Published : Friday, April 20, 2018 | 2:30 PM
The 24th Annual Adelante Mujer Latina Conference today brings together the region’s leading Latina working professionals across many industries to inspire local young women to reach for their dreams and break down stereotypes that may keep them from pursuing rewarding careers.
The conference features workshops on education, careers, financial aid and personal development. Keynote speakers include some of California’s most influential Latinas, such as 51st District Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, and author and motivational Latina speaker Elva Leon.
“In general, the images of Latinas overall [are] stereotypical in the media and we want to squash that and let them see Latinas who are successful, who have graduated from college, gone on to successful careers,” said Stella Murga, executive director of Adelante. “We want to promote that and feature these successful women,”
“It makes it seem much more possible for them if they have a roadmap and they see someone who’s had similar experiences now able to progress and advance personally and professionally.”
The conference at Pasadena City College is expected to bring over 2,600 young Latina women ages 12-21 from all over the Southland to network with working Latina professionals, sparking inspiration to follow rewarding career paths.
The conference is reportedly the largest of its kind in California and offers middle- and high school-aged young women the opportunity to take part in interactive, age-appropriate, educational workshops related to issues that affect their lives.
“The idea is that the advisory board members reach out to their colleagues, their friends and family who can serve as workshop presenters. We’re looking for Latino professionals from a variety of careers and backgrounds to be able to share their information and their college and career journeys with the students,” Murga said.
Over 150 successful Latino professionals from various academic levels and disciplines in areas of business, health, science, technology, law, engineering, arts, entertainment and other promising fields will be there.
“We identify Latinas in those fields and we recruit them to present workshops in those careers. We really want to feature hands-on workshops because [that’s how] our young people get the feel for what the job entails,” said Murga.
Pasadena Latino Forum Co-Chair Yuny Parada has been involved with the conference since its inception and says that the conference is designed to break down barriers to education.
“It is generally considered that Latinas are only good for having children and being a maid. That’s what we want to break with the conference,” said Parada.
Parada’s two daughters, who are now adults, attended the conference over the years and took advantage of meeting medical professionals who served as mentors that helped achieve their dreams of becoming physicians.
An example of an impressive workshop at the conference includes a hands-on heart dissection led by a practicing heart surgeon.
“Because of the situation, they could find within the conference an avenue to pursue their career. They’re both doctors now,” said Parada.
“The people that have been brought to the workshops are competent people and they are giving the right information so that they can become anything,” said Parada.
Murga noted that Latinas are underrepresented in the STEM field – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
While the conference is designed to link young Latinas with career professionals and offer information on preparing for college, financial aid, and more, the mission of the Adelante Youth Alliance goes much further.
The predecessor group, Pasadena Youth Center (PYC) began in 1995, in response to dramatic increase in local youth violence and high school dropout rates. Youth and adults came together and community focus groups were conducted to identify the needs and solutions.
PYC has been instrumental in assisting hundreds of at-risk youth progress to the next grade level, complete high school, identify and implement career plans, advance to college or trade training, secure employment, and become productive members of their communities – willing and able to give back, according to the website.
“These days right now, the negative messages we’re getting from this [presidential] administration — Mexicans have been targeted as negative stereotypes — so we want to definitely discourage that message and encourage our young people to be proud of their heritage,” Murga said. “To recognize that they have lots to contribute to the American economy and to the American history, to the American story.”
Murga says the organization hosts various workshops throughout the year catered to the Latino/Latina population in topics such as immigration, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and more.
“We need to appreciate and use the advantages that Pasadena gives us. It has everything and whether it is welcoming to Latinas or not, ultimately it is on us to make something of it,” said Parada.
The 24th Adelante Mujer Latina Conference presented by Adelante Youth Alliance will be Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Pasadena City College located at 1570 E Colorado Blvd.
Registration fee includes continental breakfast, lunch, and conference materials.