TPS Latina students head to MSU summit
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa
Toledo-area Latinas were among those who participated in this year’s Día de la Mujer conference (DDLM) at Michigan State University on Saturday, March 17, 2012. The goals of the day-long event are to “empower, motivate, inspire, connect and support Latinas and all women in their quest for advancement in society,” according to its website.
Latinos Unidos (Latins United), the Spanish-American Organization, and La Prensa financially sponsored the bus trip, which included Latina students from Toledo Public Schools, their moms, and other interested adult Latinas. The bus left at 6 a.m. from the downtown public library.
“It’s empowering to women, especially to Latina women,” said Erica Espinoza, 39, of Adrian, Michigan, as she walked to the bus, the excitement and anticipation apparent in her voice. “That’s the thing that drives me the most. It’s good for la gente and it’s the right time to do it. We need it, really we do. I think it’s going to be a good experience. I’m really excited.”
This is her first time attending the conference, where she hoped to meet new people and expand her contacts. Ms. Espinoza belongs to the Hispanics of Lenawee Alliance (HOLA), which assists small businesses and writes grants for the Adrian Latino community. She also writes for the Lenawee Great Start collaborative, a parents’ coalition which coordinates community services, programs and resources to provide the best opportunities for young children to get the skills and experiences they need to succeed.
“Bringing single moms or married moms together, informing them and empowering them—that’s the best part,” said Ms. Espinoza. “We need hope—and hope is accepting that there’s a problem, but knowing that you can get past it. I think that’s going to be the best element for the Latinos, especially right now, knowing there are places like where we’re going today and that there are resources available to us. I think that’s the best part.”
“They have keynote speakers, motivational speakers to motivate you,” said Nanette Nieto, who hoped to receive one thing from the conference: empowerment. “They have workshops to help you on self-esteem and different avenues of career and education.”
The theme of this year’s conference was “Luchadoras con la Frente en Alto y Adelante” (Empowered Women Moving Forward).
The Día de la Mujer (DDLM) conference is held each year at MSU’s Kellogg Center in East Lansing as an event that has become a source of education and development for the many hundreds of people it attracts each year. DDLM provides an environment where networking connections are made for employment and educational opportunities for Latina empowerment.
The Día de la Mujer Conference began in 1994 to highlight the accomplishments of Latina women in the community. Since that time, it has grown into a multi-faceted series of workshops focusing on education, health, political, inter-personal relationships, culture, personal development, and self-empowerment for Latinas of all ages and backgrounds.
The annual conference has provided a much-needed space for Latinas to affect social change and to highlight their accomplishments. Keynote presenters, forums and workshops facilitated by Latina women provide participants with networking opportunities and for sharing life experiences. Over two-dozen workshops were offered for participants of all ages and life phases, including adults, college students, and K-12 students. DDLM is the only conference of its kind in the state of Michigan.
Speakers at the event included María Elena Rodríguez, a Detroit-based author and activist who encouraged participants to be persistent and pursue their dreams; Judge Patricia Pérez Fresard, the first and only Latina elected to the bench anywhere in Michigan; and Lucrecia Guerrero, a short-story author who uses her bicultural and bilingual background in her storytelling.
The conference also featured a Latina Summit, where participants identified issues of the day affecting Latinas and tried to find solutions to address those problems. The summit was led by Andrea Rodríguez and members of WIN: Hispanic Women in the Network.