Light a Fire 2016: Emerging Leader

Born in Mexico, 28-Year-Old Cristina Delgado Devotes Herself to Washington County’s Latina Girls

“I have a similar background to many of the Chicas,” says the Adelante Mujeres staffer.

By Claire Colby October 10, 2016 Published in the November 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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Cristina Delgado (front, center)

Nearly a quarter of Hillsboro’s 97,480 residents are Latino. In neighboring Forest Grove, a whopping 50 percent of school-age children are Latino—the highest percentage in the metro area.

Cristina Delgado has dedicated herself to that population, specifically the area’s Latina girls. Having grown up as an immigrant in a female-only household, the 28-year-old family engagement coordinator for Chicas knows the importance of having strong female role models within your community. Born in Michoacán, Mexico, Delgado emigrated to the US at the age of 9 with her mother and sister after the death of her father in Mexico.

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“I have a similar background to many of the Chicas,” says Delgado of the girls in the after-school outreach program composed of small groups of third- to 12th-grade Latinas.

The program is designed to foster empowerment, leadership, healthy lifestyles, cultural identity, and lifelong academic success through high school graduation and college enrollment.

Now entering her fifth year with Chicas’ parent organization, Adelante Mujeres, a 14-year-old education and leadership program for Washington County Latina women, Delgado balances her time between the office, home visits, summer camps, and workshops. She steps in when girls skip school, lose focus, or experience other personal problems. She frequently shares her own story of overcoming cross-cultural limitations.

“Throughout my life here in the US, I’ve been very fortunate to connect with great mentors who have helped me develop myself as a leader and to help me believe in myself,” says Delgado. “I feel like it is now my opportunity to give back to the community.” 

Q&A With Cristina

Working with Chicas, what’s impressed you the most?
Next year, my first group of eighth graders is graduating from high school. Now, seeing them—studying abroad, taking on leadership positions at school and in their communities, being part of the Hillsboro Youth Advisory Council—it’s been amazing just to see how much they’ve grown. For some Chicas, I can tell how much they have changed, for others it has taken two, three years of working with them to get them to believe in themselves, to raise their self-esteem, and to see themselves as leaders in the community.

Any success stories?
Daniela. She was a senior when I started facilitating sessions in Forest Grove High School. I still connect with her, write letters of recommendation, I helped her with a scholarship search and her FAFSA.

What’s next for you?
At some point, I would be interested in going back and perhaps getting a master’s in social work.

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