Saturday, April 7, 2012

Liz Soria's WLP Retreat Experience

Liz Soria is a senior and member of the Women’s Leadership Project at Gardena High School. She is co-founder of AB-540 Crew, a club advocating for the educational equality of undocumented students at Gardena High School. Liz recently took part in the WLP retreat held at the Thousand Pines campgrounds. The event was sponsored by the L.A. County Human Relations Commission's zerohour program.

The WLP retreat was a fantastic experience that I would not think twice about doing again. The nature walks were relaxing and gave me time to contemplate changes I want to make in my life. As much as I enjoyed the trails and being surrounded by nature, I also enjoyed the films and workshops. Personally, the workshop that Diane Arellano gave us stood out to me. In this workshop, we heard the story of a teen age Dominican girl named Yanira who lives in New York. Yanira tried to commit suicide because of the pressures she faced at home. She lived in a strict home where she was not allow to go out of the house aside from school, or have friends or boyfriends. Her mother’s desire to have control over Yanira included subjecting her to random pregnancy tests. Yanira was expected to take care of her siblings and when her mother contracted breast cancer, Yanira was expected to care of her too. When Yanira did attempt suicide, staying in the hospital was an experience that made her feel loved because the nurses were nice to her. I related to this story because I know how it feels when your family is putting so much pressure on you that you can’t even focus in school. Having conversations about the pressures that young women of color face has been life changing, before having found WLP I was super brain washed. In my home and in my community I have always understood that a higher education is not as important as having kids and staying home to clean and cook like a “real woman/ wife” does.
I think of Women’s Leadership Project (WLP) as the light in the darkness. As a senior at Gardena, I had no hope or desire to go to college before WLP. I used to think it would be impossible for me to attend college because I’m undocumented. Meeting Diane Arellano and Ms. Hutchinson was something special for me because they have helped me understand the pressures and obstacles we face while encouraging us to attend college. I see all the hard work they do by teaching us about equality, the rights of women, and other things they bring for us to learn. Ms. Hutchinson is my role model because she has inspired me to value educating young women.

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