Latinitas Amplifying Opportunities in STEAM

In Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, CSforALL’s Member, Latinitas, Shares Their Work Around Empowering Girls of the Latinx Community to Innovate Through Media and Technology

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Each year, between September 15 and October 15, we celebrate the history, culture and contributions of the Latinx community in the United States. As we honor past and present individuals, organizations and initiatives, Latinitas, an Austin, Texas based nonprofit, will also be celebrating the future of Latinx contributions and creativity by amplifying the voices of the girls we work with.

Launched with the mission to empower girls to innovate through media and technology, Latinitas was founded in 2002 by then University of Texas at Austin journalism students Laura Donnelly and Alicia Rascon who were fed up with the negative and underrepresentation of girls and women in media and tech.

Since Latinitas’ origin in 2002, we have served 35,000 girls between the ages of 9 and 18 through our STEAM low or no cost after school clubs, summer camps, seasonal conferences and certification programs.

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Latinitas’ girls pictured with Natalie Martinez of Fox 7 Austin as she gave the girls an overview of her job and how to get experience.

Latinitas’ certification programs such as Media and Code Chica, run year-round with the former serving to teach teenage girls about journalism and the latter to certify girls in coding. Although journalism and coding may seem like they’re from different professional worlds, media and technology cannot exist without the other in any industry and both empower girls to be tech savvy, creative storytellers and innovators.

Since the 1990s, STEM employment has skyrocketed and today makes up 79% of the U.S. workforce — yet, Latinxs continue to be unrepresented making up only 7% of all U.S. STEM workers. For Latinitas, the numbers need to change.

In Austin, less than 3% of the city’s lucrative jobs in media and tech belong to women of color and less than 2% belong to Latinas. With more than 80% of Austin Independent School District’s students identifying at Latinx, providing resources and opportunities has been Latinitas’ mission since its origin.

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LatinitasAlumnae Voices

Citlali Aldama, a Code Chica Alumna, Latinas

Citlali Aldama, a Code Chica alumna, said the biggest opportunity the program gave her was being able to network with Latinas in the field of computer science. The Code Chica Certification program is a free eight-week course for teenage girls to gain knowledge in coding by creating their own website using HTML, CSS and Javascript.

“I didn’t really see a lot of Latinos or Hispanics going into (computer science),” she said. “At first, it’s like, ‘I don’t know if I want to go into (this field) if there’s not that many people that look like me or sound like me’ so having people to look up to, and being able to follow them, is a great example.”

After becoming a certified Code Chica, Aldama said she now plans to pursue a college degree in computer science.

“After the class ended, I actually went online to look at more coding classes because I really enjoyed it,” she said. “It’s so important to have our voices heard.”

Toni Marie Gonzalez, Latinitas Alumna

For Latinitas alumna Toni Marie Gonzalez, she believes having had the opportunity to join Media Chica, a journalism certification program, allowed her to come out of her comfort zone.

“With all these writing journalism classes I took, I could become a good reporter,” Gonzalez said. “And if employers look back at my history, they could see all the Media Chica stuff on it and say, ‘Oh, she’s really experienced.’”

Latinitas data shows the summer 2020 Media Chica cohort, Gonzalez’s group, reported leaving the program 100% more confident as writers with developed skills in journalism ethics, audio production and reporting. Additionally, 50% learned about a new career interest they would consider, including podcasting and investigative journalism.

Gonzalez said programs such as Media Chica help the Latinx community achieve great things because the programs are created and delivered by fellow Latinxs.

“Most people see us as individuals who can’t get jobs,” she said. “These programs are getting kids from everywhere, showing them jobs that will prove that our race, our heart, is hard working. (Latinxs) could be great scientists, engineers or reporters and they can make a mark in the world we live in today, just by starting off with programs that we had when we were little.”

To learn more about Latinitas’ year round programming, visit latinitasonline.org

About the Author: Elisa Garcia is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s in journalism and is now the Magazine Editor of Latinitas Magazine. She has experience in social media, reporting and videography. Garcia enjoys covering pop culture trends, arts and life community events and feature profiles on women empowerment. Her works have been published in The Pan-American Newspaper, ORANGE Magazine, San Antonio Weddings and Latinitas Magazine. You can read her work at elisaruthgarcia.com and follow her across all social media @elisaruthgarcia! When she’s not writing you can catch her with her cat, Opal.

About Latinitas: Latinitas is an Austin, Texas based nonprofit that empowers all girls to innovate through media and tech — with the vision to create courageous leaders.

Latinitas was founded in a class at UT Austin in 2002 by then students Laura Donnelly and Alicia Rascon who were fed up with the negative and lack of representation of girls and women in media and tech. It’s beginnings were the publishing of the first magazine made for and by young Latinas, Latinitasmagazine.org. They wanted the content to be generated by girls, themselves, through various multimedia forums including websites, video, photography and of course, writing and so Latinitas’ outreach programming was born. Latinitas has evolved as Austin has as a global tech sector growing curriculum from lessons in digital photography, video and audio production, podcasting, web and graphic design to the latest in 2.0 technologies including virtual and augmented reality production and coding, drone technology, 3D printing, game and app design, robotics and even artificial intelligence.

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