Today 25 million Latinas live in the US, and more than eight million of them are
younger than 18. And these women have extraordinary potential, but far too many of them live in poverty and lack educational opportunity. I started the
Eva Longoria Foundation to help Latinas access resources and opportunities to
build better futures. We focus on education because we know that getting a good education and graduating from college is life altering. And it is the single
best way to break the cycle of poverty. So I commissioned the UCLA’s Civil Rights
Project to study the factors which contribute to success for Latinas, so we can better understand what makes
the difference between dropping out of high school and graduating from college. The young
women profiled in this research, some of whom are featured in this video, all faced huge challenges in their lives. Some were undocumented, most had parents with less than a high
school education, all were low-income, and one had a child while in high school. But they all found a way, making friends
with kids who knew how to get to college, seeking guidance from teachers and
counselors, most had parents or family members who
also encouraged them and believed in them. And this was the
critical difference between these women and some of their friends, who didn’t finish
high school or go on to college. I remember wanting to be an astronaut
because I loved the stars and I wanted to go into space. Since then I kind of already had an
interest in cars. I started to kind of connect the dots and see where it could take me. I think
that’s when I started to get more interested in engineering. Something that’s always been my
passion or that I’ve always wanted to do is work with special education. I’ll hopefully
have my masters by then and working as a counselor with children. I really wanna go into a lot of teaching the children with special needs. In 10 years, I’ll be close to 32. And I will for sure have gone to grad school, whether its masters or PhD I’m sure
I will have that under my belt, under my resume. I will most likely be working. I’ll have
like a career, and I think I will be financially
supporting my parents. This kind of belief in oneself that I do
have possibilities carries a lot of young women through
very challenging circumstances. We’ve also seen that it is a real
preventative to early pregnancy, because if a young woman believes
there’s something out there for her and that she can achieve it, that is a
powerful antidote to school failure. Much of the
underachievement, the loss a talent, the underrealization of potential for these young women is
really tied to poverty. And I think we have to face that.
Growing up in poverty has tremendous consequences — for all
young people not just Latinos — but it happens that
Latinos are disproportionately growing up in poverty. My mom works in a factory. She didn’t finish school. She probably only
finished to third grade. She’s been there working there almost seventeen years, almost, so and that’s why she’s kinda been my
inspiration to continue school. It wasn’t until my
junior-senior year that I started realizing that because I was undocumented I wasn’t going to have access to the financial aid I don’t know if I was naive, as in not
really measuring, you know, how expensive
college is. We had to go off to pawn shops and, you know, sell our jewelry, whatever I had, you know, from my quinceñera, in order to get money to pay off tuition. My parents always told me, like, you need to go to school, you need to go to college. And they talked about the menial jobs
that they work. Like don’t wake up at four in the
morning, like you don’t have to live this life, like, you can do better. Parents need to know that they are incredibly powerful in this regard, that
they can provide these dreams for their girls. For as long as I can remember, since I
was in kindergarten, my parents just told me, maybe I didn’t even know exactly what
college was, you know, they would say it in Spanish, “la universidad.” But I just knew that it was something I
had to do and I was gonna do because that would make me have a better future. I remember going with my sister to Dominguez Hills, so she can probably just to buy books or go to the counseling offices. But I remember her giving me like a tour of the school, showing me like, oh this is the library, this is where you get your books and this is where my classes are at. We were always given books and we were always encouraged to read. My parents read, more my mom. But we were always encouraged to do well in school and we were, we were
praised for doing well. My plans in terms of school was go to university and I wanted to become a pediatrician. When I
found out I was pregnant everything kind of went blank. I didn’t know
what I was going to do. But my husband was like, no, I’m gonna work and you’re gonna go to school and you’re gonna be someone in life. Schools need to know that it’s really important to support those kinds of dreams and
ambitions and and give young women something to look
forward to, to be hopeful about. I was born in South Central. It’s a bad
neighborhood. There’s a lot of shooting. In school it was like my place like I belong there.
