Personally honoring powerful women for Women’s History Month

Although recognizing impactful and intelligent women who have made significant, long-lasting change to culture, science, art, and social justice is important to recognizing March as Women’s History Month, we wanted to take a moment to also acknowledge powerful women who have made a deep impact in our personal lives, but maybe won’t be recognized by society. To that end, we asked the staff at Esperanza United, “Who is one woman who has made a significant impact in your personal or professional life?” Below are some staff’s responses.

Deborah Contreras, Marketing Intern

My Tita Daisy (grandmother) inspires me both professionally and personally. She is a smart and determined business woman and a gentle and caring grandmother. She has two sides which, under normal circumstances, most people don’t have but she is equally dedicated to her personal goals and career as she is to her family. She knows how to keep balance in her life and I want to be like her!

Cassie Amundson Muñoz, Communications Specialist

I am continually inspired by my son’s 2nd grade teacher. My son is autistic and the start of every school year brings a whole new set of challenges. Our first meeting with Maestra Ruiz proved that she cared about creating an inclusive classroom. She took time to understand his IEP (Individualized Education Plan), ask questions and come up with creative solutions to keep him engaged and excited about 2nd grade. Her compassion and excitement to teach helps foster a love of learning in her students regardless of their learning style or abilities. Her dedication to not only her students education but also their well-being and emotional health is inspiring and I can only hope all kids get to have a teacher like Maestra Ruiz.

Isaac Hitz Graff, Program and Administrative Assistant

There are two women who immediately come to my mind, but I will talk only about one – Sally Brown. This woman is a volunteer at St. Francis Center, a day shelter in Denver, CO.  She is known to both staff and guests there as a steady presence of peace and warmth.  Everyone, staff and guests alike, can expected to be warmly greeted by her as they enter.  She taught me that in all situations there is the opportunity to respond with kindness and care.  She inspires me to live honestly and courageously and to be open to all of life’s possibilities. She is a wonderful woman and a source of inspiration for many.

Ivette Izea-Martinez, Co-Director of Family Advocacy and Community Engagement

Celina Martina inspires me professionally and personally. Thanks to her, her collaboration and dedication to the Latin@ youth in Minnesota, we were able to start a partnership with Girl Scouts to start hosting camps for older girls. She not only helped me write the grant (I had never written a grant before), but also encouraged me to do it. And, although this wasn’t part of her work, she came with us to the camp site to make sure everything went as planned. Since then, she has become an ally of Esperanza United, no matter where she might be working or what her job title is. She is now a friend of the organization and a personal friend; she is professionally a guide and a support, a woman who fights day after day for a more equitable Minnesota for Latin@ youth.

María Cristina Pacheco Alcalá, Project Manager

María Teresa inspired me to be a better woman, made me more confident and showed me how real commitment is made when working with young people. She was a young single mom concerned about the youth in her community and how they were spending their free time. She decided to convene a group of us (I was 12 by then) to spend Saturdays with her. We learned to cook, to do community work, to learn the value of work and money, to read and expand our knowledge, to care for the elderly…Even when she was struggling economically and undergoing her own challenges, she was a very strong woman who never stopped believing in us and our capacity to achieve anything we wanted. Unfortunately, she got cancer and passed away. Still her voice, her strength, her stories are part of what makes me a better woman today and inspire me to belief that change is possible and that young people are key elements to that process.

Paula Gomez-Stordy, Senior Director of Training and TA

Marienela Rivera has inspired me personally and professionally. Throughout her life, her immigrant parents emphasized the importance of education. Her parents decided to register her in a school in the neighboring with a better school system. She excelled until the school found out of her true address and asked her to leave. The difference in school resources were immediately apparent to her as the students did not have books and read re-copied text from books. She was determined to persevere and graduated with honors. She attended a reputable college in Boston and received her master’s degree. While in the program, she became pregnant. Many thought she would drop out but instead she finished the program and continued to complete her PhD. After completing her education, she returned to her city. While she voted in local elections, she noticed no Latin@ candidates running for school committee positions. This troubled her since most students in the city are Latin@. Within hours, she searched for signatures and added her name to the ballot. She was elected and is now the Vice President of the School Committee of her city.