While writing Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina in 2006, author Rosie Molinary was struck by the daunting challenges many young Latinas face.
Forty-one percent of Latinas do not graduate with their high school class.
Adolescent girls who had a serious school failure- like dropping out- are significantly more likely to suffer a severe bout of depression. In fact, thirty-three percent of girls who drop out later become depressed. Researchers believe this might be because girls more acutely suffer the worst consequences after dropping out like higher poverty levels, higher dependence on public assistance, and lower rates of job stability.
A third of Latinas who dropped out cited marriage or pregnancy as the reason.
Fifty-three percent of Latinas will become pregnant at least once before the age of 20.
After sharing these concerns with friends and colleagues, the group conceived of a non-profit and women’s giving circle that would provide scholarship incentives and mentoring and programming support to middle school Latinas so that they would be encouraged to complete high school and pursue further education. Each founding board member had witnessed firsthand the power of education on girls’ self-confidence and self-efficacy. And they hoped that with financial and personal support, young Latinas’ would gain further resolve in pursuing lives of their own imagining.
The Circle de Luz mission is to radically empower young Latinas by supporting and inspiring them in the pursuit of their possibilities through extensive mentoring, programming, and scholarship funds for further education.
We launched in May 2008 in partnership with Communities in Schools and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools at James Martin Middle School. With the assistance of the school staff, we selected 8 Hijas (Hijas is Spanish for daughter, a term of endearment among Latinos) to be in the program in the fall of 2008. Today, they are ninth graders. In the fall of 2009, we selected six Hijas from Ranson Middle School. In October 2010, we selected six Hijas from Albemarle Road Middle School.
For six years, from the time the girls are in seventh grade until they graduate from high school, we provide the girls with comprehensive group programming and mentoring that enhance their academic experience while inspiring their personal dreams. We see our Hijas as individual classes and as a whole group 3-4 times each month. Our priority is to give the girls and their families the support they need to help them achieve their goal of graduating from high school and pursuing further education. When they graduate from high school and enroll in the educational opportunity of their choice, we will support them with a minimum of a $5,000 scholarship provided to them by women, we call them M’ijas, from all over the country that pool their resources in a giving circle for the six years the girls are finishing their secondary education. We have over 150 M’ijas from around the country who are supporting these three classes of young women. Our M’ijas come from every background, from more than 20 states throughout the country and range in age from 16 to late 60s. At this time, we are a completely volunteer-driven organization.
Learn more about Circle de Luz and how you can become involved.