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A Voice for a Brighter Future

Tama County Community Foundation
May 15, 2017

Before Al Exito, Tina was wearing two masks: one at school and one at home. She did not feel completely herself in either location – her voice became lost in the tension of her two cultures.

Al Exito, a nonprofit serving middle school Latinos and Latinas, is working to eliminate the necessity of role-play among Latino youth in Iowa by giving them and their families the knowledge they need to have a voice.

“They want to feel valid and a part of the community. We try to help do that,” said Executive Director Dawn Martinez Oropeza.

In Tama County, Al Exito is helping Latina girls pursue higher education and become key leaders in their community. To do this, they bring in leading Latina women from Grinnell College and other partners as mentors to represent a future the students may have never imagined.

“Most of them have never been on a college campus, and have never known anybody with a college degree. We are being more intentional about making the next generation of leaders, so the kids that are growing up in the community can participate actively, and hopefully mentor younger kids.”

Al Exito's goal is to continue increasing graduation rates and higher academic achievements by overcoming cultural barriers. This includes a focus on turning things that are normally looked at as downfalls into advantages.

“We are looking at challenges that prevent our students from reaching these marks, and we are thinking about the hope factor. How much hope are we giving these students?”

Al Exito’s reach extends far past students and their families. By empowering youth with the skills they need and the ability to understand their strengths, they are creating future leaders for a stronger Iowa.