PO Box 93531
Des Moines, IA 50393
Dawn Martinez Oropeza
Al Éxito (AÉ) is a statewide organization that empowers Latinos students and families to succeed in life and in Iowa by encouraging the pursuit of higher education through leadership training and mentorship. AÉ motivates and prepares middle-school Latinos for high school and post-high school by engaging the students with successful adult leaders in their communities. AÉ also engages and informs families about the importance of higher education for the success of their children and, ultimately, their community.
AE’s mission statement is a commitment to motivate and prepare middle and high school Latinas/Latinos for post-high school education and the potential for economic security, civic engagement, and a stable family life.
The American Association of University Women-Iowa’s Diversity and Equity Committee initiated a pilot program for Latinas in Marshalltown in 2006-2007. AÉ now is in its seventh year operating in Marshalltown, and has grown to include boys as well as girls programming. The model developed in Marshalltown has been replicated in nine communities across Iowa. AÉ became a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization in 2009. Breaking from its history of all-volunteer leadership, the Board of Directors hired an Executive Director in March 2013.
AÉ goals are to increase Latino students’ 1) school attendance, 2) academic achievement, 3) parental involvement, 4) graduation from high school, and 5) enrollment in post-secondary education. AÉ believes achieving these goals will significantly increase the number of Latino youth who successfully graduate from high school and go on to earn college degrees. Many will return to the community to contribute to the local economy, engage in civic life, and serve as role models to younger students.
Al Éxito United Way Article
In 2006, Latinas al Éxito (Al Exito) was created as a project of American Association of University Women, in Marshalltown, IA, when Jan Mitchell and Pam Swarts met with a group of Latina community leaders who identified the need to provide support to young aspiring Latina students. Al Éxito now is in its ninth year operating in Marshalltown, and has grown to include boys, parents, and Movimiento high school programming. Maria Garcia-Moreno passed her leadership to Marisol Aquero as site coordinator, Wendy Soltero is facilitating Movimiento, and two Grinnell students Jason Camey and Alfredo Colina facilitate the boys program. The model developed is replicated in eight communities across Iowa and 30 schools. Al Éxito became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2009. In 2013 Al Éxito program was featured in a book that was collaboratively published by Drake University Community Press, The Ones I Bring with Me/ Los Que Llevo Conmigo: Iowa’s Young Latinas on Education, Identity, and Success with forward by NPR Maria Hinojosa. In 2015, the organization was nominated for the national Excelencia in Education award.
Al Éxito’s mission continues to provide programming that builds the leadership potential of Latino/a youth through college preparation, career development, civic engagement, family support, and celebration of culture. Achieving our mission will significantly increases the number of Latino youth who successfully graduate from high school and go on to earn college degrees and successful futures. Many Latino graduates will return to Marshalltown and enhance the community by contributing to the local economy, engaging civically, and serving as role models to many others.
Iowa’s future will be shaped in significant ways by the Latinos that are currently enrolled in Marshalltown schools. Their participation in a skilled workforce and population of informed, life-long learners is vitally important to ensure that Iowa is economically stable, resilient, and forward-looking. Al Éxito is grateful that United Way of Marshall County supports our vision and the organization. Together we will all succeed for a stronger Marshalltown and Iowa.