Partners in Empowerment: Literacy First and Latinitas

Literacy First tutors provide support to over 30 community nonprofits each year. (In fact, last year, they provided over 8,000 hours of service around Austin!) For Roxana, working at Latinitas was another way to build empowerment for a community she cares for deeply. Here’s why.

By Roxanna Torres, 2017-18 Literacy First tutor

My community partnership is with Latinitas, an organization that focuses on empowering young girls through technology. At Latinitas, I work with girls in 4th and 5th grade. When I was that age, we did not have programs such as Latinitas! Sure, we had mentor programs but none so closely tied to technology, with iPads or video equipment, and definitely not lessons teaching us how to code.

Latinitas is so much more than learning tech. I think that’s why it makes me happy to be a part of this organization. The tech world is often seen as a male-dominated field, so it’s relevant to show girls at a young age that they are more than capable of being interested in and mastering skills that are said to be “for males.”

Honestly, I did not start speaking out against the social norms women are placed in until college. When I was little I never thought to argue back, or even notice, how much pressure society puts onto girls and women. I only knew I was a girl so I was expected to do certain things — and I would. As I got older, I realized I did not have to be skinny or have a lot of makeup on to be considered beautiful. Vanity is not everything. Even at the age of 22, I sometimes struggle with the idea of what a woman should be or look like.  Latinitas helped me work through these ideas – just like our students did.

Latinitas teaches girls that media is excellent…when it is used for proper representation. In one lesson, we showed girls videos and filmed their reactions. Two films were shown. One was beauty standards around the world and the other showed women applying makeup. Although the girls were aware we were recording them, they were not paying attention to the cameras. Their focus was on the film the whole time.

I will not forget Madison’s reactions throughout the entire clip. Madison kept on saying how it didn’t matter if we wear makeup because at the end of the day we are the same with and without it. The other leader and I smiled at each other. We saw that when Madison gets older she can advocate for women against being judged by unfair standards.

This tied me closer to my community because I am able to see firsthand the girls that will grow up in Austin. Even with so much influence from the media they are currently embracing being a woman and they will not allow for unfair standards to be applied to them. Working with these girls daily, being able to remind them that what they feel and think is valid, gives me hope for the future when they are grown up. I think it’s important to remind them that later in life things can be hard because we are female, but that doesn’t mean we should stay quiet. I enjoy Latinitas so much because I am able to be a part of their growth.

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