How Con Mi MADRE empowers young Latinas and their mothers

The nonprofit organization Con Mi MADRE turns 15. Our Q&A with Executive Director Johanna Moya Fábregas gives us a glimpse into the challenges, evolution and future plans to keep pushing Latinas forward.

Con Mi MADRE (Mothers and Daughters Raising Expectations), a nonprofit organization that helps young Latinas pursue higher education with the support of their mothers, turns 15 this year. The organization’s launch stemmed from a statistic that a Latina baby had less than 1% chance of obtaining a college education. Con Mi MADRE will host its annual Corazón Awards on April 1 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Junior League of Austin Community Impact Center.

How has Con Mi MADRE helped families throughout the years? Executive Director Johanna Moya Fábregas gives us insight into how the organization has evolved over the years, the obstacles they’ve overcome, and plans for the future.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

What was the organization like when it started in 1992?

It started in the basement of the University of Texas School of Social Work. It was in a space that was borrowed and UT offered the resources. It was small groups and a fundraising team. I talked to the first executive director about when Con Mi MADRE started a few years ago, and it was tiny. It was trying to figure things out. It was the people who sustained our community at that time, local Latino leaders in Austin who could afford to give back, to donate, and build personal connections.

How has the organization evolved since becoming its own nonprofit in 2008?

It’s grown a lot in terms of how many people are involved. As the cost of living has gotten really expensive, people of color have had to move to the periphery of the city, to Buda, Pflugerville, and Del Valle. We as an organization have followed where families are, where the need is, where we can serve people. We have expanded where we support. We are in Fort Worth as well, anywhere that there’s a need. So it’s really grown.

What has been a big challenge for the organization?

I think a challenge as a nonprofit in general is finding sustainable sources of revenue for people to support the work that we do, so that we can meet the needs. A lot of times, there’s this mentality that because you’re a nonprofit, you don’t need as much.

In our work, we’re not selling things, it’s really just the time that our coordinators spend with the families and the students.

There’s the funding part and then there’s the service part like how the students changed after the pandemic. People’s lives changed, a lot of mental health trauma came to the surface. If you’re going to focus on supporting somebody in their education journey, you have to see where they are and what they need, and how to support them with the resources.

How did COVID affect Con Mi MADRE programs?

COVID affected the people that we serve the most. Our students are the ones who have the least access to technology and connectivity to continue to be a student. It impacted the student’s space because suddenly everybody’s in the same space at home and they didn’t have the space to study. Parents had to figure out how to support their kids and make a living.

We were virtual for a while, had to stop, went back to virtual and tried to re-engage people. We had to adapt and figure out what worked, what people needed. I think one lesson that the pandemic yielded was why our program works: it’s because of the community.

How do you feel about the next milestone, the 15 year anniversary as a nonprofit?

I’m super excited. We try to connect with people that have been through Con Mi MADRE over the last few years. It’s exciting to see an organization be empowered from the perspective of those who have been involved with it.

Thinking about it symbolically, it’s not like a traditional quinceañera where you go into society, but more about that age. You become a teenager and are more intelligent and have self determination.

What’s next in Con Mi MADRE’s future?

Thinking about the coming years, we need to figure out what is the best, most sustainable way to build when coming to either more students or other states in the future. Every time that I talk to people about what we do throughout the country, no one has told me about anything similar. Everyone is like, “Wow can we bring that here?” But before we grow, it’s figuring out ‘what is that like.’ What are the basic things that you need to be able to do? Our new component is looking at professional development.

When I went to college as a Latina immigrant, the message that I received was like “these are the rules of the game and in order to be successful you have to do these things.” But my culture was nowhere to be found in that prescription. It’s like my culture was reserved to my friends and home. The message was like “do this, be competitive, plug into the mainstream.” That’s not the message that we give our students.

When we look at the workforce now and the future of companies, you’re looking at it. When you look at the projections and demographic growth, who’s graduating from universities, it’s women of color. Latinos are the fastest growing sector who spend the most, we play a very significant role in the economy. Keeping in mind that our goal, as an organization, is to get them through college, prepare them to move into other spaces, and engage those women of color and Latinas that want to help and do the work.


What: Corazón Awards

When: April 1, 2023

Where: Junior League of Austin Community Impact Center

What time: 6- 9 p.m.

Tickets & Cost: General admission $200- includes access to cocktail party, Corazón Awards, dinner, silent auction and after-party.

Virtual general admission tickets for $99- includes access to Corazón Awards and virtual silent auction.

All ticket proceeds go directly to the young women of color that are pursuing a high school and college education.

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