The UCLA Volunteer Center Fellows are proud to award Latinas Guiding Latinas with the Fall 2014 Mongelli Award for Excellence and Civic Engagement. Latinas Guiding Latinas is a non-profit organization started at UCLA that aims to provide K-12 students from the East Los Angeles and El Monte areas with additional resources to develop their prospects for higher education.
The organization collaborates with UCLA’s Community Programs Office, and its student mentors go to off-campus sites once a week to mentor students from East Los Angeles and El Monte. Currently the organization serves three high schools, an elementary school, and a middle school, each led by a different site coordinator from the organization.
This year marks Latinas Guiding Latinas’ 28th year of mentoring the Los Angeles community, and over this time, the organization has undergone many changes and improvements. Originally, Latinas Guiding Latinas was specific to female high school aged Latina service recipients, or mentees, but has since expanded its reach to mentor Latinos and all age groups. The organization has increased its reach to new sites as well. When it began, Latinas Guiding Latinas worked exclusively with mentees from East Los Angeles schools, but has since incorporated the El Monte area into its reach.
Led by their motto, “Education is the key…Unity is our strength,” Latinas Guiding Latinas’ goal is “enhance college readiness, academic success, and personal growth for [their] mentees”. In the weekly project sites, the UCLA students work with mentees to prepare them for college, improve time management, and expose them to research and college experiences.
These weekly sites have many different objectives and activities for the different age groups. The elementary school group’s programming varies from fun activities to quiz games, while the middle school group primarily focuses on communication. The high school age group’s programming is different, as the students are more mature and motivated. One of the main goals with the high school mentees is to promote research. Currently Latinas Guiding Latinas is starting a new project at Hildasolis High School, where the students will conduct research through surveys and participant observation.
Another main objective for the high school mentees is to prepare them for higher education. For these activities, students work in groups, doing activities to prepare applications and personal statements. In the winter, Latinas Guiding Latinas encourages the students to apply for their scholarships. After the application process, the student group awards $300 to the first place winner and $250 to the second and third place winners to use for their college careers.
Additionally, Latinas Guiding Latinas offers another unique experience to its high school mentees – a college shadow day. For the past eight years, the organization has brought mentees to the UCLA campus for an overnight stay to get the real feel and culture of a college campus. The UCLA mentors accommodate the mentees in the dorms to expose them to college life. After the first night, the mentors hold workshops on campus, and on Monday morning, the mentees shadow UCLA students throughout the day to get a feel for classes and a real day on campus.
Executive Director Maria Luna is most proud of seeing their work pay off, and “the mentees wanting to do something important in college.” Recently, Latinas Guiding Latinas mentees’ success has led them to the UCLA campus, as this year, a previous mentee from Roseville High School and winner of the organization’s scholarship is a first year student at UCLA. She hopes to get involved with the program to continue mentoring the youth of Los Angeles, as she was mentored a few years ago.
For more information on Latinas Guiding Latinas, visit the organization’s Facebook page or website: https://sites.google.com/site/latinasguidinglatinasdeucla/