Embracing Our Futures as Developing Leaders: The Resilience and Strengths of Young Latinas and Their Families

Jessica Moniz, Special Projects Coordinator at JFKUCCC

The Latino culture has become so intertwined with American culture, it’s virtually impossible to tell them apart. While some indicators including language still remain to discern a difference, even those markers are being swallowed up as Latinos/as continue to assimilate into this country’s society.

While America undoubtedly benefits from the addition of such a vibrant culture, there still exists systemic halters being placed on Latinos/as as well as other minority groups. As young Latinos/as grow to reach maturity, resilience and positive self-image become more and more important in the face of obstacles including targeted immigration policies and other impediments they have to face on a daily basis.

This was the topic of conversation at a workshop put on by the Latina Leadership Network at Los Medanos College called “Embracing Our Futures as Developing Leaders: The Resilience and Strengths of Young Latinas and Their Families.” As the title suggests, the purpose of this gathering was to engage in dialogue about social and psychological responses to contextual challenges – including somewhat draconian immigration policies – and to highlight examples of resilience during these uncertain times.

Two such examples are Janet Garcia and Marvilla Campbell, both of whom presented at the conference. They attend John F. Kennedy University and are involved with the school’s East Contra Costa Mental Health Initiative (ECCMHI) and School-based Program (SBP) at the John F. Kennedy University Community Counseling Center (JFKUCCC) in Concord. In addition, they each participate as members of the Functional Family Therapy (FFT) Team, where they provide free counseling services to families who couldn’t otherwise afford them.

Their presentations spanned the young Latino experience; touching on topics ranging from educational challenges to personal trials and everything in between. Members of the audience could relate; many of them were adolescents facing the same challenges.

“They provided some education around the kinds of issues they were facing,” says Jessica Moniz, Special Projects Coordinator for the JFKUCCC. “[They] talked about their own personal struggles, which was really helpful for the students that were there who could identify with those similar struggles and could see two young women who were able to overcome.”

The presentations also served to highlight the work JFKU community counseling centers do in the Bay Area. With locations in Concord, Oakland, and Sunnyvale, the counseling centers offer affordable mental health services to the public; and work to effectively educate and train future counselors through hands-on experience supervised by licensed practitioners. In addition to working in the counseling centers, the graduate students who administer these services also work directly on public school campuses in the area to provide school-based counseling for at-risk students who are struggling with mental and behavioral health issues; fulfilling the practicum hours needed for them to attain clinical licensure.

“We’re helping make them (the students) marketable in the future,” says Ms. Moniz. “We’re helping them achieve their academic goals and their required goals for licensure. This example of them participating in a workshop is showing that they’re becoming more than just clinicians, more than just getting the hours that they need. They’re actually becoming professionals in the field by taking on these other roles and responsibilities like going out and advocating to the general population.”