Latina Pathways works to expand access to higher education
By: Gabriela Tomasi da Silva
Image via Latina Pathways Instagram
Although Latinas are making progress in higher education, they are still underrepresented. According to data from 2018 by the Education Trust, only 26.6 percent of Latinas have a college degree in the United States.
As reported by CNBC, Latinas earn 54 cents on the dollar compared to White males. Higher education would present Latinas with opportunities for economic advancements.
University of Maryland student, Emily Eason, recognizes the importance of highlighting the disparities in higher education rates amongst Latinas in the United States.
Her interest in Latin American culture started in sixth grade when Eason had to conduct research on a Spanish-speaking country for a school project.
For Eason, academic interest naturally matched her passion for Latinx culture. In high school, she considered immigration law and policy as a career.
She recalls the event that inspired her to pursue her interest in policy in the Latin American community.
“I was in high school and Trump became president. His administration made me realize that not everybody loved the Latinx community,” said Eason. “As closed border policy started to become this huge thing, I started to get more interested in immigration policy,” she added.
In June 2021, she founded Latina Pathways. Its mission is to educate, advocate, and fundraise to provide Latina immigrants better access to higher education and assist in community development in the U.S.
Although the organization is new, it has already achieved progress. They won the Do Good mini-grant in the Spring of 2022 and used the funds to assist a local ESOL high school teacher with resources such as textbooks, writing supplies, audio lessons, and other tools.
Most recently, at the end of 2022, Latina Pathways started a mentorship program called Pen Gals. In this program, Latina middle and high school students from across the country are paired with a Latina college student at the University of Maryland.
In the handwritten letters, advice on topics ranging from personal, academic, and professional issues is exchanged. UMD Latinas write to support these young women and guide them through challenges such as looking for internships, navigating life challenges, and adapting to the college environment.
The international relations student Emma Alvarado shares her excitement to mentor in the program.
"I have had a great experience being able to mentor someone over written letters. I am happy to be someone that can guide the way for another,” said Alvarado. “It is something I wish I had growing up, so I am beyond happy to provide that mentorship," she added.
This excitement is also present in the middle and high school students participating in the program.
According to Eason, the students demonstrate an interest in sending and receiving letters.
“It’s so motivational because the Latina college students are literally the achieved goal of the Latina middle and high school students,” said Eason. “To see that a girl has been able to do this helps them understand why they can do it too,” she added.
In its first phase, 18 mentors and 18 mentees participated in the Pen Gals program; however, they plan to expand to meet the demand of students who would like to receive guidance.
Moving forward, Eason plans on using the club's newly acquired nonprofit status to expand their advocacy efforts. She reveals her goal of creating a program to assist Latina students trying to get VISAs since it’s a costly and bureaucratic process.
The founder also emphasized that all students are welcome to join Latina Pathways. The general meetings will be held in person on Wednesdays from 5 to 6 P.M at the Arts and Sociology Building in room 2203.