#BeThatGirl: MANA Inspiring the Women of Our Future

Hermana is the spanish word for sister. For some, the word may not hold much meaning but for a special group of Latina women who belong to Mana de San Diego (MANA), it has been a source of inspiration since 1986.

Mana de San Diego (MANA) is a nonprofit organization founded to empower the Latina community through education, leadership development, community service and advocacy. MANA, short for hermana, is rooted in the unity of sisterhood and the common goal of creating better opportunities for San Diego Latinas so that they are able to reach their goals.

As part of our #BeThatGirl initiative, five of our women employees are volunteering as Tias (aunts) to more than a dozen Hermanitas (little sisters). The Tias provide one-on-one mentorship and leadership training, and engage the Hermanitas in workshops, seminars and field trips – all in an effort to foster meaningful and lasting change for these girls, and to inspire an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Sixty Latina youth from at-risk backgrounds are served annualy through the Hermanitas program. All Hermanitas are exposed to STEM learning through workshops, including our #BeThatGirl STEMinars.

“Being part of the Hermanitas and the Tias program allows me to pay forward the mentorships I had in my community,” said Leticia Cervantes, operating budgets supervisor at SDG&E. “Being a first-generation college graduate Latina, I can offer the young ladies insight to their unique college experience.”

Mentorships, Friendships and STEM

Research shows that youth who have access to mentors and role models are generally more likely to pursue advanced education and develop a stronger sense of professional identity. That’s why SDG&E is involved with MANA and other educational and mentorship programs. We want to help develop the next generation of diverse leaders who will make a positive impact in our communities.

The need for mentors for Latinas is especially critical, because of these statistics:

  • The Latina population is the fastest growing population in the US, representing 38% of San Diego county.
  • Many Latinas struggle to support their families and advance professionally (National  Council of La Reza)
  • In San Diego County, 10.1% of Latina high school students do not graduate on time and 7.8% drop out completely (California Department of Education).

Opening Up Opportunities Through A College Tour

Earlier this year, sixteen senior Hermanitas visited the University of Chicago, Lake Forest College, De Paul University and the University of Illinois. They learned about campus life, the services offered for first-generation college students and how to network with current undergraduates.

Not only were the young ladies able to learn about each university, but they even had the time to have some fun and explore the Windy City! They visited Millennium Park, the Chicago Museum of Art, the National Museum of Mexican Art, the Magnificent Mile and the Navy Pier.

“The Hermanitas’ College Trip helped me learn of the importance of visiting colleges out of state,” said Sofia, a Hermanita from the Class of 2020. “My favorite university was University of Chicago because of the architecture. I feel that it would be a great university to get my undergraduate degree.”

Through experiences like this, we hope to continue to guide and inspire Latina youth from at-risk backgrounds to complete high school and pursue advanced education and innovative careers.

Editor’s Note:

Through our new #BeThatGirl initiative, women professionals at SDG&E are volunteering as role models and mentors for young girls in our communities, encouraging them to pursue studies and careers in engineering, meteorology, environmental science, computer science, biology and biotech, and many other STEM fields (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.) Our role models remember when not too long ago they were the only girl in their science or engineering classes. Today, they are dedicated to overcoming the severe underrepresentation of women in STEM careers. They are connecting directly with young girls to let them know that they, too, can have a great STEM career. They, too, can BeThatGirl!