Interview with Latinitas‘s Marketing & Development Director, Victoria Garza.
Organization Mission: To empower all girls to innovate using media and technology.
Population Served: Predominantly young Latinas ages 9-18 in Austin and El Paso, although we have held workshops and conferences throughout the state of Texas
Founding Year: 2002
Organization Website: www.latinitasmagazine.org
Please provide a brief overview of the organization’s work.
Latinitas’ mission is to empower all girls to innovate using media and technology. We have been doing this since 2001 through afterschool clubs in Title 1 schools, workshops in public libraries and public housing, and weekend conferences held at technology companies, colleges, and other locations. We also have an online magazine for young Latinas written and curated by Latinas.
Latinitas is reaching girls others aren’t and succeeding where others haven’t. 93% of Latinitas alumni are graduating high school and 81% attend college in light of having the highest drop out rates. 100% of our girls enrolled in Latinitas’ afterschool clubs are living at or below the poverty level and 36% are English learners; yet, we are graduating 50% more STEM majors than the national average for girls and 33% of Latinitas program grads are exploring digital media or communications. Our alumni are turning up at our local news stations, on film crews, and at technology companies such as Bumble – which has a headquarters here in Austin, Texas – combining their love of female empowerment, digital media, and technology.
In a few sentences, please describe the problem you are working to solve and your approach to solving this problem.
At a time when many parents are wondering what age to give their child a smartphone or tablet, we are still dealing with issues of internet access for many of the families we serve. We see the digital divide widening with the wealth gap, essentially leaving the poor – many of them minorities – behind in an increasingly digital world.
How and why did you first start working for this organization?
I first got involved with Latinitas back in 2004, first as a volunteer and then as a board member. I strongly believed in the mission of Latinitas and I wished an organization such as this had existed when I was a kid. Since gaining experience working in both the media and technology industries and witnessing first-hand the lack of diversity in both, it made me even more passionate about the organization’s work and when I was offered a position with the organization in 2015, I jumped at the opportunity.
What do you think will change most about your work over the next 5 years?
We are currently headquartered in Austin, Texas, with a pilot chapter in El Paso, Texas. Over the next few years we are planning on expanding our programs, starting with other Texas cities. As a matter of fact, we have partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of McAllen to bring our signature Game Chica conference to South Texas as a first step. So in the future, I see my work focusing more on meeting new partners and looking for new corporate sponsors in the cities we are looking to expand to.
What are the three most important skills you focus on developing in the population you serve? Why?
- Focus on media literacy training to engage population served with current representation in magazines, TV, and movies of Latinx population, women of color, and Latinas, specifically, in order to understand their valuable position as game changers as well as identify why and how that representation exists and adapt ways they can take action to combat misrepresentation and stereotypes as future media industry leaders.
- Focus on technology training to engage population with the latest equipment and platforms to increase their interest in STEM-related careers and further their knowledge of applications that can be used across a spectrum of topics including filmmaking, computer science, health and wellness, fashion design, social justice, etc. with the goal of steering their interests towards the technology industry.
- Focus on having population served acknowledge and embrace their identity, gender, and culture to evolve personally and professionally with the goal of bringing their unique perspective to the media and technology industries as a means to diversify innovation.
What are the three most important skills you value in your staff members? Why?
Passion, curiosity, and a good work ethic. Passion is important because I find people who care, are enthusiastic about their job and will go the extra mile. Curiosity because I believe that helps drive innovation. People who ask a lot of questions tend to find better ways of doing things and can help identify new opportunities. Lastly, a good work ethic is important because even if they have the passion and the curiosity, what good are they if they aren’t there when you need them or don’t do what you need them to?
How has technology influenced your field and/or the way your organization works?
As technology changes, so does our program curriculum. We want to help the girls we serve stay up-to-date with the latest technology as part of their digital education. We want them to be aware of everything out there and the jobs they can get in these changing fields.
What are some key achievements your organization has accomplished over the last year and how were you able to attain this success?
- We were the beneficiary of a fully stocked computer lab from General Motors and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
- We were 1 of just 5 recipients of Mozilla foundation funds.
- We were just 1 of 2 recipients of Google’s Community Leaders program that matches college students and Google professionals with a community project at a nonprofit.
- We were 1 of 28 recipients worldwide of Google’s RISE award.
- We reached out 15th year and celebrated with a Quinceañera, hosting our city and state’s officials, school district leaders, and honored champions.
- We had our first-ever Game Chica Conference where 60 girls mostly of Latinx decent learned how to code a video game and met with mentors from the industry.
- We held our Startup Chica entrepreneurial conference for girls at Austin’s premier startup incubator, Capital Factory.
- We started a mentor program to connect program alumni in college with women in working in the media and tech industries.
- We increased parent outreach in the form of their own workshops in financial literacy, using technology to learn English and app design, and entrepreneurial learning, as well as improved organizing parents through our Facebook platform.
- We invested and moved to new larger office space.
What’s next for your organization? What are you looking forward to?
We are working to expand our programs beyond Austin and El Paso, Texas, starting with a weekend Game Chica Conference in South Texas this summer in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of McAllen.
- Community Impact Newspaper: “Male leaders pledge support to Austin nonprofit Latinitas in wake of #MeToo movement” (June 2018).
- The Austin Chronicle: “Documentary uses virtual reality to explore east Austin gentrification” (May 2018).
- My Statesman: “Latinitas celebrates 15 years of media, tech training for girls, teens” (May 2017).
- KXAN: “Innovators Talk Tech for Minority Youth at SXSW” (March 2018).
- Venture Beat: “Mozilla awards final grants from its $1.2 million Community Gigabit Fund” (April 2018).
- Telemundo Austin: “Organizan fiesta “Chica Power” estilo kermés a beneficio de la organización Latinitas” (June 2018).
- Univision Austin: “El alcalde de Austin y líderes locales se unen para empoderar a jóvenes del grupo Latinitas” (June 2018).