Noemi Raygoza graduated from our program in 2013 and was awarded an Empowerment Scholarship for her essay below. The oldest child in her family, Noemi tells her story of how Athena's Warehouse became a safe place for her, as she supported her family through her father's illness. 

Noemi's Essay

A few years ago my dad began to suffer from back problems. The doctors told him his spinal nerve was thinning and in result his bones were grating against each other. As the pain grew worse he decided to buy medical insurance, start going to the hospital and seek treatments. We quickly began to have financial problems and seeing my dad undergo pain and continue to work a rigorous job started to affect me. I became withdrawn in school and from my friends. I would always go straight home and after a while this is how my days went. After a while however and after much debate, I decided to stay for Athena's Warehouse. At first I joined because all my friends were joining it, but soon I was only going because I would become excited for the workshops. I also greatly wanted to distract myself of what was going on at home.

I went to the career/interview workshop and it's one of my favorites. At the beginning during my first interview I was intimidated and very nervous. The woman who interviewed me was, however, very kind and patient with me and I soon became very confident in myself. This developed throughout all three interviews and I surprised even myself. Usually I am a shy person, I don't much speak up in class nor do I ever instigate conversations with anyone. The fact that I was talking openly to these women I had barely met made me feel reassured in myself. I also enjoyed talking about my interests and plans for the future. This isn't something I get to talk about with anyone because both my friends and family always want to talk about their own opinions. I absolutely appreciated this workshop and was especially proud of myself when I learned I was scored a top interviewee. 

I love watching movies and going to the High Museum of Art, so I absolutely couldn't miss out on the opportunity to do both. Both the films of Miss Representation and Inocente touched me greatly. I could relate a bit to Inocente and her quest to find her place in this world. It was inspiring meeting her and is a memory that I will always hold with high regard. Miss Representation opened my eyes to how women are perceived and how we perceive each other and ourselves. Of course I know it is common to be self-conscious at this age but that should definitely not be acceptable. The film made me realize just how large the media's role in this all is. I consider myself all for women's rights and would hope to educate other women in this also. If it were up to me I'd love to share this workshop and film viewing to other women and men because I feel like we take much for granted and don't sometimes see the harm we are doing.

Noemi (far right, second to last) with fellow AW participants and Inocente at the High Museum of Art 

Noemi (far right, second to last) with fellow AW participants and Inocente at the High Museum of Art 

Another workshop I hold to a high degree was the self-defense workshop. It put much in to perspective for me as a teenage and a minority. My mom often reminds me of the women back in our home country Mexico. We come from a very small village where the people have little education. Women aren't valued as much as men; they are seen as child caretakers that should stay at home. Oftentimes I hear stories of domestic abuse from back home, I have many uncles that have more children that they can remember. They beat their wives and don't care for their children and sadly this is seen as normal back in my parents’ village. I never really thought this to be true here in the United States, but hearing the stats of women who are raped and abused opened my eyes. This workshop helps me to this day in that it gives me the motivation to not be another statistic. If I had the power, I would share this lesson to all the women of Mexico. I don't believe many of them are aware of help that is available to them or even that they can be strong enough to stop the abuse or violence. The want to help these women and their children is assurance of why I want to one day become a social worker. I want to help in a way as this club has helped me. This club helped me realize that I want to take it a step further and aid others to the best of my extent. 

I wanted to do this club at first to stay out of the house in order to not deal with my dad's suffering but I learned through each workshop how to appreciate myself and others more. If I could pass on anything that I have learned from this club it would be that every young lady should be proud of being a woman. Women are beautiful beings that can achieve anything and everything.

Every young lady should be proud of being a woman. Women are beautiful beings that can achieve anything and everything.