This March, SVP began working with Circle de Luz, an organization that radically empowers young Latinas by supporting their transformation through extensive mentoring, holistic programming and scholarship funds for further education. Founded in 2008, Circle de Luz works with each girl enrolled in its programs for six years—from middle school to high school graduation. We interviewed Circle de Luz board chair Rosie Molinary to learn more about the history of Circle de Luz, its work, and how the SVP network can connect.
SVP: What about Circle’s approach is distinct and different?
RM: Circle de Luz was formed in response to the high teenage pregnancy rate, low high school graduation rate, and low college graduation rate of Latinas. Emboldened by the way women empower and change communities, we conceived our mission as a non-profit and giving circle to radically empower young Latinas by supporting their transformation through extensive mentoring, holistic programming and scholarship funds for further education.
RM: Our work begins when we select a cohort group of Latinas in seventh grade and we continue to support them through high school graduation. We offer holistic programming guided by a developmental model with twelve categories. We also provide thoughtful group and individual mentoring throughout the six years. Circle de Luz currently supports four classes of middle and high school Latinas with extensive mentoring and dynamic programming, while guaranteeing a scholarship in order to enhance their confidence, broaden their exposure, and prepare them for the future. Our vision is to empower these young women to grow in confidence while realizing that they—and not the circumstances they face—control their futures.
While our long-term relationships with and comprehensive mentoring for our girls is unique, we go further by financially investing in our girls. Each Circle de Luz class has a giving circle of women who commit to a minimum pledge of $100 a year for each of the six years the girls are in the program. That money ultimately yields a minimum of $5,000 for each girl upon graduation and enrollment in a further education opportunity. We creatively fuse a traditional non-profit model with a giving circle, offer extensive and long-term support, and directly address a segment of the population that is underserved. Moreover, we are supporting the fasting growing segment of the population before most others have considered making an impact in this way. According to Hispanics in Philanthropy, just one cent of every dollar from foundations is given to organizations that serve Latinos. Yet Latinos are the fastest growing population of school-aged youth.
No other youth development/educational support program in our area spends six years with its members in such a holistic way. We offer that support to young Latinas, a group that has not previously garnered much focus in terms of resource distribution, advocacy, and empowerment. Some programs offer short-term solutions. Others are willing to support the brightest under-resourced stars. We offer a comprehensive, creative solution for a neglected population of our youth.
SVP: What helped you decide that this model would be the most effective and the best fit for the girls Circle seeks to empower?
RM: Circle de Luz was created by a group of women who sat down together and thoughtfully dissected the problems while considering the possibilities. There were researchers, educators, community activists, and Latinas in that room and what we came out with after months of thoughtful discussion was this multi-faceted approach to the work of empowering young women to realize their futures could be of their choosing. Every choice we made was deliberate—from starting in seventh grade rather than high school so that our participants have a chance to really get to know themselves and articulate their dreams before having to make decisions that impact their college changes on Day 1 of high school. Our guiding beliefs—that every child deserves access to education and the opportunity to pursue her potential, that Latinas face unique challenges that deserve our community’s attention, that education is fundamental to personal success, that compassionate mentoring facilitates possibility & empowerment, and that exposure to opportunity matters among others—greatly informed our design and decision making.
SVP: What is your personal relationship to Circle’s work? What types of people does Circle provide opportunities to (for volunteering, connectivity and service)? Who would want to be involved?
RM: My commitment to Circle draws from my personal experience as a Latina and also as an educator. I know the difference it made to have adults who championed me when I had dreams but didn’t know how to get on the path to them, and I also have had the experience of trying to live that mission as a high school teacher in CMS at the beginning of my career. This work is personal, sure, but, more than that, it is good for our community and for the world. When women are educated, it is not just their individual lives that are changed. Families are made happier, healthier, and wealthier—and that translates to a positive difference in our world.
Circle de Luz provides a powerful personal volunteer experience for anyone who believes in equity, justice, and education. One of the best parts of our organization is that it really is a “create your own adventure” volunteer experience. From the person who only wants to make a financial contribution to the person who wants a deep, mentoring experience, from the person who can do something just once for a couple hours to the person who wants to lead, we offer a range of meaningful experiences.
SVP: Finally, what are you most looking forward to in the Circle de Luz/SVP partnership?
RM: We are most excited about having a group of enthusiastic professionals sharing their experiences and expertise with us so that we can continue to grow in smart ways. We know there are concrete ways in which we can grow—especially in terms of IT and marketing. We know that there are so many possibilities that we can not even imagine yet, and we are so open and receptive to those ideas!