Local leader empowers Latinas

Sofia Salgado

From becoming a member 20 years ago, to becoming the first ever Executive Director in 2016, Bonita resident Sofia Salgado, 50, has continuously dedicated herself to uplifting Latina women through MANA de San Diego.

MANA, short for the Spanish word for sister, “hermana,” is a national non-profit organization that aims to educate and empower Latina women at every stage of their lives.

When Salgado first began volunteering with MANA, she was working a full-time job as Community Affairs Manager at KGTV/Channel 10. She said the women she was surrounded with through MANA made balancing work and volunteering worth it.

“The women of MANA San Diego, they’re the type that mentor you and support you, and they see potential in yourself that you don’t see in yourself,” Salgado said.

The San Diego chapter of MANA was founded in 1986, and is now the largest and most active MANA chapter in the nation with more than 4,000 supporters, according to their website. Salgado explained that MANA offers a variety of programs for Latina girls and women, including the Hermanitas program, Tias program and Scholarship program.

Through the Hermanitas program, Latina youth age 11-18 are paired with female professionals who mentor them for at least a year, with the goal of encouraging them to succeed in high school and pursue higher education.

According to Salgado, the Hermanitas program has a 100 percent success rate when it comes to getting their girls to graduate from high school, and 80 percent of their high school seniors apply to college. Salgado said seeing their growth is what keeps her going.

“At the end of the year they’re so confident, they look you in the eye, they have a firm handshake… so that’s really inspiring,” Salgado said.

The Tias program is an extension of the Hermanitas program, where Latina women who are pursuing higher education can get extra support. Salgado said young women that are a part of this program receive monthly care packages and have the opportunity to attend mental health seminars and learn about imposter syndrome.

According to a study published by the International Journal of Behavioral Science, imposter syndrome is when people fear they are a fraud, or undeserving of their successes.

“A lot of times women, especially Latinas, don’t ask for help,” Salgado said.

The 2019 MANA de San Diego Impact report cites a three-year study of mentoring programs by the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy which found that Latinas benefit from engaging in mentorship programs.

The San Diego chapter of MANA awards $40,000 to $50,000 in scholarships annually to students pursuing degrees from community college to doctorates. According to Salgado, any Latina in San Diego who is pursuing higher education can apply.

When offering advice to young Latina women pursuing higher education or diving into their career Salgado said “Don’t be afraid to fail. That’s when you learn the most and it’s part of the journey to where you’re headed.”

In addition to offering support through mentorship and scholarship, MANA de San Diego holds events throughout the year, and facilitates fundraisers and workshops. Salgado said MANA de San Diego tries to find topics that are affecting Latinas and offer the respective resources.

On Aug. 31 Norma Chavez Peterson from San Diego ACLU and Carmen Chavez from Casa Cornelia Law Center will speak at a MANA de San Diego networking breakfast.

Salgado said these speakers were scheduled in light of the recent shooting in El Paso, in which a white supremacist drove more than ten hours to target and kill Mexicans. For more information about how to get involved with MANA de San Diego and the networking breakfast visit www.manasd.org.