An advocate at heart
“I do it because my challenging work has brought me to this point of success.”
So says Litze Estrada ’23, who was recently named a 2022 Newman Civic Fellow. She is one of 172 college students from 38 states chosen for this year-long fellowship, awarded to those who demonstrate a commitment to finding solutions for challenges facing communities locally, nationally and internationally.
“It means that I have the power and capacity to create change within the community of my upbringings,” Estrada explains of what the fellowship means to her. “I am becoming a woman of advocacy. I am representing the Latinx community. I am representing the women in my family who cannot do something like this. I am representing my younger self who did not really believe in herself at the time. This means that I finally realized that I have the potential to create change and not just dream about it.”
Estrada has volunteered in multiple organizations, including those ensuring young people and families have access to critical needs such as food, health care and education. She also volunteers at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH USA), a nonprofit organization providing financial support for children in Latin America. It was through this community service that her ardor for advocacy, specifically for girls and women, was born.
“While translating letters from Spanish to English, I came across many letters from Latin American schoolgirls that mentioned how crucial it was for them to further their education; many believed that their education was the only way to obtain a better future. That is when I began to advocate for women and girls and developed the realization that I am capable of fighting for women, especially by giving them a voice,” says Estrada.
Her goal to be a leader in the Latinx community on issues related to the empowerment of women is also fueled by the opportunities that she has had. She admits she was not always aware of the value it holds to be a woman and a woman of color.
“I also became aware of my ‘privilege’ or advantages of being a woman of color where I can attend school and have rights, whereas other women in other countries can’t say they are free,” she says. “Of course, there’s room for improvement even here, but I am really advantaged. I can be free in what I say and be an advocate.”
For Estrada, advocating for girls and women is a moral responsibility because of the opportunities she has and her own experience as a woman of color.
“I advocate for women because of the experiences that I had of being told I cannot succeed and giving us certain roles at home, at school or professional life,” she says. “In our culture, we also must fight against machismo/sexism in Latin America.”
As a student in a women’s college, Estrada has found a supportive environment that encourages women to use their voices.
“Alverno is teaching me to not stay quiet. It’s teaching me to speak up and be mindful of others. Before coming here, I wasn’t shy, but academically I was. Alverno is teaching me to have that discipline. To be confident in the work that I am doing and believe in myself to help advocate for others.”
Estrada is triple majoring in Global Studies, Women & Gender Studies and Spanish in the Professions. While three majors may sound overwhelming, they all comprise her vision.
“They all intertwine. They help me become a better advocate by expanding my knowledge and how it is for women in other countries,” she says. “I can see issues with a global perspective and offer my experience as a woman while also using my native language to connect with my culture.”