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A new giving circle will support Latina teens

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By Rosie Molinary

A year ago, I was completing a book on Latina body image, overwhelmed by what I had learned about the many challenges that young Latinas face in pursuing education.

As a former teacher, I know all my students faced many challenges, and I certainly do not mean to suggest one group’s challenges are more important than another’s.

What I have seen in the research and in my travels across the country to promote Hijas Americanas, however, is that Latinas are falling the furthest behind.

The numbers and stories have stayed with me, and I want to do something about it.

So what to do?  As a writer about social justice and philanthropy issues, as a former collegiate director of community services, as a first generation Latina and a first generation college student who worried endlessly about paying for my education, there was bound to be a synergistic blending of my experiences in the solution that I envisioned.

Ultimately, I focused on one of the hot trends in philanthropy — giving circles.

Throughout history, women have gathered together — in homes and churches, town squares and bodegas — to heal their communities.

Galvanizing our inherent sisterhood, we bring children to life, nurture the sick or weak, and love in unrelenting measure.

We change the world despite, or perhaps because of, our understanding that the world has sometimes ostracized us.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that when we gather as women, we gather in a circle. We sit or stand, palm to palm, shoulder to shoulder, each of us equal and able to see not just the eyes of those across from us but into the soul for which those eyes serve as doorways.

It is how we come together, certainly, and it is how we heal.  It is how we stay strong.

It is in that circle that we collect ourselves, each other, our stories, and our purpose.  It is in that circle that we nourish, encourage, and empower.  It is in that circle that we celebrate and grow.

And so it is only fitting when the news of the day is not good, when it steals our breath like a dimming force, that we issue the call to the circle, return to the space that holds, heals and helps, and use that space as a tool to change the news.

So over the course of this year, I will be putting together a circle of women of all ages, from all over this country, and from every background to create a giving network with one focus — selecting perhaps 20 Latinas in seventh grade to be recipients of a scholarship from this giving circle when they graduate from high school.

Each girl who graduates from high school will split the funds collected over six years from the women in the circle with the other young women so that she has support for continuing her education.

A dynamic blog will unite the girls and the women over distance, and the girls will be selected from the communities that have the largest number of participants in the circle so that they and their families can get to know the local faces of this support network.

I’ve meet with an accountant about the options of establishing a trust or a nonprofit, and talked to a teacher about selection processes, and to a college admissions counselor about what happens in six years.  I’ve gathered feedback from a diverse array of women over e-mail.

And I am finding that I almost always end up with more questions rather than more answers.

On Feb. 7, a group of local women are meeting as a focus group to react to everything from the name of the group to the manner of selection.

The next day, I’ll sit down with an attorney.

It won’t be easy to pull this off, but the important things never are.

With this circle, we joyously perch this generation of young women on our shoulders in the promise of changing the news and, thus, expanding their vision.

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