Photo: Steve Thurston
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is impressive. As a Latina at the top of her career, she is a woman to be emulated. However, for some high schoolers she might seem to be in a different galaxy. Her daily struggles are not theirs.
So some young Latinas at Yorktown High School said while they admire Sotomayor, they really look to each other for guidance, help and inspiration.
They belong to Latinas Leading Tomorrow, a group that originally formed at Arlington’s Wakefield High School. It has expanded to nine schools in Arlington and three in Texas.
The Yorktown chapter, now five years old, meets on Thursdays in the Leadership Center, a glass-walled room on the second floor of the school. With their teacher Shari Benites, they make sure they are doing OK in school and at home. About 15 girls regularly participate in the program, but about 40 have attended, Benites said. She is the minority achievement coordinator for the school.
A number of the seniors such as Aimee Moya have taken freshmen under their wings, Benites said.
“I kind of wanted her [the freshman] to change,” Moya said. The other girl was not present at a recent interview.
And the girl did change; she stayed in school and kept her grades up. She was a lot more focused throughout the year, Benites said.
“She was like, ‘Aimee, thank God that we did this,” Moya said.
Benites said the group is not devoted to the leadership required to form small businesses or run organizations, but the leadership the girls need to negotiate school and make their way to college. The leadership is often much more personal.
“We’re concerned about ourselves,” said senior Juliana Del Pozo. She has an internship this spring with NASA and plans to be a civil engineer.
Del Pozo and Moya sat down with other girls in the group for an interview earlier this week.
Their weekly programs are often simple but diverse--Zumba dancing, Myers-Briggs testing, or just plain talking. But it is not all just fun or about themselves.
This past Holiday season, they put together gift bags of sweets for the service staff at the school. They said they did it because too often the janitors and cooks are forgotten in places like schools. They also put together toiletries bags to help the homeless.
For these sorts of activities the girls won the “Visionary Award,” given to the LLT chapter that best exemplifies the mission of LLT: leadership, community service and scholarship.
Later this summer they will be collecting essays for an English essay contest established between Yorktown and a middle school in San Miguel, El Salvador, a “Sister City” to Arlington.
“I think it’s cool for our girls to read what those girls write,” Benites said.
But they really do look to each other for help. “It’s, like, inviting,” said sophomore Michelle Terrazas. She added that the group helps her think about the future more clearly.
Freshman Julia Gutierrez said a friend brought her to the group and she stuck around because “they talk about things that can help us in our lives.”