Partners in PolicymakingPartners in Policymaking




Latina Mami founder featured in “Latina” Magazine

29 year-old Gloria Perez-Walker, who founded the grassroots organization "Latina Mami" in Austin, Texas, was featured in the August, 2005 issue of Latina Magazine as an "Inspiring Latina." The article describes the story of how Perez-Walker started the organization out of her own needs as a 23 year-old first-time mother. She looked for support that came from a cultural perspective, because she did not relate to traditional parenting models. "Instead of finding support, I found demeaning classes and support groups where I was treated as a 'client.' I was disgusted."

Out of those negative experiences, Perez-Walker organized Latina Mami, which is entirely volunteer-run, and assists over 5,000 women a year through support groups, platicas/chats that teach valuable community organizing skills, a clothes closet, children’s events, a weekly radio show, and more. Roughly half of the women who volunteer or attend events are immigrant women, and the other half are 2nd or 3rd generation U.S. citizens. Perez-Walker says this is important for the organization as a whole, and that both groups of women are working with one another: "When I look at the stats on Latinas both native and foreign-born, we have children in our teens or early twenties and have more children on average than the rest of the population, I have to wonder why others aren’t working in a more culturally sensitive fashion with our group of women. Parenting support and community involvement are necessary for us to succeed, and for our children to succeed. Why are we still considered clients instead of fellow community members who can and should learn skills to transfer to our families and neighborhoods?"

Latina Mami wants to remain a peer support network: "We most certainly are not a charity —- each woman is asked to volunteer to help others like herself or trade clothing or items from our closet. Nor are we are middle-class mother’s group. Our volunteers believe that Latina Mami should be focused on the needs of working-class Latinas, since they make up the large majority of Latina mothers today in the U.S." Because of this, Perez-Walker is leading a membership drive from the local community in an effort to raise another $25,000 for program costs, as well as looking into a business run for the organization by its constituents, Latina mothers. Says Perez-Walker: "Latina Mami is not comfortable relying on others to fund us forever, since that is falling into the ‘poor me’ category —- and then what are we really teaching our children?"

I have enjoyed participating in the Partners class so very much, I am looking forward to putting my new knowledge to work. You have created a wonderful and necessary program that I am glad to have had the opportunity to attend and benefit from the fabulous resources, wisdom and information you presented.

I finally have wheels. After a wait of over 2 years I received an adapted car in September. I have a permit so now I will take lessons. Persistence pays off!

The information was invaluable. I now understand why it is so derogatory to use the "H" word.

Lettitia Clay, San Angelo, TX

After Partners, I was a changed person. I set to work on creating what was best for Rodney and our family. After some struggle, we got Rodney into a regular third grade class, he got help from staff and other kids. His behavior problems faded away quickly. It was then it dawned on me that Rodney had been bored with no role models. Now he is learning, taking part in school activities and making friends.

Meagan will graduate next year from Shaker Heights High School never having spent a day in a segregated classroom never having been pulled out of class to go get special services and always just being one of the Kids. She will be going on to college in 2006 to study Biochemistry and will go somewhere that she wants to go (and her parents can afford) without having to think about what extra special help she may need.

Maybe all this would have happened without Partners in Policymaking but probably not.

So THANK YOU and keep up the good work. Educating parents of young children with disabilities does have it's rewards.

- Valerie I. Crowley

Partners in Policymaking, Class of 2006, "A Force for Good," April 29, 2006, Houston, TX. Click here to access the graduation speeches.

The benefits of the Partners program are realized long after the weekend sessions are over. Each person's experience is different but it's the ripple effect, the networking, the new confidence and new opportunities that positively change lives.

"I am so thrilled! It is truly amazing how Partners has affected my life. Over the course of a week I received a hand signed, Presidential Seal letter from Laura Bush about the support group, I had received a letter from Craig Estes, our State Senator telling me he was going to be in Gainesville on Tuesday, October 2nd, and I spoke at that session about IDEA, LRE, CLASS, Inclusive Education, and now this great, great job. I am just on top of the world! It will be a hard week to top! Heck, if I can help people get and keep jobs - and be happy, it will top all of it. To be able to be a part of making someones life independent, and all that goes with it....THAT would be truly awesome..."

"...I cannot thank you enough for picking me Laura to attend the sessions. All of you have made my son Ryan's and my life so much better, also everyone we can touch with our lives..."

Susan Gillis