september 17, 2021

MANA de San Diego’s Hermanitas Project Empowers Latinas Through Mentorship


In 1986, five insightful local Latinas recognized the significant need for a strong, unifying force to advocate for a greater Latina presence in San Diego County’s educational, economic, political, and social arenas.

These pioneering and resourceful women created that unifying force by establishing the San Diego Chapter of MANA, a national Latina organization whose mission is to empower Latinas through education, leadership development, advocacy, and community service.

MANA, short for “Hermana,” the Spanish word for sister, is a dynamic sisterhood of Latinas bound together by common history, culture, language, and goals.

Through its nationally recognized Hermanitas Youth Leadership Mentor Program, MANA de San Diego challenges Latina middle and high school students to reach beyond a high school diploma, to graduate from a higher education institution, and enter the professional work force as Latina leaders empowered to affect positive change.

Created in 1987, the Hermanitas Youth Leadership Mentor Program has served over 600 local Latinas, ages 12 to 18. The program features a curriculum of monthly educational seminars, community service, and writing and reading assignments. The National Hermanitas Summer Institute, Girls Scouts of America, and other school-based initiatives form part of the Hermanitas curriculum.

MANA de San Diego supports these young Latina students in their life-changing journey by providing them with an exclusive and constant one-on-one mentorship throughout the program. Hermanitas Mentors are women who have walked down similar paths or faced similar challenges as the youth in the program and are now successful leaders in the Latinx community. 

“The Hermanitas Program provided me with a network of women in leadership positions and has empowered me to see myself in different career fields,” says Elaine Angelica Leo, a recent Hermanita senior spotlight. “I’d like to thank MANA and my mentor Esther for guiding and inspiring me to pursue higher education.”  

“The past five years in the Hermanitas Program have been a beautiful journey of growth and empowerment.  I’d like to thank MANA and my mentor Francys for supporting my dream of being the first college graduate in my family,” said another recent Hermanita senior spotlight Larisa Gutierrez.

This year, MANA de San Diego celebrated with 11 seniors graduating from the program. In September 2021, MANA de San Diego held a Hermanitas Seminar with support from the MAAC Project to kick-off the 2021-22 year and brought together 61 pairs of mentors and mentees for this program year. 

You can learn more about the Hermanitas Program and all MANA’s programs at