By Jackie James

Sometimes, you just need to find a place where you belong. You want a place where you feel supported, empowered, and respected for who you are. For Latina girls ages 9-18, finding a sense of purpose, a sense of community, is as close as a click away:  Latinitas, a program designed to elevate the Latina girls to their fullest potential. It’s an all-inclusive, uplifting place where Latina girls can find their voices, make new friends, and learn modern skills. Latinitas offers Latina girls a place to grow and engage with other girls through programs, platforms, and camps geared just for them. By focusing on the introduction of various types of media and technology, Latinitas is able to reach across boundaries, giving young girls the positive reinforcement and encouragement they need to be the leaders of tomorrow.

Founded in Austin, Texas in 2002, Latinitasis a non-profit organization that has been offering in-person workshops, camps, and programs to young Latinas of Austin and surrounding areas. Latinitas offers many different programs, including Code Chica, an 8 week certificate program that teaches girls basic coding, JavaScript, and HTML; Media Chica, workshops on social media, creative writing, and broadcast production; Start-Up Chica, a one day conference focused on developing, advertising, marketing, and presenting a business proposal to a panel of experts; Future Chica, focusing on technology and renewal energy resources; Power Chica, a week long program centralized on empowerment, leadership, and how to create an impact; Healthy Chica, detailing physical, emotional, and nutritional health, and even Chicas Robotitas, an all-girls robotics team of girls 9 to 14 years old. spoke with Liliana Cortez, the Program Director.

What is the common theme of your programs?

“All our programs are geared towards empowerment and leadership. When I talk to (Latina) women, they always say (about our programs), I wish I had that when I was young!”

What is an important element that you want Latina girls to learn from your programs?

“Representation is very important to us; we want girls to see the Latinix community in positions of power in media and technology. When you continually see the same (Latinix) stereotypes, it’s hard to envision yourself in power positions. We want to change that perception.”

 Do you have a particular success story from Latinitas?

“(There are people) on Instagram that I follow; one is a Latina inspirational speaker and social media maven. I reached out to her to see if she would speak with our girls and learned that she was an intern with Latinitas over ten years ago! (Her success) is exactly what Latinitas is trying to achieve for all our alumni.”

What drew you to working at Latinitas?

“Before working here, I was always a huge advocate of bilingual communication, girl empowerment, and supporting the Latinix community. (My position as Program Director) doesn’t feel like a job because I am doing things that are so dear to my heart. We do it all together.”

Do you offer anything for older girls?

“For college age students, we have internships and jobs as program leaders and program coordinators. We’re hopeful that the current students will also use our programs as a pipeline to college, networking opportunities, or will rejoin us in a leadership position one day. We want to take young professionals and prepare them for success.”

One success story within Latinitas is Beatrix Castillo, a former Program Coordinator who was just promoted to Program Leader.  As a leader, she worked directly with the girls in person, as well as writing the curriculum for some of the programs. Her new role as coordinator, she ensures that the programs run smoothly, oversees the curriculum, and supports the leaders that now work with her.

What example do you want to show for the girls in the Latinitas programs?

“As a Latina and a first generation college graduate, I want to show the girls that, hey, you can do these things! You can go to college, you can go into male dominated fields like media and technology! I want to be their resource. I want them to know I am there for them; if they decide that I am the adult that they want to trust (with personal information), I consider that a privilege. I won’t take advantage of that.”

What have you learned from the young girls in the program?

“In talking with the girls, my inner child comes out. They are so smart and they just need someone to listen to them. A lot of adults don’t realize how intuitive they are.”

What makes Latinitas different from other afterschool/online programs for youngsters?

“It’s a place for the girls to be themselves. One of the girls didn’t have a strong sense of community and when she joined us, she said she was so happy because everyone was so welcoming and cheering her on. It was the girls who accepted her; it has nothing to do with how you look or your sexual orientation—these girls believe as long as you are with us and supportive, we are here with you. I think that’s important, especially today.”

How has COVID 19 affected Latinitas?

“Last year, since there was no in-school socialization, a lot of parents would email us and say that our programs were the only interaction their girls had with other girls the same age. It was really helpful for some of the girls that needed to connect to still have a place to feel involved and appreciated.”

Since January of 2020, Elisa Garcia has been the Magazine Editor of “Latinitas Magazine”, featuring blogs, advice, do-it-yourself pieces, videos, and pictures. It’s a place for learning and a place for sharing, and sometimes, the first exposure some Latinas have to expressing themselves through media. Elisa Garcia is also a Latinitas success story!

How did you get involved with Latinitas?

“In 2018, I started as an intern during my last year of college.”

How do you find content for your magazine?

“We offer high school and college writers the opportunity to contribute and they can pitch stories, in addition to our regular contributors. (We also feature) a podcast program called 20 Questions With: featuring a discussion with someone from the Latinix community. One girl is the producer, we have researchers who prepare the questions for the guest and a maximum of two girls get to host. The written version of 20 Questions With is featured online, as well.”

How has the Latinitas Magazine been helpful for the young Latinas in your programs?

“It’s a stepping stone (for writers). Oftentimes, they cannot get writing experience and they get frustrated. We offer writers the chance to create poetry, creative stories, personal narratives, and editorial essays, all with a Latin tie-in.”

What has Latinitas provided for you, personally?

“My biggest goal—and achievement—is providing mentorship for younger Latinas in media. It’s a learning experience for myself, as well!”

Want to know how you can join Latinitas, volunteer your time or donate to their programs? You can find Latinitas online at


Jackie James, freelance writer, blogger, and mom to four kids, has over thirty years’ of experience penning articles for websites, magazines, and various other marketing mediums. She wrote her first children’s book at age 11, and it’s been one paragraph at a time ever since.