Center for Latino Studies
Organization Background & Current Programs
Latinas Achieve was founded in 2018, just a few short months after the Center for Latino Studies at the University of Houston-Downtown opened its doors for the first time. The program began with a shared vision for serving the institution’s largest student population: Latinas. Over the program’s first year in existence, a core group of twelve Latina community partners and several key partnerships with local community organizations brought an unprecedented number of programs and opportunities to Latina students at the University of Houston-Downtown. As a result, a growing number of students and community partners sought formal membership in the program.
As Latinas Achieve entered its second year, the program gained a new team of student leaders: President Abigail Fernández, Vice President Domenica Barragán, Treasurer Angela Lechado, Secretary Lucy Torres, and Social Work Interns Reyna Álvarez and Cassandra Sifuentes. These outstanding student leaders brought new energy and enthusiasm to Latinas Achieve. Among their most notable accomplishments are recruiting more than one hundred students in the first thirty days, as well as forging new partnerships with several key high schools and community centers, where Latinas Achieve students mentor high school students on pathways to college. They forged new community partnerships, pioneering a brand new mentorship program with high school students and working with local community organizations.
In addition, the roster of mentors expanded to more than three dozen from across different industries and professions, and the program gained the guidance of a new team of twelve mentor-leaders serving on its Mentors’ Council. Since the program’s inception, Latinas Achieve mentors have generously devoted their time and resources to create new opportunities for student members.
- Helen Cavazos facilitated a gift of that enabled 40 students to attend the Houston Symphony for the very first time.
- Valentina Gómez Bravo sponsored a social media internship in which 10 student members gained valuable professional experience in branding and marketing working with directly with the CEO of Bunker +58.
- Gracie Saenz organized and chaired a panel of prominent Latina attorneys who shared their personal pathways and experiences in the legal profession with a group of aspiring law students.
- Ivette Mayo offered student members and their families new opportunities to gain financial literacy with her Latina Power Purse Programs, and even awarded scholarships to 5 student attendees.
- Michelle Tovar invited student members to meet legendary Chicana civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, in addition to providing additional opportunities to participate in other Latino-focused events at the Holocaust Museum Houston.
- Michele Leal shared her passion for giving back to her community as well as her journey in politics and welcomed student members to participate in Latin Women’s Initiative.
- Soledad Tanner created a paid internship in international finance through her business, Soledad Tanner Consulting, and provided one lucky student member the opportunity to work directly with the firm’s leadership.
- Paula Mendoza highlighted the program before the University of Houston System Board of Regents, recognizing its contributions toward student success and honoring student member Selena García Palacios for her outstanding accomplishments and service.
In Fall 2020, Latinas Achieve welcomes a new group of student leaders President Jasmin Mendoza, Vice President Sarahy Mancha, Secretary Anayansi Rendon, Treasurer Karem Maldonado, and a new social media team lead by Yamilet Román, Lorely Castañeda, and Karem Maldonado, as well as Social Work Intern Vanessa Pérez. These outstanding student leaders accepted the challenge to move the program forward during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Among their endeavors were the social media campaign “Portraits in Latina Excellence,” which celebrating the accomplishments and contributions of Latina professionals and community leaders. In addition, Vanessa Pérez has mobilized Latinas Achieve members to participate in Center for Latino Studies’ new oral history project, “Documenting the Pandemic,” which records how Latino communities across Houston have experienced the pandemic.
Building on these accomplishments, Latinas Achieve is working toward the creation of a new community engagement initiative called the Mentor2Mentor program. In this innovative model, Latinas Achieve student members can apply for a scholarship to participate in a two-way mentorship experience, in which they both receive mentorship from a professional in their field of study and provide mentorship on pathways to college to a group of local high school students. To sponsor a Mentor2Mentor scholarship, or create a named endowment in support of Latinas Achieve, please reach out to Dr. Bonnie A. Lucero at