Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hispanic girls share stories of empowerment

Hispanic girls share stories of empowerment

Some grew up in peaceful villages where the air was clean and crowing roosters were their alarm clocks. Others picked fruit fresh every day and rode on horses. Still others left gang-infested towns, away from violence.

They love their mothers’ cooking, but enjoy burgers, marvel at snow in the winter and cars everywhere.

While each are from different backgrounds, the members of HERMANAS, Kenosha Unified’s empowerment group for Hispanic girls, said they view their successes and challenges both through the lens of their Hispanic roots and in American culture.

On Friday, they shared poems celebrating both at the first Bilingual Poetry Expression presentation and potluck dinner. HERMANAS stands for Hispanic Educational Resource Mentoring and Navigating Academic Success.

Amanda Arroyo, a sophomore at Harborside Academy, said she loves her loud Puerto Rican family, who have taught her to learn from mistakes, and she enjoys being at her school.

“I go to a school where everyone is positive,” she said before about 20 parents and others who attended the event. “No matter what happens, I’m from a family who says, ‘Don’t complain because you have it so good.’”

Estrella Vincencio, who graduated last week from Indian Trail Academy, came from a place “where there were gangs everywhere,” before moving to a safer city with her family in her new-found home of Kenosha.

Moving to the United States, she saw falling snow for the first time and “so many cars.”

She said she found she belongs in both worlds in a “mixture of everything I have left.”

“This is where I am from,” she said.

Jesus Santos said she is from a family who “likes to do a lot of things together.”

“I am from where they use horses instead of cars,” she said. “From where there is no gangs or shootings.”

MarKisha Henderson Diaz, who considers herself a “small-town girl,” has traveled to many places, from celebrating luaus to life in the Bronx.

“I am from a family where every day is an adventure,” she said.

Her sister Meralisse Maceira, a seventh-grader at McKinley Middle School, was proud of her family’s service in the military and being able to hang tough in male-dominated sports.

“I’m from boys who pick me (for their teams) so they don’t get their butt kicked,” she said. “That’s where I’m from.”

Consuelo Bridgeman, the group’s adviser, said she was proud of the girls, some of whom could barely whisper their names to her before joining the group.

Beatrice Arroyo, a parent volunteer, said the confidence they have built will enable them to succeed in becoming anything they want, from doctors and lawyers to judges.

Next month some of the girls will be attending the League of United Latin American Citizens’ youth leadership camp in Puerto Rico, for which they raised funds by selling hundreds of tamales. The girls are also members of the league’s youth council.

“These ladies will make it, and we won’t stop until they do,” she said.

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