The Chicana Latina Foundation

For thirty-four years the Chicana/Latina Foundation has been a non-profit organization promoting leadership and development of Latina women.

This past March Olga Talamante, the executive director of the organization, along with one of the board of directors, Maria X Martinez, came to USF to present a workshop to Latina students to assist them with their Chicana/Latina Scholarship applications. This workshop was one of the various programs the foundation hosts. Some of the other workshops include: Youth Adelante, Entre Hermanas, Leadership Institute, and the Scholarship program. All of the workshops have one goal-- strengthening and advancing the Latina community. Coming from similar backgrounds and knowing the hardships and struggles a Latinas faces, either due to her gender, race or both, the women of this organization make an effort to help young Latina women who are in a place where these inspiring women once were.

The Chicana/Latina Foundation was initiated by three Latinas in 1977 when the women were attending the University of California, Berkeley. The idea for the non-profit developed to support each other as first generation college students pursuing higher education. They discovered that they were going through similar situations and that by creating a support system, they could make it to the end of their educational journey. Being female, first generation college students and Latina were three major components that linked and fortified the foundation. It was through these components, which the women shared, that they were able to help one another. They all shared similar experiences, values and goals. To this day the Chicana/Latina Foundation continues to supports its members and the future generations of Latina college students.

Heritage and culture is central to this organization. These Chicanas embrace who they are and where they come from. As Latinas they recognize their diverse histories , which are all ancient and unique. They take pride in their origins and in the contribution that their cultures have given to the world. Some of these contributions being: music, literature, dance, art, gastronomy, architecture, spirituality and intellect. Therefore, they honor their culture and continue with the traditions which help them develop to their full potential, while breaking other traditions that restrain this development.

To demonstrate the appreciation of their culture, strength and vision the women of the Chicana/ Latina Foundation chose the symbol of the humming bird and a flower as their logo. This symbol was taken form an Aztec glyph representing a warrior named Huitzilopochtli which means, “humming birds from the left,” the left being the deep south which in Aztec belief refers to the location of the spirit world. Huitzil led his people to a new homeland, symbolizing leadership and strength. It is also believed that the humming bird is a messenger between worlds, that is said to help medicine people keep balance between the realm of nature and spirit. Great strength can be found in this symbol. Although it is small in size this animal symbolizes: devotion, permanence and eternity.

Conflicts and obstacles are elements constantly reoccurring in many young people’s lives and it because of this that the Chicana/Latina Foundation has created programs which aid in the overcoming of these obstacles. The organization works mainly with Latina youth and young women. One of their programs, Youth Adelante After School Program, which is conducted with the collaboration of El Concilio of San Mateo County, helps middle school students in the area of Redwood City advance in their academic studies. This program tutors 7th and 8th grade students, helps them develop study skills, while at the same time incorporating cultural awareness, leadership development and self confidence.

Another successful program the Chicana/ Latian Foundation offers is the Entre Hermanas mentoring program. This program is done in collaboration with the Hispanas Organized for Political Equality. The central idea of this program is to empower young Latinas in the community by providing a role model who cultivates her leadership, intellectual and cultural potential at every academic stage as well as her professional career. In this program, coaching circles consist of Latina high school students, college students and professionals. The purpose of these circles and this program is to increase the retention rate of Latina students in high school and college.

Every year the Chicana/Latina Foundation offers scholarships to undergraduate and graduate Latinas. The scholarships are offered on a competitive basis to Latinas attending universities in the Northern California. There are thirty scholarships offered each year with a value of $1,500. Along with the scholarship, the Chicana/ Latina Foundation offers a skill-building workshop each year prior to the deadline of the scholarship. These two hour workshops are offered at various universities and colleges in the Bay Area. The purpose of the workshops is to motivate students to continue their educational dreams by reviewing writing and interview skills and letters of recommendation for their scholarship applications.

Lastly, in accordance with their mission of empowerment, the organization offers a Leadership Institute for the recipients of the scholarships. The goal is to further leadership skills to the awardees by allowing them to gain new insight into their strengths and areas of development. This program contains leadership development, public policy, advocating for the community, a panel of Latina role models, cultural connection, round table discussions with the Chicana/Latina board, public speaking, financial literacy and job readiness.

The latest project of the Chicana/Latina Foundation is to close the digital divide the Latino community. The organization was awarded with a Federal Grant which has allowed for the initiation of this project. Their goal is to conduct educational campaigns to help increase the number of computer users and Internet subscribers, while teaching low-income residents basic skill of broadband and computer usage. The Chicana/Latina Foundation will be recruiting young leaders and also employing technology outreach specialist to assist with outreach and training. The regional focus will be low-income communities in eight regions of Northern California. For more information on this project or on the Chicana/Latina Foundation visit their website: www.chicanalatina.org.

Look for upcoming Chicana/Latina Foundation workshop information in Spring 2012