I like school. I always, I always have, like, I think I
feel when I’m in class or when I was in school, I felt like I was
in the right place like I was doing something good with myself. Ever since I was in middle school, I joined a program called AVID, where they they took us to field trips to like college campuses. Because AVID, you know, for at least us what they always said, you know, we’re all
going to college, that was our, kind of our motto “we’re all going to college.” And so, that’s
something, that for me, it’s like, I never questioned you know whether I was gonna go to
college or not. I just knew I was. We would go over to Utah State
University and they would have Mesa Days. So children would
participate in different science experiments or different science competitions. Actually in one of my English classes, one of my projects was to, if I had, if I was to graduate high school in that moment, what would be my top 5 choice colleges? And at that time, I think I picked like Harvard, Yale, like
all the Ivy Leagues, you know, Wellesley, all those schools. So, college has just, at least since education wise, like, it’s
always something that’s been in the picture. One of the problems of growing up in
concentrated poverty is that there’s often times a lack of
role models in these communities, somebody who’s already gone to college,
and been pretty successful in one area or another. It turns out that having a Latino teacher predicts for going on to college. These are people
who are emissaries from the Latino community,
who have, in fact, gone to college, who have been successful. I remember the teacher I had that
year, his name was Mr. Garcia. He was a Hispanic teacher. And he would
really encourage me, he would push me. Like you would have like those reading
tests that they would make you do in the classroom and, you know, he would always tell me, oh, you got 90 words last time in one minute. Let’s see if you could do more this time. Like things like that. My AP Spanish teacher in high school was very supportive of me, and she was very encouraging and she was the one that also talked to me about going
to college. My parents felt more welcomed by her and they felt, like, they were being
more involved in my education. And I guess just because she spoke
Spanish and she she also came from an immigrant
parent background and she was a teacher now. In high school, I really didn’t have too many Latino or Latina teachers, but I did
have my Spanish teacher, Mr. Uzua, which I still keep in contact with him,
too. He had this phrase of “si se puede.” You can do it. At that time, he was actually working on
his master’s degree as well, going part-time to Fullerton. So he talked a lot
about that. My counselor was Mr. Piña and he was Hispanic. And I felt like I
bonded more with him. He was born in Mexico as well, and I just
felt like they had a lot of things in common, with my parents and and his parents. How they both, he started off in a low-income family
and he just worked himself up and he’s a counselor, and he said he was
doing really well with his life and he’s proud of where he
was at. And I hope I can be the same way one day, too. One of the things that pops out in
the research is that early good performance
in mathematics is a very good predictor of
graduating high school and going on to college. And the reason this
could be very important for Latinas, in particular, is that many tend to shy away from mathematics. When I was in 6th grade, they started, they did what they call
that diagnostic test for math, I guess, to see if you can start being advanced in math. So in six grade, I started taking pre-algebra, which was what some eighth graders or
seventh graders were barely taking. So I would say that that was the start of me
being advanced in mathematics. I had liked math since I was in
elementary school. It was always my favorite subject. But I would say that, at that
point, it wasn’t not only my favorite subject, but I was actually, okay, I’m actually good at this. Like, I felt really confident in math since
that point on. My 9th grade year, in the summer, I took summer school for geometry
to advance, because my teacher saw that, you know, I
was good at math. I started off my ninth-grade with trigonometry, and then, from there, I went on to
precalculus and then calculus AB and BC. And there was four women in our AP Calculus class, and in a class of probably like 20. And those were the kids
who all wanted to do engineering. And all the women, we all sat together,
and we all supported each other through math and it was very important, to have that support group, of just
women, even though there wasn’t many of us. I was the only freshman in my geometry class. It was mostly juniors and seniors, mostly
seniors trying to graduate, and they needed to do two years of math. So I was the only freshman and I remember all the juniors and seniors, like,
“oh, you’re smart, let’s look at her, like get help from her.” A huge predictor of finishing high school and going on to college is getting into classes in which one is surrounded by
peers who are doing well, and who are headed off for high
school graduation and college. When I was in high school in some of those
AP calculus classes I was a junior or senior, but then there
was also people who were one year older than me that were in there. So, like, I kind of contacted them and,
like, for a couple of them are actually engineering majors at UC Irvine.
