There are numbers that haunt you.
In 2007, those numbers, for me, were 53, 44, and 13.
You see, fifty-three percent of Latina girls got pregnant before the age of twenty. Forty-four percent did not graduate from high school. Only thirteen percent of Latino students had a college degree.
As the author of Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina and a former high school teacher, I made it a point to visit middle and high schools to talk about the powerful stories from the book. And with each visit, I met more and more dynamic, hopeful young Latinas who had dreams and who I knew, as a Latina myself, were facing tough odds to achieve what they wished.
Haunted by the disparity and realities, I teamed up with an incredible group of thoughtful, compassionate, capable women and together we founded Circle de Luz, a non-profit with a mission to radically empower young Latinas by supporting their transformation through extensive mentoring, holistic programming and scholarship funds for further education. We begin working with Latinas in seventh grade and they move through our program as a cohort group until high school graduation. Each Circle de Luz class experiences monthly programs that empower them to be more academically successful, prepare them for their futures, expose them to unique opportunities, encourage them to be responsible for their health and wellbeing, and allow them to contribute to their communities.
Every spring, we take our commitment to our hijas (the Spanish word for daughter and what we call our program participants) to the streets by running a 5k race together. From early February until the end of April, we train together for a 5k. Our girls are chasing their dreams on those roads and blowing past what they believe to be their upper limits. We, the women and men who train and run with them, are blowing past any financial limits that might exist by raising money for Circle de Luz through our Run Big Dream Big effort. Through Run Big Dream Big, our volunteer runners commit to trying to raise $375 each for Circle de Luz. As we cross the finish line each year, we celebrate our girls and their phenomenal growth and the amazing individuals who have made this program possible by supporting us financially.
This year, we are so excited about a new partnership in our Run Big Dream Big effort. Karina Dresses has come on board to support us with an incredible incentive. For every Saturday training that our hijas attend, their names will be entered in a raffle to win a Karina dress. For every $50 that a volunteer runner raises for Circle de Luz, she’ll have her name entered in another raffle to win a Karina dress.
Dresses for every body, Karina Dresses proudly boasts. And we at Circle de Luz can’t help but love their declaration. Dresses are a fabulous start but with Karina’s help, we’re pushing it further. Education for everybody. Let’s make it happen.