Con Mi MADRE.
"When I give, I'm really the one that's receiving," says Martínez. "I'm very happy to be the recipient of the Corazón award. Since I was a little girl, helping others has been something I enjoy doing. I arrived in this country twenty years ago and I've learned a lot since then. It feels good to be able to use that knowledge to help others."
Martínez thinks programs like Con Mi MADRE are vital when it comes to helping young Latinas realize their full potential. While the help is great, she says that life in the US is a constant struggle for those that want to better themselves. The important thing is not quitting.
"I have class today and I'm tired and have a lot to do, but I'm still going to go," says Martínez. "Balancing work, a household and college is really hard, but there I am, day in and day out. Thanks to the help I've gotten, I can do it all. That's what Con Mi MADRE does, it gives us the tools to get things done. They help girls believe they can go to college. I have a daughter in college now. It's a lot of money and it's not easy, but it's all worthy when you look at where she's going. The sad thing is that our culture doesn't want to take advantage of opportunities like this. You have to be a fighter and never stop. All your dreams can come true, but you have to fight, you have to have tenacity and put in the hard work."
"That's what Con Mi MADRE does, it gives us the tools to get things done. They help girls believe they can go to college."
They're getting the tools so that they believe they can go to college. It's a lot of money, it's not easy. The sad thing is our culture doesn't want to take advantage of those things, you have to be a fighter. Don't stop. All your dreams can come true, but you have to fight. Tenacity, hard work and a fighting spirit are what will get you through the struggle every single day. You just have to believe it."
Karen Gonzalez is one of the many students that have acquired the tools that Con Mi MADRE tries to give young Hispanic females. She worked hard and the payoff is great: she recently graduated college as is on her way to pursue a Masters in Social Work at Texas State University.
"I owe a lot of my success to Con Mi Madre," says Gonzalez. "They're really a great support system. I didn't even know how to start with all the processes that you have to go through to go to college and they helped make it happen."
Knowing that there are many young Latinas out there who are currently facing the same problems and fears she faced as a senior in high school, Gonzalez wanted to share a few words of wisdom.
"If I could tell the girls one thing it would be to never give up," says Gonzalez. "There are barriers and struggles... it's really like a rollercoaster of emotions, but you can't quit. This semester was my hardest one ever. I had graduation, big projects, I got married and the workload at school was real bad. I had a hard time trying to balance my personal life with college and working full-time, but with perseverance I got through it. I juts knew that quitting after all that hard work was not an option."
After all the help she has received from Con Mi MADRE, Gonzalez plans to give back as soon as she finishes her Masters.
"My aspiration is to work with them," says Gonzalez. "I really look forward to it. What they do for girls is great. Hopefully I can get my certification in social work and give back to them by helping girls overcome a culture where women are taught that they need to stay at home. That mentality hurts them and that's why you have many girls staying at home and not doing great things."
Sandy Alcalá knows very well the plethora of situations that young Latinas face and how important it is to help them overcome them. As a member of the Board of Directors fro Con Mi MADRE, Alcalá possesses an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the issues that young Latinas face today.
" We shepherd both the student and the mother. What we want to create is a shift in the way they think, a cultural shift."
"Having this celebration gives me a great feeling," says Alcalá. "As a Hispanic female, I thank God that there were proactive women who encouraged me to go to college. Most people think we only help girls get into college. That's not what we do. We shepherd both the student and the mother. What we want to create is a shift in the way they think, a cultural shift. When we create that shift in a mother, she takes that home and plants the seed, the idea that you can go to college."
Alcalá explained that Con Mi MADRE's origins had to do with the fact that about 1% of Latinas were receiving a higher education two decades ago. Today, thanks to the efforts of programs like the one she works for, that has changed. Still, there is much work to be done if we want to ensure a better future for Texas.
"The growth in the Latino population is not going to slow down or go backwards," says Alcalá. "What's scary about it is that in the near future Latinos are going to be the biggest group in the population and they will also be the least educated. What does that mean for Texas's future? If the majority of Hispanics are not educated, the state will have to become a service-oriented state. What we do now is what will make or break our future. If we get it right, we'll be able to say we have the largest bilingual workforce in the nation and maybe in the world."
The 3rd Annual Corazon Awards Mother’s Day brunch and ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 6 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Radisson on Town Lake. This year's honorees include MariBen Ramsey, Vice President, COO and General Counsel for the Austin Community Foundation, Laura Duran Villa and Gigi Edwards Bryant. For more information, visit Con Mi MADRE's website here.