A special reception will be hosted at the Marshalltown Public Library from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday to honor the legacy of Latina service and leadership in the community, through a local mentoring program that was the inspiration for a new Drake Community Press book, "The Ones I Bring With Me/Los Que Llevo Conmigo: Iowa's Young Latinas on Education, Identity, and Success."
The al Exito program originally started in Marshalltown in 2006 when Marshalltown's Pam Swarts and Jan Mitchell, who were co-chairs of the diversity committee for the American Association of University Women-Iowa, reached out to local college-experienced Latinas to talk about ways to encourage Latina girls to embrace education as a key component of success.
Swarts is proud of how far the organization has come.
Pictured attending the book launch event for The Ones I Bring With Me/Los Que Llevo Conmigo at Drake University, from left to right, are Wendy Soltero, Joan Jaimes, Pam Swarts, and current MHS students, Marcela (holding book), Brianna, and Josie. The madrinas and students will read aloud a few stories from the book at the May 4 event.
"Al Exito has grown from a grass-roots project begun here in Marshalltown, to a 501 C3 organization with impact in various Iowa communities," Swarts said. "I'm proud to know that we are making a positive difference in young people's lives by helping them envision college in their future.
The original planning committee included five Latina women who continue to show leadership and guidance in Marshalltown: Anel Garza, elementary principal; district teachers Gladis Gonzalez and Francie Woerner; MEP coordinator with Marshalltown Community College, Joan Jaimes; banking professional, Gabriella Vargas Gonzalez; and real estate agent, Martha Garcia. These women and others who were recruited as the first madrinas, will be honored at Sunday's event, alongside the madrinas of today.
All interested community members and families are welcome to attend all or part of the reception, which will begin with a string ensemble from the MHS orchestra from 1 to 1:30 p.m. A brief bilingual program, facilitated by current madrina Veronica Guevara, will begin at approximately 1:30 p.m. and feature recognition of madrinas, past and present, as well as readings of stories from the book by local girls and women. Swarts, Mitchell and book editor Carol Spaulding-Kruse will also be in attendance.
Copies of "The Ones I Bring With Me" will be available for sale, with all proceeds benefitting the al Exito program. This event is a collaboration between the library and the Al Exito program, with financial support from the Community Foundation of Marshalltown. Only the lobby and meeting room areas will be available during this event, which is scheduled during non-library hours; doors will be unlocked by 12:45 p.m.