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Latinitas Is Empowering Young Girls in Central Texas

The Austin-based organization is changing the future with programing like after-school programs, summer camps, conferences and more

When I was in school, I dreaded math and science. I always had my nose stuck in a book, and intentionally ‘forgot’ my algebra homework to avoid ridicule from my teachers. It’s girls like these that Austin-based organization Latinitas aims to uplift, and eventually empower to enter the historically male-dominated fields of science, math, engineering and technology. And nowadays, where it seems like all jobs have foundations in digital media, Latinitas is encouraging the next generation of female Austinites to dominate all professional fields.

Latinitas was first founded in 2002 as a magazine for and by Latinas, aimed at increasing their own representation in the media. Over the past decade, however, it has grown into a multi-faceted organization focused on creating Austin’s next generation of
bold, courageous leaders.

Latinitas now consists of afterschool programs, summer camps, conferences, podcasts and social media outlets in addition to their online magazine publication.

Interim Executive Director of Latinitas, Gabriela Kane Guardia, was first involved with the organization as a volunteer, but came to admire Latinitas through one of these program extensions, as her youngest sister began participating in Club Latinitas, an online after-school program.

“I was so impressed by her growth in confidence,” Guardia says. “So when an opportunity for the Development Director position presented itself, I was eager to join the team and contribute to a mission that resonated so closely with home.”

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“Latinitas serves the Central Texas community with digital equity tools, career exploration and educational programs that create self-sustaining families,” says Interim Executive Director Gabriel Akane Guardia.

Since then, Guardia has obviously risen in the organization’s ranks, but her passion for the work and core mission of Latinitas remains. She feels that what separates Latinitas is a continued focus on digital literacy and the preservation of Austin Hispanic culture.

“I started volunteering with Latinitas in early 2021 to support their efforts in commissioning a series of mosaic portraits to uplift their annual fundraiser,” says Guardia. “I was working in the arts field at the time and felt so drawn to a STEM organization that was preserving local cultural heritage.”

This combination of technological and humanitarian is evident in Latinitas’ culturally relevant curriculum, as well as the impact it has on students and facilitators alike. Rather than simply serving STEM educational needs, Latinitas has pioneered a STEAM approach to all that they do. That is, an added appreciation for the Arts amongst efforts to foster a Latina presence in digital and media outlets. Guardia explains that Latinitas introduces students to the foundations of STEAM via their various youth services, which are available to girls and non-binary students ages 9-14.

These flagship programs come in a multitude of forms, so that they can reach as many students as possible. For instance, you can find Latinitas on the screens of students across town as they attend after-school clubs, like Guardia’s sister, or in the smiles across their faces as they attend day conferences or summer camps. Either way, students have opportunities to be introduced to and experience different topics of technology and media.

These virtual and hand-on interactions have a serious impact on Latinitas students. “As students engage with any of our programs, we introduce them to a diverse range of professional mentors who share lived experiences with them,” says Guardia. “So they can see themselves reflect in role models and know they are capable of pursuing a career in any industry.” This reflection gives Latinitas students a drive unlike any other, and their programs have such high demand that growth is inevitable.

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Just recently, for instance, their eight-week online coding certification course, Code Chica, was so well-received by enrolled students that Latinitas developed a curriculum track for those wanting more advanced instruction, called Code Chica ++. And their Eco Chica Conference event last weekend, a one-day conference focusing on sustainability, innovation and social enterprise, was a huge success.

These program developments have also inspired Latinitas to develop courses that both students and their parents can enjoy.

“Latinitas continues to expand its multi-generation services, providing early career training for young adults through Google Certification courses, a Padres Digitales program for adult digital literacy education, and Tech Familia workshops for the whole family.”

These efforts help Latinitas engage entire households in technological innovation, which only helps their students thrive. Bilingual options are available, too, which helps Guardia and her team address the Hispanic community directly in helping develop and support digital literacy in these communities. As she puts it, “Latinitas serves the Central Texas community with digital equity tools, career exploration and educational programs that create self-sustaining families measured by economic opportunity outcomes.” And, as our city becomes the clear tech hub of the south, it’s becoming exponentially important for all communities to have access to this digital knowledge.

Maybe if my parents had enrolled me in Code Chica or Club Latinitas, I wouldn’t be so terrified of technology. Or perhaps I’ll always prefer the ‘A’ in STEAM. All I know is that, either way, I would’ve loved Latinitas. That’s what makes this organization so special — their dedication to every student, from every experience. So whether you listen to their podcast, read an article from their digital magazine or go follow their socials, I promise you won’t regret any attention you give Latinitas. After all, aren’t young minds the ultimate resource worth investing in?

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