December 6, 2018
0 Comments
0

In Austin, a community of Latinas are raising expectations for their daughters and themselves

A Con Mi MADRE graduate returns home after earning her college degree to give back to the organization that supported her family.

For Cynthia De La Cruz, center, her family includes her mother Edelmira, left, grandmother Elisa, and daughter Jubilee, as well as the women behind the nonprofit Con Mi MADRE, where she serves as the Director of Communications. Photo courtesy of Cynthia De La Cruz

EDITOR'S NOTE

Con Mi MADRE was one of 10 recipients of this year’s Renewal Awards, a project of The Atlantic and Allstate that recognizes nonprofits driving positive change in their communities. Throughout the year, we will be following up with the winners to see how they are continuing to serve their communities.

When I think back on all of the valuable lessons my mother taught me, the one which sticks out the most is her strong belief in education and knowledge as keys to success. She always wanted a better life for her children and knew a college education would be essential in fulfilling that dream. Growing up with this consistent message and support it came as no surprise that graduating from college became my goal and my dream.

A pivotal step we took to ensure we would reach our goal occurred when we joined Con Mi MADRE (then known as the Junior League of Austin’s Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program). I first learned about Con Mi MADRE in middle school through a friend in the program. She and a few of my other friends would attend group meetings and I always wondered what they were about. So I asked her one day and she told me, “Oh, it’s the Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program.” Mother-daughter? What exactly did that mean? My curiosity grew stronger. She went on to explain how the program helped mothers and daughters learn about college and the college-going process. She had said the magic words. Instantaneously I became determined to figure out how to join the program.

By the afternoon I had already visited my counselor to get an application and enthusiastically pitched the program to my parents.

The fact it existed as a bilingual program sold it to my mom. This was in addition to how the program created opportunities to make college more accessible, intentionally involved mothers and daughters, and was completely free to participate in. To my mother, there was finally a program she could truly be engaged with, not just be another body at an event. She could learn the information and ask questions in her native language and she could meet other mothers who had similar goals as she did: to provide a better life for her children through education.

Thinking we signed up for a college-prep program, we were in for a pleasant surprise. Although we understood building a better relationship with your mother/daughter played an essential part of the program, we didn’t fully understand what it meant or how we could benefit until we started attending conferences and workshops. Through all of these touch points with the program, we were able to grow our self-esteem, learn how to communicate better with each other and other members of our family, cope with stress, and so many other important life-skills. What made our experience so impactful, however, was the time it provided for us to bond—to grow our relationship while working towards a greater purpose.

Our time with Con Mi MADRE made the world of difference. Apart from gaining communication and emotional skills, we became part of a familia, which is the reason why we continued to stay in the program year after year for five years. Alongside the Con Mi MADRE staff and the other mother-daughter teams, we all had the same goal: become educated Latina women.

I always like to add that by my junior year at New York University, my mother, who had no idea what FAFSA—the Free Application for Federal Student Aid—was before joining Con Mi MADRE, was now nudging me to get an internship for college. She had become fully engaged in my college experience and became my No. 1 champion when things got tough.

With her support and the support of my family, my Con Mi MADRE Program Director Sonia Castellanos, and my sisterhood of friends, I graduated with a B.S. in Media, Culture, and Communication from NYU in 2011, four years after I graduated high school.

As I reflect back during this time of giving and family, it gives me such joy to say I am still a part of the Con Mi MADRE familia that helped me become a successful young Latina—and their Director of Communications.

I am grateful to have a mother who cared enough to want the best for me and make the initial steps to ensure a successful path for her daughter. I plan to make the same steps and goals for my daughter as well. She is turning 5 in March, which is a milestone I’m excited to reach. She has already begun her journey of an education by starting Pre-K this year, and as we progress through the journey together, the dream for her won’t be to go to college, but rather WHICH college.

Madre in Spanish means mother. But, MADRE in Con Mi MADRE means so much more. On the surface it is an acronym: Mothers And Daughters Raising Expectations. Beyond that, it is a supportive community and network empowering young Latinas and their families.

Thank you Con Mi MADRE, for raising my family’s expectations and dreams.

Cynthia De La Cruz

Con Mi MADRE

Cynthia De La Cruz is Director of Communications & PR for Con Mi MADRE. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University.