MANA makes a difference

Dave Schwab

Wed November 25, 2015 8:47pm

The Mexican-American Women’s National Association (MANA) turned Venus Molina’s life around.
Which is why, nearly 30 years later, Molina remains active as a volunteer with the organization. Her service and commitment have been so distinguished over the years that she’s been named one of five nominees to receive San Diego Magazine’s coveted Latino Impact Awards. Those awards honor distinguished Latino leaders who are making a difference in their communities.
MANA is a national Latina organization whose intent is to provide a voice for Mexican-American women at the national, state and local levels.
“I got involved with MANA 27 years ago and was part of the first group of mentees (of at-risk women) when I was 12 in 1986,” said Molina adding, “People have fun saying I’m the ‘poster child’ for Mana — and I truly feel that way.”
Noting she was a troubled teen, Molina said she was given a tough mentor to work with who showed her the error of her ways and helped her reshape her life.
“My mentor was very strict, she kicked my butt,” Molina said. “She told me, ‘You have all these leadership abilities but you do everything wrong. Why not put that energy into something good?’”
With the help of her mentor’s guidance, Molina went on to become president of her 8th grade class adding “that gave me the motivation to push myself” the rest of her life.
“I feel if it wasn’t for Mana, I wouldn’t be where I am right now, said Molina who, at age 39, has followed her mentor’s example in devoting herself to giving the benefit of her experience to help troubled young women.
The problems of Latinas today may be somewhat different, but the need for leadership and guidance for them remains just as acute.
“MANA started out as more of a sisterhood to help Latina women support each other,” said Molina pointing out that, when she joined, “There was a huge concern about Latina girls dropping out of high school and junior high and a huge increase in teenage pregnancy. So we started the Hermanitas Youth Leadership Mentor Program as a way to get kids to graduate.”
Molina said she and 11 others were the first “guniea pigs” to start their San Diego chapter and to begin the mentoring of at-risk girls. From those humble beginnings MANA has grown today to 496 members countywide.
“Our purpose and mission is to empower Latinas through education, leadership and advocacy, and we are now mentoring about 70 girls and have 100 percent graduation from high school and (achieving) college entrance,” Molina said.
Three other core MANA programs provide educational scholarships for young women, the hosting of a health fair to provide free services to impoverished individuals and families and a leadership program for girls taught in local schools.
Molina serves as MANA’s Vice President of Operations and she is Director of Community Affairs and Government Relations at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.
“I help lead in developing strategic planning policies and procedures,” she said adding “I’m pretty much the No. 2 person in the operational part of the organization.”
For more information about MANA visit http://www.manasd.org.