Bakersfield campus staffer helps young Latinas develop leadership qualities
As Career Services Manager for the Bakersfield campus, Chelsea Esquibias knew she wanted to do something to touch lives, something especially to help young Latina women to realize their dreams. A couple of years ago she found another outlet for all that energy and heart. She became a volunteer for Latina Leaders of Kern County.
Chelsea sits on several important LLKC committees, including Public Relations, Advocacy and Education – where her SJVC role working with students comes into serious play.
“Chelsea has brought a lot of great ideas to us,” says Norma Rojas-Mora, LLKC President. “We serve the same goals.”
Since 1998 Latina Leaders of Kern County has been a force of positive influence for girls and young women searching for affirmation, life information, mentors, education and career guidance and just a little help making it through occasional difficult life situations and choices. Four groups – Middle School youths (starting in Sept.), High School Sophomores/Juniors and High School Seniors – meet one Saturday each month for 4-hours to learn about the opportunities they can create for themselves with a little knowledge and preparation, a good plan and perseverance.
Girls find their way to LLKC through school guidance counselors or hear about it from friends. Most all applications are accepted and once girls get involved in the program, very few drop out. Participation can be life-changing.
“I now have a broader understanding of the impact young Latina girls, like myself, have on my community,” says Jacqui Medina from Independence High School.
The monthly meetings are packed with information, help and advice.
“We have speaker programs and field trips that cover topics like etiquette, prep for college, scholarship opportunities and application process, money management and self-defense,” says Esquibias, while keeping the doors open for “conversations to help them with issues and give some assistance.”
“We want to involve and inspire young women in our classes to become leaders; to run for public office and to sit on boards and commissions in their communities – even in high school,” says Norma Rojas-Mora. “We encourage them to find something they’re passionate about; you never know where that will lead.”
Education is a strong component of LLKC’s mentoring, as it is one of the most important investments their program participants can make in a successful future.
Currently there are about 120 students in the youth program and 20 in the adult program. Latina Leaders of Kern County has long passed the 500-mark of young women who have completed the program. And, if LLKC success is measured by the success of their program attendees, they can take bows all around, as all twenty-three recent graduates are headed off to college in the fall. “We have girls going to UCLA, USC – and one to Notre Dame,” says Esquibias.
There are cultural obstacles to overcome that makes this accomplishment so significant.
“Many Hispanic parents are worried for us to go away to college; it’s difficult for them to let go,” says Chelsea. “But as they drop the girls off at classes, they get to know us and we help them to understand how important education is for them,” she says.
Each year a Certificate of Completion ceremony and dinner is held for those young women about to head out into the world of adulthood. Each graduate receives a Certificate of Completion and Congressional Recognition. There were over 150 business sponsors, and students’ families and friends in attendance at this year’s graduation ceremony. Chelsea Esquibias was honored to speak to those in attendance about the importance of the LLKC program and the role of education in the lives of those about to graduate. Chelsea remembered the person in her life to inspire her toward success.
“You just need one person in your life who can make all the difference in what you do, where you go next.”
SJVC is proud that Chelsea is making sure that she is that ‘one person’ for so many others!