Five years ago, a group of women- from all walks of life and of all ages- coalesced around a common cause. We knew the difference that education made in our lives and we also knew that not everyone had the same access to education and possibility. We wanted to galvanize the incredible power of women around a common cause and make a difference and so we gathered in a circle and dreamed. Our dreams and design yielded Circle de Luz, an incredible program that radically empowers young Latinas by supporting their transformation through extensive mentoring, holistic programming and scholarship funds for further education.
In our vision, we created a six year experience (our members are in the program from seventh grade until high school graduation) that blends extensive mentoring with holistic programming and offers the girls a scholarship for further education when they graduate from high school. In many ways, Circle de Luz operates as a typical non-profit. We write grants and host fundraisers to provide our transformative programming and cover our administrative expenses, but what makes Circle de Luz really special is our giving circles. The promise we make to our girls is that we will award them with a minimum of a $5,000 scholarship when they each graduate. In order to secure those funds, every single Circle de Luz class has a giving circle to support it. Our giving circles join together a group of like-minded women who want to be a part of making this dramatic difference and thus commit for giving $100 a year to each of the 6 years that their class of girls is in the program. That money goes directly to the scholarship fund and then each giving circle member, we call them mijas, can be as involved as they would like. Some of our mijas are local to Charlotte and can be involved in programs (but they do not have to be– we like to say that Circle de Luz really allows every mija to choose her own adventure) but our mijas come from over 25 states and countries and so many are engaged from a distance. We keep them up to date with our program through emails, videos, newsletters, and other connections.
It is really amazing to be with our hijas for six years because we get to see so much of their development. We have seen students go from failing classes to the honor roll, from skipping school to joining ROTC where they have a host of responsibilities, from hating exercise to running seven minute miles. While I can share what I see, it may be even more significant to hear from one of the girls. Every spring, we have a powerful end of year event where several of the girls speak about their experience.
This year, one girl shared these observations:
Three years ago, I dealt with really horrible anxiety. Anxiety caused me to fear a lot of normal activities other kids were able to do and I couldn’t. I started middle school where I interacted more with books than I did with people and, although I had really supportive parents, I had really low self-esteem…
For me, Circle de Luz started as a way to academically help me. I went to a school where we were being preached more about how people “like us” didn’t make it to college or even high school. Circle de Luz was different… After my first year with this program, I slowly witnessed my confidence growing within me. I began doing things in and out of school and even started Tae Kwon Do!
These past few years, Circle de Luz has not changed the person I am but rather helped shape it. I earned my black belt this year. I thank Tae Kwon Do and Circle de Luz for helping me grow into a more outspoken, confident, and spunky individual. My family has also learned through the program and (it has) inspired us in many ways, including my parents going back to school to get further education. I am proud to say that college has become a casual topic at dinnertime and even taught me a new appreciation for my culture… I am blessed to be part of Circle de Luz and to have met the most supportive and influential people behind it all. You inspire me. Thank you.
As you might imagine, our hijas are our inspiration. When we conceived CdL, we all had a loose expectation and dream but meeting the girls and walking this journey with them has made our dream clear and huge. We are adding our newest class of hijas (what we call our members) this fall and we are currently recruiting a class of mijas to support them. Mijas can live anywhere and have any background. It would be our honor to have you be a part of our circle.
If you are interested in joining the circle, no money is needed at this time. We simply need you to complete and either mail in or email in our Letter of Commitment . We’ll be back in touch once your circle formally begins! Thank you so much for considering being a part of this amazing cause!