Latinas motivated by TVs 'Ugly Betty'

Latinas hear it from 'Ugly Betty'
BY MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA, Sun Times, July 26, 2009

She's best known as TV's "Ugly Betty," but on Saturday, young Latina actress America Ferrara was the picture of poise as she gave a college commencement address here stressing the importance of education.

"I can relate to these graduates," Ferrara, 25, told the Chicago Sun-Times, after speaking at Navy Pier on Saturday to more than 2,500 graduates of Kaplan University, a national online university with offices in Illinois.

"My journey of trying to keep my education a priority in my life -- when I was already on my career path -- has been a juggling act," said Ferrara, who is finishing a bachelor's degree in international studies at the University of Southern California.

"These men and women have had to balance jobs, children and other concerns. I can relate to how hard it is to continue to make education an important part of my life while balancing my career."

The Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actress has been acting since high school and stars as the title character in the hit ABC comedy series. She has also had star turns in such films as "Real Women Have Curves" and "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" movies.

Noting the National Council of La Raza on Saturday kicked off its annual conference here addressing issues facing Latinos in America, Ferrara said education is at the top of that list.

"The No. 1 demographic of high school dropouts are Latino women," she said. "I know there are economic factors for why young Latinos are so undereducated, but it also starts with what we place importance on as a culture.

"We have to empower the next generation to accept education as a way up, and I believe you have to start with the women so they can pass it on to their kids," she said.

Ferrara said she was humbled to suddenly find herself a role model for Latino youth. One of six children raised in Los Angeles by a struggling single mother who with her father emigrated here from Honduras, Ferrara said her message is always that education and hard work are the keys to success.

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