Young Stars Created Within the Junior League of Atlanta
By Shirley Anne Smith, Executive Director, Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation
When I was in high school, I felt alone. Not because of the sheer number of students but because my school simply lacked other students who looked like me, spoke Spanish like me or had deep rooted cultural traditions that could be traced back to countries in Latin America. I felt alone because no matter where I looked, I didn’t have a group or support system made up of women who understood my challenges of not knowing how to become college or career ready. I am proud to say that while it has been many years since I graduated high school, young Latina women no longer need to feel alone as they plan for a future beyond high school graduation.
Latina teens now have Estrellitas. Estrellitas in Spanish means young stars and the name is so incredibly appropriate for what these teens experience year after year through their participation in the group. Junior League has created a magical formula for empowering these young women. Estrellitas recruits Latina teens from local schools, partners with the nonprofit LaAmistad, and then exposes these teens to volunteer mentors from the Junior League of Atlanta (JLA). All of these components alone may not have much impact but together, they create a pathway for success.
The Junior League of Atlanta originally created Estrellitas as an outreach tool to increase the league’s support to Latina women and children. It was also intended to help reduce high school dropouts, teen pregnancy along with helping these teens navigate through a critical time in their life. This has now evolved to a year-long program that exposes these young women to leadership, community service, health and wellness along with many other topics.
In my experience, women who achieved success all had one thing in common. They all had one person, or a collective of people, who challenged them to shoot for the stars and reach for their ultimate potential. The women of Junior League are doing just that. Not only are they mentoring these young women but they are also helping advocate for them so that they may achieve and dream as far as their imaginations allow.
The Junior League of Atlanta’s Estrellitas gives Latina teens a place to dream, plan and achieve. As a Latina league member, I could not be any more proud of the women who volunteer with Estrellitas and I know these young women will be the young stars of Atlanta.