An Austin-area nonprofit dedicated to helping young Latinas stay in school, avoid teenage pregnancy and stay out of the juvenile justice system is expanding into Hays County schools this fall.
Con Mi MADRE, or Mothers and Daughters Raising Expectations, provides mothers and daughters with resources and information to help young Latinas stay in school and get a college education.
“Most of our girls will be first-generation college students,” Executive Director Teresa Granillo said. “Therefore, in the home, because their parents didn’t go to college, it’s not something that’s talked about frequently. When it is talked about, it isn’t concrete because mom didn’t go, so she doesn’t really know what to say or how to help.“
Intentionally engaging mothers in the college application process and providing them with resources makes it more likely their daughters will pursue higher education, she said.
Con Mi MADRE first began in Austin in 1992 after a Texas demographer found that Latina baby girls had less than a 1 percent chance of obtaining a college education.
Con Mi MADRE serves over 600 Austin-area young women and their mothers every year. Today, 100 percent of Con Mi MADRE seniors graduate from high school. About 77 percent of them go to college directly after, and 54 percent graduate with a degree. Less than one percent of girls in the program become teenage mothers.
“It really does stand out. With our program, Latinas have a 260 percent better chance at a college education,” Granillo said.
This fall, Con Mi MADRE will expand to Hays County for the first time. They’re setting up shop in San Marcos CISD with programs for sixth grade girls at both Owen Goodnight and Doris Miller middle schools. The organization is also in talks to create programs within Hays CISD.
As Austin’s affordability issues continue to force low-income families to move to surrounding towns, Con Mi MADRE has looked to serve areas just outside of the capitol city, like Del Valle, Manor and now San Marcos.
“The incredible growth of the low-income Latino community in Hays County really was alarming,” Granillo said. “We’ve seen a lot of our families have to move from Austin to places like Kyle, Buda and San Marcos. We’re trying to follow them.”
The Con Mi MADRE program is holistic, meaning that staff focuses on social and emotional learning and skills, as well as academic. When girls and their mothers start the program in sixth grade, they learn skills such as how to handle stress and have healthy relationships. Starting their junior year of high school, Con Mi MADRE provides the girls with a college academy to help them with their college applications, workshop their admissions essays and fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
Granillo credits Con Mi MADRE’s success in part to the program’s focus on Latino families.
“We specialize in meeting moms and daughters where they’re at,” Granillo said. “We’re completely bilingual. Not only that, our staff is Latina, and we hold that Latino culture to our hearts, and we celebrate the different cultural values and practices.”
Granillo said working with the community means also addressing Latino cultural practices that could potentially stand in the way of college.
“We do have issues with parents not wanting their girls to go away for college, so we have to work through those kinds of things,” Granillo said.
The program lasts from sixth grade until the girls graduate from high school six years later. Con Mi MADRE even hosts four workshops a year for their girls who went on to college, sometimes via the web for out-of-state students.
“One of the things that helps with engagement is that we always go every single year. When they sign up in sixth grade, they’re committing to the program for the duration, so they become family,” Granillo said.
One the most popular aspects of the Con Mi MADRE program is a summer series held at the University of Texas in Austin. Participants stay overnight in on-campus residence halls and attend leadership trainings. Mothers and daughters get to spend time together and get a taste of the college experience. They also get to meet other mother-daughter pairs.
“When these moms meet other moms like them, they’re going to have the same experience of raising a teenage daughter and helping her get to college,” Granillo said. “They’re a support system for each other. We’re just a vehicle for them to meet and get together and support one another.”
For more information about Con Mi MADRE, call 512-475-6309 or visit http://www.conmimadre.org.