Project Profiles: Latina FashionistaSeptember 26, 2008
The first grant Roseanna Garcia, 2007–08 Community Action Grantee, ever wrote was to AAUW for her project Latina Fashionista, aimed at helping Latina youth understand college and career opportunities for minority women interested in the fashion industry. She told me she couldn’t believe it when she received the large acceptance envelope in the mail. The award, she said, “really affirmed that someone believed in me.” Taking that message to heart, Roseanna hopes to do the same for minority youth: “I want them to know that I am someone who believes in them. I want to offer reassurance, support, and guidance.”
After working in the apparel industry for several years, Roseanna stepped back to look at how she was being treated as a women and as a minority. She decided to pursue a master’s degree at California State Polytechnic University, where she researched skills the apparel industry looks for in employees. After earning her degree, she wanted to pass this invaluable information on to the young women in her community.
Roseanna noticed the large high school dropout rate for minority women in the Los Angeles Unified School District and began to think about how she could “guide some of these kids and lead them through high school, to give them confidence to follow their dreams.” Last year Roseanna started a nonprofit to disseminate information about careers in the apparel industry: which colleges have design programs, which careers are offered in the fashion industry, who some Latina role models are, and so on. She began giving presentations at local libraries and schools, usually in Latino communities, with 5–20 students participating. In addition to these presentations, Roseanna also organizes field trips to important industry locations. Students and parents take behind-the-scenes tours to learn more about fabric, design, and showroom departments in the industry.
Recently, Roseanna received feedback from five girls she worked with this past year who said they are planning to attend college this fall to study fashion. One ninth-grade girl started a fashion club at her school with Roseanna’s encouragement. Seeing this return is the highlight of the work for Roseanna. “I love seeing students with their eyes open and their confidence up,” she said.
Currently a full-time teacher as well as executive director of Latina Fashionista, Roseanna hopes to spend more time with the organization in the future. She would like to have an office in the fashion district of Los Angeles, with a resource center offering information about fashion careers, positions, and schools. In addition, Roseanna envisions a mobile resource center, so she can take Latina Fashionista on the road and share her information.