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Bianca Hernandez

Bianca Hernandez

Long Beach Poly Technic High School graduate 2009 was part of ELLAS first cohort of girls joined ELLAS the summer before her freshmen year of high school back in 2005. She spent her four years of high school involved with ELLAS and being part of the many opportunities offered, including ELLAS annual empowerment conferences. ELLAS created a community of young Latina students and exposed them to the possibilities available to them. With the help of ELLAS and Nancy Foster, first lady of Long Beach, Bianca was able to attend a leadership conference on medicine and health care in Boston the summer after her junior year of high school. This was only one of the many opportunities made available to the young women who made up the ELLAS community. After high school, Bianca left for Chicago to attend The University of Chicago. In college, Bianca decided to major in anthropology and pursue a career in education. Bianca was accepted into a masters in teaching program at The University of Chicago which she began jointly with her senior year of her undergraduate program. Bianca received her bachelors degree in anthropology in June 2013, and is in her last year of her masters program. She plans to teach in public schools for a few years before continuing on her path to education equity.

Nancy Correa, CSULB Senior

Nancy Correa, CSULB Senior

I first joined ELLAS in the year of 2007, I was invited to be part of the annual conference and immediately felt so welcomed I knew this organization was for me. ELLAS has not only exposed me to the different opportunities there is for me out in the world, but it has also expanded my personal growth, motivating me into continuing my education and empowering myself.  It has personally changed me I have become a more confident woman, capable of accomplishing with hard work and dedication my goals.

Erika Castillo

Erika Castillo

ELLAS has been a program that has given me courage and motivated me to pursue higher education. Going to the ELLAS conferences and benefiting from the honor of having guest speakers and the Dulcinea Honorees speak about their careers, not job! but careers! motivated me to pursue the career of my choosing.  Pilar is an amazing! woman who has done everything she can to get the ELLAS girls to pursue their dreams.  Pilar has shown me nothing but encouragement and given me positive words of advice throughout my ongoing journey. Today, I am a Social Welfare major (and in the process of being an Education minor) at UC Berkeley.  Coming to such a great university did come with a lot of struggle and sacrifice.  Leaving my family was, and still is, the hardest thing about moving to a different city to pursue my dreams, but I can see that it is worth it, because I am doing and pursuing what I feel passionate about.  Pilar and ELLAS, just like my family, have been there for me and have supported me on my journey to higher education and I am very grateful to be a part of this community.

Carolina Vallejo

Carolina Vallejo

As a young high school student, ELLAS played a significant role in my coming of age, shaping my choices, outlook, and life opportunities. While I have always been proud of my heritage and member of a large Mexican immigrant family, these experiences were never formally welcomed or acknowledged within a classroom environment. ELLAS at Lakewood High School carved a welcoming and safe space for many of us, to a large extent because the organization is organized by Latinas and for Latinas. This support system became a site where Latina students could work collectively in expressing our diverse strengths and interests while learning about educational and career opportunities after high school. It helped shape not only our individual mentalities, but highlighted our diverse cultural identity as assets, not disadvantages.

Furthermore, ELLAS helped spark an internal consciousness regarding the social, political and economic inequality that Latinas and Latinos experience within our own communities and throughout the United States. Sitting in at a court trial and meeting Latino attorneys, for example, made me recognize that I too could aspire to this career. More importantly, it was a catalyst for thinking about the mass overrepresentation of people of color in prisons, punitive and unfair immigration law, and the financial and language barriers many Latinos encounter when seeking legal assistance.

These experiences, among many others, gave me the confidence to believe that I could survive and pursue my education at a private liberal arts college out of state, even if this environment was not particularly welcoming to people from all backgrounds. Studying Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies as well as Women’s and Gender Studies and working during my summer breaks for various social justice organizations became not only my passion, but my life. Throughout those years, I continued to keep in touch with my ELLAS cohort from Lakewood High School. We have come to believe that improving the conditions and lives of the people from our community rests not necessarily in furthering our own educational and career opportunities. Instead, it requires that we mobilize the privileges we have acquired so that through great collaboration, we can improve the life chances and quality of life of all people.

Ali Meza

Ali Meza

My experience with ELLAS can simply be summed up to the trio of words: Priceless life inspiration. Whether from the ELLAS founder, Pilar Pinel, herself, or all the other inspirational women that I and other fellow young Latinas have had the pleasure of sharing a room with, or the opportunities presented to me thanks to my involvement with the program. Being a part of ELLAS has become a badge of honor to my repertoire, and I carry and share it proudly. From the moment I stepped into Judge Luna’s courtroom to when I first was part of the Annual ELLAs conferences, ELLAS is a true representation of raising the bar and elevating ourselves. Having the vision is not for anyone, not yet, because ELLAS represents a program that aims to place a young Latina mind in an environment that without the program she might have never pictured existed, much less herself in it. Being an ELLAS girl has helped me keep going not only to make myself and my loved ones proud but to show gratitude and support to all who have shared the ELLAS vision and have contributed to making it possible to me and other girls like myself.