Nonprofit Con Mi MADRE is reframing parent involvement to increase student success.


By Hannah Nuñez, Photos courtesy of Con Mi MADRE

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that only 20% of Latinos aged 25 to 29 in the U.S. have obtained a college degree.

Con Mi MADRE (Mothers and Daughters Raising Expectations) is a women-focused organization that has been working for more than 32 years to change the odds against educated Latinas. What began as a Junior League of Austin project in 1992, initially named the Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program, has blossomed into a multi-district education program that is breaking the barriers of traditional curriculum norms. Founded by Sandy Alcalá, Karen Kahan, MariBen Ramsey and Laura Wolf, the organization was officially recognized as a nonprofit in 2008 and continues to uphold the values of community and female empowerment that first inspired the cause.

While the organization is now accepting all female-identifying students and their respective guardians, it bases its programs off of traditional Hispanic values. Con Mi MADRE is acting as a voice for many young women who feel both responsible for and limited by their parents. “When I was in college, I knew that if anything were to happen to my parents, I would drop everything and go back home to help them without question,” says Executive Director Johanna Maya Fábregas. “Understanding that responsibility has encouraged us to ensure that if something happens back at home, the student can still maintain their education.” By acknowledging family as such an integral part of a young Hispanic woman’s life, Con Mi MADRE is recognizing and providing aid to these potential struggles.

Four Pillars

The team at Con Mi MADRE runs the nonprofit based on four key pillars that allow students and parents to grow alongside one another. For the organization, parental engagement creates the foundation that all other success is built upon. “We serve as a bridge to connect the student’s academic life and family life,” says Fábregas.

Johanna Fábregas

The involvement of parents creates a space where the girls are more likely to seek out resources and ask for help rather than feeling like they’re in it alone. The organization allows for a support system to be created between parents and encourages their individual success. “We have parent workshops throughout the year that highlight how they can play their part, while also creating a community of their own,” Fábregas explains. “Some of the moms have even decided to go back to school, and we provide them with connections and resources so they can follow their own path.”

Rather than rigidly focusing on academics, the organization prioritizes the development of social-emotional skills, encompassing the second pillar: holistic education. “While our end goal is very academic based, we strive for our students to be very well-rounded. We understand that their well-being goes so much deeper than a degree; it’s about knowing who they are as people,” says Fábregas. This idea of instilling a strong sense of self represents the third pillar: empowerment. “By recognizing how their experience can create an advantage for them, it reinforces the fact that regardless of what others think, these girls are the future.”

Their fourth pillar, community engagement, ensures that the students have the proper resources and experience to comfortably navigate their academic careers. By providing opportunities such as college tours, interview prep and leadership seminars, the girls are sure to be well prepared and supported. “We have partnerships with other organizations in the community that help students with their needs, anything from legal issues to tutoring,” says Fábregas. “Think of it as being a part of a bigger family. Even if we can’t help you directly, we know someone who can take care of it.”

Con Mi MADRE guides students every step of the way to college, by creating programs that best correlate with the girls’ age groups. The preparedness program consists of grades six through 10 and allows for the construction of a solid foundation. “This is the age that we focus the most on instilling social-emotional skills and confidence for the future.” Once the girls reach 11th and 12th grade, they progress into the participation program, which transitions focus onto college planning. “Here we go over details like interview prep, resumes and navigating leaving home for both parents and students,” explains Fábregas. Even whilst in college, the organization stands by for support through its success program, covering more real-world struggles such as credit and financial planning.

As the students progress in their education, the nonprofit makes a point to celebrate each and every milestone. From graduation ceremonies to scholarship events, the young girls are uplifted by the community. This year Con Mi MADRE will be celebrating its 12th annual Corazon Awards, recognizing those who shine bright within the organization. The community is reimagining traditional Hispanic values by emphasizing parent involvement while giving daughters the freedom to grow. From the beginning, Con Mi MADRE has worked to guide Latina daughters and mothers toward success, showcasing that balancing school and family is not only possible but powerful.



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