By Nancy Flores
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr)> Latinitas, the nonprofit group that began as an idea in a University of Texas classroom has blossomed into an ever-evolving organization that offers workshops, camps, after-school programs for Latina youth.
After recently receiving a tech-focused city grant for marginalized communities, Latinitas co-founder and CEO Laura Donnelly looked around her East Austin office and felt proud.
Latinitas, the nonprofit group she started 15 years ago to empower young girls, received the grant recognition alongside some bigger organizations and some of the community’s most respected nonprofits.
“I feel like we have arrived as an organization,” Donnelly said. Latinitas, which annually provides digital media and technology training to nearly 3,000 girls and teens across Texas, celebrates its 15th anniversary on June 10 with a quinceañera-themed gala. “As an organization, we are ready for our (high) heels,” Donnelly said with a laugh.
What began as an idea in a University of Texas classroom along with co-founder Alicia Rascón has blossomed into an ever-evolving organization that offers workshops, camps, after-school programs and an online magazine for Latina youth. The city grant will now also help fund a virtual reality design program.
Since its inception, the board of directors has transitioned from “pretty much your tias (aunts) helping out” to community members representing a variety of fields from media and marketing to engineers and entrepreneurs.
Now, 93 percent of Latinitas alumni graduate from high school. In 2008, Latinitas expanded to El Paso, and Donnelly said she sees potential for expansion to other cities.
Sometimes when students arrive for a Latinitas summer camp, which is open to girls ages 9-14, “you can barely hear them” because they almost speak in a whisper, Donnelly said. Seeing how the girls gain self-confidence is, for Donnelly, among the most rewarding aspects of Latinitas.