Capital Area Latina Youth works to empower girls

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LANSING, Michigan – After Donald Trump was elected, Maria Serrato knew it was time for her to step up and do something.

“I kind of woke up the day after the devastated election. I felt very obligated to do something for our community. I have two daughters, ”she said.

And so, in 2017, she launched Capital Area Latina Youth. The aim of the organization is to empower Latin girls in the Lansing area and provide them with a strong sense of themselves and community.

Since its inception, Serrato said, the organization has helped about 30 Latina girls by running workshops and inviting successful Latin speakers to show young girls what they can accomplish if they work hard and think hard.

“What we did was we brought in different speakers. For example, we brought in a sous chef from MSU to teach the girls how to cook. It was fun. It’s not like a membership-based program. It’s just like, ‘Hey, we have these really great shows. If you have time to come, you can, ”Serrato said.

Jovanna Gallegos has been coming to the workshops since the start of the program. She is now in her final year at Eastern High School.

Gallegos says the program has helped her.

“I’m more comfortable being Latin American, being Latino or being Chicana,” Gallegos said.

Besides becoming more confident in her heritage, Gallegos said, it’s nice to hang out with other girls who come from similar backgrounds.

“Even though we come from different ethnicities, we tend to have the same upbringing and it’s really nice to talk to someone about how we feel,” said Gallegos.

COVID restrictions have changed the way the group has operated for the past year and a half, but they now plan to meet for the first time since the pandemic struck on October 24. The workshop will focus on healthy relationships.

Capital Area Latina Youth meets once a month on the Michigan State University campus.

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