In 1992, a Latina baby girl had less than a one percent chance of acquiring a college education. It was a grim statistic, one Austin Latinas and fellow women took to heart. It was a statistic they set out to change. The result was Con Mi MADRE.
What began as a mother-daughter program in 1992 has become a thriving nonprofit that serves more than 600 young Latinas and their mothers in the greater Austin area. For the past 24 years, Con Mi MADRE has worked to change the expectations and stigmas for young Latina women.
Today, the organization works to open doors for members, exposing them to opportunities they never thought possible.
Con Mi MADRE’s Holistic Approach
Many factors play into achieving success. That’s why Con Mi MADRE approaches every situation holistically, whether the organization is addressing a student’s relationships, academics, social interactions or her emotional well-being.
Conveying a Holistic Approach is one of Con Mi MADRE’s four pillars, or standards. The other three are:
- Start Early
- Parental Engagement, and
- Cultural Relevance
Teresa Granillo, Con Mi MADRE’s Executive Director, says cultural competency is something that sets the organization apart from other nonprofits working with marginalized or culturally isolated groups. She says many people confuse cultural competency with linguistic competency. But according to Granillo, cultural competency moves beyond language.
“[Con Mi MADRE] strives to meet clients where they’re at,” said Granillo. “We not only offer all our programming in both English and Spanish, but we practice the many cultural values Latinos hold dearly.”
Such values include morals, beliefs, food and drink, traditions, and the importance of family and relationships, especially the bond between a mother and her daughter.
In Con Mi MADRE’s efforts to create a safe space for these traditions and beliefs to be celebrated, mother-daughter duos gain a stronger sense of self—in both their personal lives, as well as their educational paths.
This path caught the attention of former Con Mi MADRE Board President, Fayruz Benyousef. While she isn’t of Latin descent, the statistics regarding a Latina’s chances at achieving a post-secondary education upset her. The mission of Con Mi MADRE, and Benyousef’s awareness of changing cultural demographics, inspired her to join the team.
“[Con Mi MADRE], to me, wasn’t about whether I was Latina or not,” said Benyousef. “I joined [Con Mi MADRE] because I believe that education is important [and] because this program’s approach to it was incredibly valuable.”
During her time as Board President, Benyousef worked to support and encourage young Latina girls on their journey towards college. In doing so, she gained a deeper understanding of the importance of a strong mother-daughter relationship—a bond Con Mi MADRE works to achieve daily.
Many programs emphasize early childhood education and secondary education. As a result, middle school often falls between the cracks, Granillo shared. Despite this trend, Granillo says middle school is a crucial time for a young girl, as she is easily influenced and developing her self-esteem in both academics and relationships. It’s because of this that Con Mi MADRE starts their programming in 6th grade.
Post-Secondary Preparedness is the program’s first level. It focuses on preparing students between 6th and 10th grade—and their mothers—to be successful in later schooling years. The second level, Post-Secondary Participation, narrows in on college applications, selection, enrollment and transition. The final level, Post-Secondary Success, encourages and supports girls to reach their post-secondary academic goals.
According to Granillo, each level carries its own series of challenges for students and their mothers. “[Post-Secondary Participation] is when it all becomes real,” Granillo said. “It’s when mothers realize the reality of the program, that the next step is college.”
At each level, students and their mothers work together to build healthy relationships, self-esteem and skills that propel them towards a college education.
The Key Ingredient
According to the organization, young girls are more likely to perform better, stay in school and enjoy school if a parent—specifically a mother—is involved. And while the relationship between mothers and daughters is fragile for the majority of a girl’s time with Con Mi MADRE, the program works to develop that bond in a supportive way.
Similar to their daughters, mothers have courses available to them during their journey with Con Mi MADRE. Many classes and workshops offered help them make advances in their personal endeavors as well.
Through monthly meetings, weekend conferences and summits, mothers receive skills and insight to help support their daughters during times of high stress or emotion. Whether it’s explaining a college’s financial aid application or spending a weekend sleeping in The University of Texas dorms with their daughters, mothers are supported, empowered and encouraged to have a voice.
For Con Mi MADRE, the success of a Latina mother is as important as the success of her daughter.
More Than One Success Story
According to the nonprofit, 100 percent of the program’s seniors graduate from high school and 77 percent enroll in college. Since 1992, Con Mi MADRE has accompanied over 3,500 young Latinas on their journey to submitting a college application.
As of 2013, Con Mi MADRE graduates have been accepted into universities and colleges around the country at high numbers. Many are top ranked schools.
In most cases, the impact of Con Mi MADRE doesn’t stop with college. Many graduates come back to guide and mentor young Latinas who are new to the program. Seeing graduates volunteer once they’ve graduated Con Mi MADRE’s program further highlights the organization’s family culture. On a student’s first day, she’s told, “We invite your family, and we are your family.”
Con Mi MADRE has served the greater Austin community for the past 24 years. And while Austin remains the organization’s primary focus, the organization has plans to expand outside the capital in 2017. In doing so, Con Mi MADRE hopes to continue its mission of empowering young Latinas and their mothers through education.
From potluck dinners and happy hours, to volunteering and offering support, there are countless ways for you to get involved with Con Mi MADRE. The organization hosts annual events open to the public, including the annual Corazon Awards. Slated for February 2017, the event will take place at Brazos Hall (204 E. 4th St.) and will honor individuals who have made an impact on the organization. One hundred percent of proceeds will go to improving resources for girls in Post-Secondary Participation. To purchase your tickets, visit Con Mi MADRE’s website.
@sbrugal wants to know:
Do you know anyone who has graduated from Con Mi MADRE?