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Helping ‘Little Sisters’ Achieve Their Dreams

A nonprofit focused on education and leadership development mentors Latina students in San Diego.

What I LUV most about my role as president of MANA de San Diego, a local chapter of the national Latina organization MANA, is seeing the young women we mentor on their high school graduation days, as they realize the positive results of all their hard work.

The Hermanitas Youth Leadership Mentor program offers yearlong mentoring relationships to Latinas in grades seven through 12. Our hope is that we will inspire our hermanitas (Spanish for little sisters) to graduate high school and pursue higher education. Additionally, we award first-year college scholarships to qualified high school graduates who have participated in the program. Since Hermanitas began in 1987, we have served more than 700 girls in the greater San Diego area.

At MANA de San Diego, 100 percent of the student participants in our Hermanitas Youth Leadership Mentor program have gone to college since 2006. We attribute much of that success to the dedicated mentors who strive to make a meaningful, lifelong difference in the lives of the Hermanitas. But the truth is the mentors can’t do it alone; students must be willing to put in the hours and the effort to take control of their lives into their own hands. Once they do that, it’s truly amazing to see what they can accomplish.

In addition to the Hermanitas Youth Leadership Mentor program, MANA de San Diego has another scholarship initiative that rewards students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, community involvement, educational aspirations, and career goals. We also take grade point average, special circumstances, and financial need into consideration. About $30,000 in scholarships is awarded annually.

Without invaluable community partners, our work to promote leadership and education among Latina students would not be possible. So I’m thankful for companies like Southwest Airlines, one of our top corporate sponsors, that allow us to continue to make the Hermanitas Youth Leader-ship Mentor program an annual success. 

—Catherine Arambula
President, MANA de San Diego 

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