By Nicole Mason
For years, Yoellie Iglesias has been compelled to provide outreach and access to educational resources in the Hispanic community. Her education prepared her for what she is now most passionate: educating and empowering others, especially Latinas and mothers.
She moved to the United States from Puerto Rico at the age of 18 and initially attended Naugatuck Valley College in Waterbury before enrolling at Springfield College. She went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in 1999 and a master’s degree in education in 2004
In 2011, Iglesias founded Madre Latina, a group that aims to educate, connect and empower Hispanic women and mothers. Madre Latina holds meetings and worships for youth and mothers to empower themselves, engage in training and exchange information on activities, business, opportunities and employment. The organization also holds yearly events and conferences, and the third conference is scheduled for October 2013.Worship topics include mental health, business, and general health of the woman.
Overall, she said, Madre Latina seeks to educate mothers and the children to support student achievement and to help mothers understand the available resources, the educational system, and most importantly, understand how they can go to college.
What influenced you to go to school for education and social work? Did you always plan on using your acquired skills and knowledge to give back to the community?
I don’t know if you plan that you are going to go to school and then you are going to use what you learn. I think that sometimes you just have that desire to help somebody else. I think that if you are so blessed, you learn that you need to bless somebody else; that is how I feel and that is how I teach. I always tell people that if you are blessed every single day, you are supposed to bless somebody else. It is my philosophy of life. We are all connected and we need to think about our community too.
What was your biggest setback during your years of involvement? How did you overcome it?
Well, in 2011 I was very sick; I had Bell’s Palsy. It was very, very hard for me; I was suffering from chronic migraines and was very sick. My dream was to coordinate a Madre Latina conference. So when I got a little better, I told my husband the only I want to finish anything this year it is to coordinate my Madre Latina conference. And he told if this is what you want then it’s what we are going to do. So in two
months we coordinated the conference with my friends and my family. November 4th was the day of that horrible winter storm that paralyzed Connecticut, and that was the day of my conference. I was so sad thinking that nobody was going to show up…100 people showed up!
Mothers came and told me, “We don’t even have lights, we don’t have electricity but we are here because we want to be here.” Everyone was so impressed because it is so difficult to have parents in a meeting. Half of them had no electricity that day but we had one hundred people that night. That was an amazing night.
What future goals, or aspirations, do you have for your community?
I really want to create change. It is really hard because you need to educate your community a lot to create change within it. That’s why education connection and empowerment is so important in our organization. When you empower you can move a community forward.
They need to understand the system; not fight it or ignore it, but know it. So that is my goal: to understand and be aware of the system in order to create leaders that help the community to move forward.
If you could give one piece of advice to Latino families living in CT today, what would it be?
To not forget that they are the first teacher of their children; and they need to remember that we are the first role model. By that I mean that we, as parents, should always remember that our children are looking at us.
I don’t want my son to imitate anyone else. I want him to say I want to be like Mommy. Every day, I try to show him an example of what I want him to be in the future. I am responsible for the values that are put in him; not the community, not education, not the Church. It is our responsibility because nobody can love your child more than you.
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