Mari Carmen was born and raised in Baja California, Mexico. She fosters a deep love for learning and began her professional journey as a teacher. Here she discovered a desire to better understand her students and decided to become a psychologist. Upon graduating Mari Carmen was able to simultaneously work as a therapist and college professor, and thoroughly enjoyed both careers. At the age of 28, she married, moved to the United States and adapted to a new life. After learning English, she worked as a counselor at the University of Bridgeport in the Talent Search Program and a year later she was hired by the Clifford Beers Clinic as a clinician. She then took time off to raise her growing family. As the children grew, she felt the need to continue her education and came across the book Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman. The book discussed how to feel more satisfied, be more engaged with life, find more meaning, have higher hopes, and probably even laugh and smile more, regardless of one’s circumstances. She fell in love with these ideas which were the fundamentals of a growing school of psychology known as “positive psychology.”
She joins the current Board of Directors: Board co-Chair Deborah Sabia, Hispanics Initiative Manager with Girl Scouts of Connecticut Board co-Chair; Board co-Chair Yolanda Caldera-Durant, Program Associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, previously the Director for Economic Opportunity and Health and Human Services for the Fairfield County Community Foundation (FCCF); and Cynthia Toscano-Lopez, MBA and business manager at Pitney Bowes.
The Latina A.R.M.Y. is the first organization of its kind to offer free in-school empowerment workshops that promote self-awareness and encouraged girls to set healthy boundaries in their relationships, to identify their personal goals and develop concrete life plans. The workshops are conducted by caring Latinas and non-Latinas who serve as role models to inner-city Latina girls between the ages of 9 and 18. The volunteers are women who faced a difficult challenge in order to meet a goal that resulted in a better way of life and as a result of their determination and hard work, add value to society. Given the changing demographics of Connecticut and other states, it is crucial for women to become involved in guiding girls as they begin to navigate their middle school and high school years. We can do this by sharing our stories and letting them know that we faced challenges and were able to overcome them to become the women we are today.
Although the organization is all-inclusive, The Latina A.R.M.Y., Inc. was established in 2008 in response to the crisis state of young Latinas in the United States. Current statistics tell us that young Latinas (the fastest growing U.S. demographic group) hold the highest rates of: attempted suicide –one in seven young Latinas attempts suicide; teen pregnancy-more than 53% are pregnant or become mothers at least once before the age of 20 (more than double the national average); female high school drop-outs in the country (nearly double the national average). Most sociologists agree that this group finds itself between cultures and often cannot find positive role models who understand them. The majority of girls who complete a Latina A.R.M.Y. program say they feel better about their future and benefit from higher self-esteem as a result of their participation. To date, the organization has reached 750 girls throughout the state of Connecticut and in the metro New York region.
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The Latina A.R.M.Y., Inc., a national nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) organization, whose mission is to celebrate and empower young Latinas by providing inspirational role models and introducing powerful life skills for personal excellence. Their goal is to empower 1 million young Latinas across the United States. The organization is interested in recruiting board members. For more information or to volunteer, please visit: http://www.theLatinaARMY.org email info@thelatinaArmy.org or call (203)812-9901.