“Chica Project (CP) began as an idea in my mind when I settled into my professional career in Massachusetts,” says founder and Board Chair, Nurys Camargo. Originally from Hialeah, Florida in Miami-Dade County, she arrived in the Boston area to attend Mount Ida College in 1993 through a soccer scholarship. After witnessing an overwhelming need and opportunity to align a growing network of Latina leaders with first-generation Latinas living in the Commonwealth’s most underserved communities, she decided to start the Chica Project. This gap could be met by providing mentoring and career/college coaching opportunities, which could then lead to personal success for Latinas and other Women of Color.
Chica Project started in June 2011, with 10 Latinas from underserved communities in Springfield, Holyoke, Lawrence, and Boston with the goal to develop a strength-based youth leadership program that was rooted in cultural competency and the celebration of Latino culture. During the conversations that took place with our young women in that first year, we realized how important the burgeoning relationships between our participants and their leaders had become. In November 2012, Chica Project created a formal group mentoring program that linked to our leadership workshops. We held our first graduation in June of 2012 and since then, several graduates have returned as mentors and volunteers.
On October 2nd, 2017, Chica Project hired Erika Rodriguez, a former mentor and intern, as the Executive Director. She is the organization’s first full-time employee, marking the organization’s first major structural transition from being solely volunteer-based. Erika is a first-generation Dominican, born and raised in Boston, was a student in the Boston Public Schools, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Africana Studies from Simmons University. Erika’s focus of leadership with Chica Project has been to carry out its mission in every way possible and her work with underrepresented women is thoughtful, strategic, and visionary.
In 2020, Chica Project experienced many shifts, including a quick and impactful response to the twin public health pandemics of COVID-19 and racism as well as the internal implementations that help build the capacity and organizational systems needed for our long-term sustainability. CP was able to launch three successful programs. In August, our first ever Summer Village program was launched, a 5-week hybrid program that met both in-person and virtually to support the social and emotional growth of inner city Youth of Color from Boston and other parts of MA. In the Fall, the Peer Leader program was launched, CP’s newest initiative towards deepening leadership development opportunities for our returning youth. Lastly, as 2020 came to an end, the CP Mentor program launched, designed to intentionally engage participating mentors in a virtual setting while providing them with guidance as they contribute to the growth and success of the community.
Although 2020 brought many challenges, Chica Project was able to pivot triumphantly. Chica Project has now served over 2,000 Latinas and other Women of Color. Today, we have active participants in Boston, Lawrence and Lynn and all over Massachusetts due to our virtual program. We currently serve over 300 participants and engage over 50 volunteers this program year. All of this is done in an environment that supports and encourages a deepened understanding of our culture and identity.
With current demographic trends indicating that by 2050, 1 in 4 Americans will be of Latino/Hispanic descent. In 2016, 60% of girls of color in the United States were born to families living below the poverty line (Novo Foundation) and Chica Project looks to grow and continue to support this growing population. Our success depends upon the support of countless sponsors, donors, mentors, and volunteers who have successfully transformed and empowered the lives of many young women in our community.”