Atrévete a Soñar ¡Edúcate! (Dare to Dream: Get Educated!) Dare to Dream invites 450 6th to 8th grade Latinas plus their mothers/mentors to an annual conference at the College of DuPage to focus on the value of education in general and higher education in particular. The goal is to expose the girls to positive role models and to talk about the importance of setting high goals, staying in school to fulfill their goals, encouraging the girls to consider a college education and professional career, and exploring challenges they face which often result in dropping out of school. We target middle school Latinas because AAUW and other research indicate that Latina absenteeism and dropout rates exceed that of all other groups. The girls attend sessions on goal setting, high school preparation, college acceptance, career opportunities, financial aid, real world situations and mentoring programs. They meet with successful Latina professionals who share how they overcame obstacles and took advantage of mentors and opportunities available to them to achieve their goals.
On conference day we begin with a light breakfast for girls and moms followed by a rousing keynote address to set the tone. Girls and mothers then separate to follow different tracks.
The girls first attend a career panel , composed of 4 successful Latina women representing a very broad spectrum of jobs and professions. These women have been selected because they all have inspiring stories to tell about how they got to where they are; the girls do learn something about the careers represented, but mostly they learn how these individuals met challenges and overcame obstacles.
Next, the girls go to the School Panel, composed of Latina high school and college girls as well as school counselors—their job is to make the girls aware of the opportunities and challenges they will meet in the next step of their education and to point out resources and strategies to help them get the most out of high school and to prepare for college.
The 3rd session is devoted to team building and leadership activities—these are fun, but all have themes reinforcing the conference themes.
While the girls are attending their sessions, the moms have their own sessions which deal with navigating the American school system, understanding the cultural and social worlds their girls straddle, and deciphering the complexities of applying to college.
At some point in the conference, the girls and mothers are asked to write letters to each other, to tell them about their dreams and their hopes for the future. The exchange of these letters has been a powerful moment of connection between mother and daughter—one with lasting effects.
In short, it is a day of information, inspiration, and is a celebration of our Latina girls and their futures! It’s actually quite magical to experience the energy, the spirit, the excitement as the day goes on.
Mothers: The mothers attend sessions in Spanish focused on the growth and development of their daughters, expectations, and pressures. We believe that motivating both the young Latina participants and their mothers is key to the family’s success as a whole. Mother’s attend workshops focused on continuing education, financial aid for documented/undocumented students, mental health focused programming, and understanding the complexities of the college system.
Next Conference: January 28th, 2017
Venue: College of Dupage