Julissa talks a million miles a minute — constantly celebrating those around her and overflowing with joy. She’s vibrant and energetic; encouraging and always smiling.
She’s also from a community that is plagued with challenges.
The region in which she lives struggles with alcoholism and addiction, has limited economic opportunities, and faces incredibly high rates of teen pregnancy. Perhaps worst of all, many people are unwilling to look beyond their circumstances. In so many ways, they’re stuck. As Julissa described, “Basically, my community is just really closed off.”
Those challenges are particularly severe for young women.
“A lot of girls my age don’t finish their studies,” she notes. “They get pregnant or they simply stop studying because they don’t have enough economic resources.”
Julissa refuses to let this be her story.
Through the Institute and the Michael Lotito Fellows Program, Julissa noted, “I’ve learned that I can finish college. I can do more.”
And what does more look like for Julissa? A very big, very bold dream for the future. “I want to be the Mexican Ambassador to another country.”
She wants to move abroad to represent her culture to the rest of the world.
“I want to travel to other countries,” she said. “It’s part of the reason I want to study languages and culture — so that I can go to other places and learn about them. I don’t want to stay closed off here.”
With incredible confidence and strength, she is choosing the Road Less Traveled.
This past summer, Julissa was awarded the inaugural Michael Lotito Scholarship — a prize that will cover her university expenses, provide her with one-on-one mentorship and support, and ensure that she can finish her education.
But she’s not stopping there.
“I hope that I can be an influence on my classmates to show them that girls can do just as much as boys. I want them to see that they can do way more than what is normally expected.”
You can open doors for young women like Julissa. You can remove barriers and ensure that they can afford to stay in school. You can walk with them on the Road Less Traveled.
Join us by making a gift today.
Here are three things you need to know about Perla:
- She’s a natural leader. During the last week of the Institute, we built a “company” to learn business and marketing skills — and Perla stepped right into the manager role. She had her team working like a well-oiled machine in no time!
- She’s an amazingly talented artist. In her words, “Painting is my passion. It’s what I love more than anything.” And she has the art to show for it.
- She’s an absolute spitfire. She has boundless energy and vision and enthusiasm. She dreams about improving her small town of Solferino, and, unsurprisingly, she has already started doing just that. (Make sure you’re following along on Facebook and Instagram this week to see the amazing project Perla just did in the local elementary school!)
But here’s what else you should know: Like so many of her peers, Perla has faced serious challenges. She has struggled with low self-esteem, and she knows what the world expects of her.
“Typically, in my community, girls go to primary school and maybe secondary school,” she said. “And then what? Sometime in secondary school, they quit. They go off with a boyfriend. And it’s sad because it’s not a good choice. They might just go with the first boy who likes them — because a lot of girls have low self-esteem. They don’t know that they are someone who could keep going. So they end up at home, taking care of the house. They get pregnant when they’re still young. They just stop. And it’s sad.”
Perla believes that there must be another way. And we’re doing everything we can to support her as she pursues the Road Less Traveled.
Perla dreams of finishing high school and going to college. She also wants to keep getting better at her art.
“I want to do both — I want to study AND paint. And when I finish school, I want to build a Cultural Center in my community. A place where kids can come try new things and create a new vision for themselves. Maybe other kids will find something they love, too. They’ll discover something good. Something helpful for their futures. They’ll learn that this isn’t the end of their road.”
Perla is choosing a brave, bold path — and we are honored to walk alongside her. Your support ensures that girls like Perla can build their self-confidence, stay in school, and craft their own narrative for their future.
Here at Hands Offering Hope, there is something we say all the time:
It’s a Spanish phrase that means “let’s move forward together”—and it is at the core of everything that we do.
Through the Institute, we have built a community of incredible young people, teachers from around the world, program alumni, and local leaders who are all investing in the future of Mexican youth. Their progress—and the progress of their communities—relies upon all of us moving forward together.
And now this community includes you.
Together, we are igniting the potential of young heroes. We are lifting up the stories of students and amplifying their big ideas. We are unlocking opportunities for the future.
Together, we are bolder and brighter and better than we could ever be alone.
Thank you for being a part of the story with us. And make sure you are part of our community on Facebook and Instagram, too!
For young women in Mexico, the world is full of challenges.
Girls are expected to stay home. To take care of their families. They have children when they are still children themselves. Very few make it to college, and many have grown up facing abuse and trauma.
This is the typical path.
Darina, a 16-year-old from Kantunilkin, explained, “Most girls here stay at home. They help their moms. And it’s only because they’re girls. It’s not a good thing because men and women should have the same rights.”
When Darina joined the Institute last summer, she was walking the same path as so many of the young people in her community — facing not only the limitations placed upon her by her gender, but also the standard challenges of teenagers in her community.
“The Institute was a place where I could come when my world was falling apart,” she said. “If I hadn’t been there, I don’t know what would have happened to me. I had a lot of things on my mind…I could have been a young person who got lost using drugs, drinking…those seemed like good solutions to the problems I had.”
For Darina, there was another way.
There was a bolder, braver, often-harder path — and with determination and lots of support, Darina began walking this road less traveled.
She met friends who encouraged her, and in her words, “I found love that I didn’t always get at home. That’s the love I found at the Institute. And it filled me up.”
Now, she dreams of becoming a mathematical physicist (yes, really!) and knows that there are dozens of people who are standing in her corner.
Will you be one of these people? Will you stand with leaders like Darina as they chart a new course? Will you help young women walk the Road Less Traveled?
From now until International Women’s Day on March 8, we’ll be sharing stories of incredible girls who have come through our program. Girls who are challenging the status quo, breaking expectations, and dreaming big dreams.
Our girls face a fork in the road: to do things the way they’ve always been done or to forge a bold new path. Walk with our girls as they choose the Road Less Traveled.
We are endlessly inspired by these young women, and we can’t wait to introduce them to you.
To another bold step forward,