Latina leaders inspire students at Women’s Speaker Series


Brian Smith

Anita Maldonado talks with students after giving a talk at the Women Speaker Series sponsored by SALSA in the Student Center on March 14, 2013. Maldonado is an adjunct faculty member of the Pan African Department and teaches Latino Studies. Photo by Brian Smith.

Kelsey Leyva

Students, faculty and staff heard the empowering stories of three Latino women at the Women’s Speaker Series Wednesday.

Amanda Paniagua, graduate student of art history, Yvette Mendoza, administrative secretary in the Center for Student Involvement, and Anita Maldonado, instructor in the Department of Pan-African Studies, shared the struggles they faced being Latina women.

Jinre Holman, sophomore pre-accounting major and president of S.A.L.S.A., played an active role in coordinating the event and inviting the women to speak. She said that she wanted to incorporate “Spice Up Your Life” week with Women’s History Month.

“I thought it was really important that we have something for women’s month,” Holman said. “I wanted it to be more of an empowerment thing for women’s month.”

Paniagua was the first of the three speakers and talked about the importance of relationships.

“I really do think that the company you keep is either going to be the difference between empowerment or a really sad and bleak outlook,” she said. “It’s the simplest thing, but it’s the hardest thing to internalize because people do have a really strong hold on you, whether you realize it or not.”

She stressed the importance of people speaking up when they feel uncomfortable or unhappy.

“It’s okay to say ‘this is not the kind of behavior towards me that I’m going to tolerate, and this is not the behavior that I want to be surrounded by,’” she said. “I can tell you that I refuse to be silenced. My hope is to inspire other warriors along the way.”

Mendoza spoke second and focused on education and activism. She said that she decided years ago that activism was the right path for her and feels like she is where she belongs.

“Just when you think you can’t do well, you can,” she said. “I totally want to help everyone find the best ‘you.’”

Maldonado spoke last and focused on overcoming challenges and people living an aligned life.

“I think that part of being successful and part of being a leader is walk the walk and talk the talk,” she said. “Once you are all in your leadership positions, know that leadership is not popular all the time and know that you have to stand up for what you believe in.”

John Camargo, sophomore technology major, said that he will apply what he learned at the event to his personal life.

“I can show my sisters — I have four sisters — and tell them the stories I heard and show them it doesn’t matter where you start, it matters where you end up,” he said.

Maldonado ended the program with words of advice that she has learned in pursuing her own goals.

“I think having a goal and a dream and never quitting and really going after it [is what matters],” she said. “Find your purpose in life and love what you do, and you’ll never have to really work a day in your life.”

Contact Kelsey Leyva at [email protected].