So the fact I spoke to them also about the major that also kind of, like, made me, oh, you know, well, I was in a class with them,
like I would get similar grades to them. If they’re doing it, I could do it, too. I wanted to take AP classes because
that’s what my friends we’re doing. They told me, “Oh, take an AP class,
you’ll get college credit.” I didn’t know what that meant. I just knew that
I had to do it. And then I knew that all my other friends in my other
honors classes were taking AP classes. I got most of my information
about college through my peers specially my peers whose parents had
gone to college, because they knew the ropes. I honestly
did not know. Growing up and going to school, in a
segregated school, has negative effects. And changing that, providing them with the opportunity to
have more contact with mainstream kids, with teachers who are teaching in
the mainstream, and therefore have a set of standards that are pegged
towards the mainstream, in communities that are more diverse would have a tremendously positive, impact on the educational outcomes for
these young Latinas. One of the things that
popped right out, in the interviews that we did with young
women, was their engagement in extracurricular activities in virtually every case they had been seriously involved in sports or in music in particular. These involvements with these kinds of
activities, bring with them a whole lot of other supports for these
young women, in addition to making them simply feel
more engaged in school, and actually being in school more. By me being involved in the sport, I
got to become closer with the with my counselor. He would also say, “Come on, you know we wanna see you guys out on the field, you guys need to keep your grades up.” Being in a soccer team helped me through my high school, cuz that was kind of my motivation. Cuz if you wanted
to be in a team you had to have good grades. So, first semester I had straight As.
Second semester I would get some Bs, but still As. I think even though if I wouldn’t have had the soccer team I still would have had good grades, but
not as good. Because you know, like, maybe I woulda just gone
home and watched the novela, or something, you know. Being part of the sports team in cross
country it influenced me with school a lot, because
it kept me busy. And so, my time management, I always had
to deal with that. It kept me on track with, you know, doing
my homework assignments and making sure I didn’t fall behind with work. I joined these clubs because my friends
were in it, and they’re like, “Oh, you should join, like come, come check us out.” I joined CSF, it was California Scholarship Federation,
which was an English teacher of mine. So, she was the one that told us to join. When I was in high school, I was really involved in orchestra. It was my pride and joy, and, by the time I was a senior, I got a
national orchestra award, which was very encouraging, at the end of the year. And so, we were the ones really
leading the orchestra. We had to set the example and we used to tune everybody, you know. I didn’t
realize then but those were leadership skills that I learned and I attained just from playing music. And it was something I
just really really enjoyed. For many years now, I’ve been really very
focused on what it is that effectively goes right when a young Latina, who comes from a
low-income background, with parents who don’t have a lot of education, is very successful educationally. In the
research that we did, for this particular study, it was very interesting to find that, if you are a Latino and bilingual, you
have a higher chance of going on to college than if you are not. I think by being
bilingual, I just, I feel like I can identify with
that culture. Where, yes, I was born here. Yes,
I am a US citizen legally, but I feel like I’m still
Mexican. And I still feel definitely connected to
that. I feel connected to my roots. For being able to speak two languages, I
think it’s kinda helped me out a lot. Because, you know, I get to
communicate to my family members in Spanish. I get to talk to professionals in English. And I feel like knowing two languages
kinda opens more doors to you. And that’s the reason why I’m trying to
teach my son to learn Spanish and English, also, and
maybe throw in a little Chinese in there. If there’s one thing that I would like
people to walk away thinking about, as a result of the work that we’ve done
here, is that these young women have all the great potential that young women have always had in
this country, that every new immigrant group has brought, you know,
with it. And these women, too, can do just as well, and perhaps even better, and
they can do it in two cultures and two languages if we give them the opportunity. I kinda have like this vision, where I not only want to make
myself self-sufficient, but I would also want to help other
people in my community be self-sufficient. I’ve struggled a bit, coming from a
low-income community, you know, where a lot of time students don’t finish high
school, or just finish high school but don’t go on to college. So, for me, going back and giving back and
showing others, especially students, you know, that have don’t have that in
mind, you know, or don’t have that support sometimes at home. If you have that motivation, and you’re
determined to continue on with your education, then, you know, it’s possible! If you’re educated maybe then your son will be, like, hey, like, my mom went to college. She went, she
went somewhere. I want to do the same, you know. Like with me, with my mom she didn’t go to college or school so I kinda thought, let me try to do what she
didn’t do. But my son’s gonna say, Let me do what my mom did. These wonderful young women are living
examples of what is possible. They are providing us insight into the
changes we can make to put more Latinas on the path to college. So contact the Civil Rights Project, to see
what we’re doing, to make these dreams a reality. And
download the report, “Making Education Work for Latinas.”


  1. You are not Latina. You are Latin American with no Latin culture. Big difference. Stop the lies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *