Heartwarming stories of female mentors and inspirations were shared over chicharrones (Spanish pork rinds), GOYA Maria cookies and tortilla chips with salsa at a special “Café con Leche” meeting on March 4. The meeting paid tribute to “Valiant Women of the Vote,” the theme of women’s history month this year as decided by the National Women’s History Alliance.
Nejesea Brown, a graduate intern with Campus Activities, Services & Leadership and assistant coordinator of the program had students commemorate the women in their lives.
Brown provided students with colored paper and pencils to write thank you cards to women who impacted their lives. Students were also given the opportunity to send a text or given a safe space to pray to a loved one if that was how they wished to share their gratitude. Many wrote to their mothers and grandmothers for the sacrifices they made to get them in college.
The meeting started with a rundown of the events that would be held on campus in celebration of Women’s History Month. Café con Leche co-founders Maribel Rodriguez and Francisco Diaz helped foster the conversation as students shared stories about women in their lives.
“Today we’re going to honor the women who have helped cultivate who we are,” Rodriguez said.
The room flourished in passion and warmth with the lingering smell of Café Bustelo as heartfelt stories were told and tears were shed. Since a majority of those present were a part of the Latinx community, many students related to one another’s stories that highlighted close maternal bonds.
Maribel Rodriguez was especially touched by the students’ stories. She shared her own story of how her mentor, Dr. Janet Mendez, became the pivotal female figure in her professional life. Mendez was the woman who inspired Rodriguez to guide college students, as she does today, to help them find “their end goal.” Her success, she attests, can all be attributed to the help of her “dream team” — the group of individuals who taught and supported her to become the professional she is today.
Rodriguez also discussed the communication present in her relationships, including that of her Facebook chats with Dr. Mendez.
Senior Paula Mejia, who recently started attending Café con Leche meetings, discussed how much she enjoys being able to make new friends and networking with faculty. She is a commuter, so she enjoys being a part of an on-campus events.
Senior Anna Brito starting attending Café con Leche as a volunteer for an assignment for a class. Considering it was her first Cafe con Leche meeting, she felt it was a safe and welcoming environment for her to share her opinions and personal stories with other Latinx and non-Latinx students.
Brito also enjoyed the “togetherness” the students and faculty of the focus group had and said she highly recommends others participate.
“It’s very informative, inspirational, and [meant] to lift people up,” she said.
If students are looking for a focus group that is as pure and flavorful as Café Bustelo, then they should make sure to stop by University Commons 202 on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.