"Crystal's Story: Helping Young Latinas Flourish"

Story re-posted from the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette's Success Stories

Crystal is on her way to college and prepared to meet new challenges thanks to Adelante Chicas and United Way. Adelante Chicas in Spanish means move forward, go ahead, or flourish and that's exactly what girls like Crystal are doing with the help of this Washington County project.

One of the strengths of the project is the relationships that are built between the "chicas" and their mentors who are staff of Adelante Mujeres, the organization that leads the collaborative project in partnership with Bienestar and the Forest Grove School District.

Those relationships with mentors, who themselves are Latinas, provide not only an empowering role model for the girls but a resource to talk about difficult but important topics. "I really appreciate all the work our program coordinator, Araceli, does and our guest speakers who work with us after school, they bring so many topics into the group, topics that at home you don't really talk about because of our culture," said Crystal.

The project also operates in Echo Shaw Elementary School in Forest Grove and Rogelio Martinez, Principal of Echo Shaw, knows how much the Adelante Chicas helps young Latinas because his daughter is in the program.

"To be able to have something for Latinas is crucial for their foundation, not only academically but also for their cultural identity," said Rogelio. He also points out that the education achievement gap is significantly affecting Latino students. "To be able to provide a space for young Latinas to learn from Latinas themselves, receive help with homework and give them the motivation and support academically and culturally is hugely important in closing that gap." He adds, "speaking as a parent, having seen my daughter become much more proud of herself as a Latina is a beautiful thing."
The Adelante Chicas program counts on funding support from the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette to engage Latina youth in positive after-school programming, leadership development and summer activities.