Empowering Latinas across campus

Zila Sanchez

Being confident is a process that sometimes takes time.

Sometimes it takes a long time. These women have shared their stories,   and gaveLatinas some words of wisdom when it comes to finding who they are supposed to be.

The event, “Yo Soy Latina: Life Lessons in Spanglish,” was held Wed.,March 21 in Craig Hall and was hosted by Estamos Unidos, the Latino organization on campus.

Two women, Esther Gonzalez Freedman M.S. BCCand Yamile McBride M. Ed, came to speak about their lives, challenges,and what it took to overcome adversity against all odds.

“It’s Women’s History Month and we wanted to do something to empower women on this campus,” said Angelena Castro, junior journalism student and President of Estamos Unidos.

“A&T loves diversity, but where are the diversity events? We thought it would be best (host) it.”

Both women are first generation Americans from New Jersey and are living their lives completely different from what they first planned. Freeman studied political science in her undergraduate years and is now working in higher education, mentoring students who are in situations she was once in.

Freeman considered herself to be an overachieving kid growing up and held her family’s hopes and dreams on her shoulders when she went to college on a full-ride scholarship.

While at school, however, she spiraled into a depressed and anxiety-ridden shell with physical ailments manifesting from her poor mental health. She also developed polycystarian ovarian syndrome and gained 100 pounds in a year.

“I lost everything,” Freeman said. “I lost the scholarship, pride, self-worth… and all I wanted to do was give up on life. But I had to make a decision. I needed to decide whether I was going to be done, or whether I was going to use this as a starting point. Was I going to be a victim or was I going to come back and be resilient? I decided I wasn’t going to let this be a curse.”

Freeman recommends writing a list of one’s strengths and life-changing experiences you can leverage to your advantage. Writing a journal for a month, she said, can help you realize how much control you have over the events in your life.

In that journal, write ways you’re strengths helped you every day. One of her strengths is problem-solving, so she writes the ways in her problem-solving skills worked, and she also lists times she should have used her skills but didn’t.

“I also recommend mirroring. I look in the mirror and I tell myself,‘I am enough,’” Freeman said. “I tell myself I am fierce, and it helps. It’s the psychology of it. If you can talk yourself out of something, then you can talk yourself into it, as well.”

Though McBride’s story is a little different, she learned important values from her struggles as well.McBride first studied biology in college with plans to be a doctor, before failing and deciding she wanted to work in education.

After working many years as an assistant principal, she decided to start her own organizations, Somos (We Are), which helps to empower black and brown children, and Latinas Finas de las Carolinas, or Classy Ladies of the Carolinas.

“We’re all created for something great,” McBride said. “We’re all aligned with great things… Then you get punched in the face. Then what? Like Mike Tyson said, ‘We all have plans until you get punched in the face.’ You have to remember plans accept vulnerability.”

Rather than letting her failures bring her down, McBride said she took those failures and fears and uses them to motivate herself.During her speech, she made the audience stand and pose like Superman, or “power pose.”

It’s her favorite thing to do when doesn’t feel her best, she said.“It makes me feel strong like I can do anything,” she said.

Still, both say sometimes it can be hard to stay motivated. The key, they said, is to remember why you’re moving forward.What is your vision? Your mission? What is your purpose in life?

“When you’re tied to your purpose, it’s like you’re a freight train. You can’t be stopped,” Freeman said.