Empowerment Center helps female students discover their leadership abilities

December 13, 2021

As a 27-year-old mother, wife, and first-generation college student, Teresa Rojas didn’t fit the profile of a typical freshman. When she found the Empowerment Center at SAC, she realized she wasn’t alone.

An advisor there helped Rojas with every aspect of her new college life, including financial aid, the enrollment process, and course selection. She also connected Rojas with an opportunity to help her develop outside the classroom: the Adelante Leadership Academy.

The academy provides leadership training to SAC students who are mothers through a series of workshops, each offering the chance to learn from an inspiring local female leader as well as through networking opportunities.

Empowerment Center Women Leaders copy.jpgThe program fills a void for students who often don’t get to participate in extracurricular activities or befriend other students because of the time constraints of studying, work, and caring for a family. Each monthly session takes place over lunch and provides information, encouragement, and the chance to get to know other mothers who are SAC students.

“I knew that saying yes to this program was putting another thing on my plate, but I knew the benefit from it would be tremendous,” said Rojas, who is majoring in interdisciplinary studies and plans to teach middle school. “The information we get there makes us better leaders and mothers and prepares us for the careers we’re going into.”                                            

“We feel it’s very important to work with groups of women students to let them know they really are leaders already, they just don’t realize it,” said Dr. Helen Vera, Director of the Empowerment Center.

The center also sponsors the Women4Women Student Organization, a year-long program that helps female students discover their leadership qualities while networking with other women and gaining practical experience. The group is open to all female SAC students.

As part of their training, participants plan campaigns around special causes.  The group created a campus-wide awareness campaign for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. The campaign included an event honoring three SAC students who lost their lives to domestic violence and a workshop on healthy relationships for female SAC students.

“It’s important as a leader that you look outward at what you can do for others,” said Abby Gonzalez, senior coordinator at the Empowerment Center. “These awareness months are leadership development tools.”

The group also performs community service. Students participated in pop-up markets organized by the SAC Student Advocacy Center to distribute food to those in need on campus in November. Through the Women4Women group, students gain experience, communication skills and confidence, as well as the opportunity to contribute to an important cause.

“These are things they will take with them when they start their career,” Gonzalez said. “We want to make sure we’re planting seeds, getting students to think about personal growth, not just academic growth.”