History of Al Éxito
Latinas Al Éxito (LAÉ) started in Marshalltown, Iowa in 2006-2007 as an Iowa American Association of University Women [AAUW] project under the diversity and equity committee chaired by Jan Mitchell and Pam Swarts. Several Latina leaders in the community came together to assist in the layout of a mentorship program focused on keeping 8th-grade girls engaged and successful academically and for their future. The mentorship model expanded to other AAUW sites across Iowa that were experiencing an influx of Latino families and high dropout rates of Latinas.
LAÉ became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2009. In 2011, LAÉ was a national finalist for AAUW’s Breaking the Barriers Award. Breaking from its history of all-volunteer leadership, the Board of Directors hired Dawn Martinez Oropeza, Executive Director in March 2013.
LAÉ rebranded in 2013, changing the name to Al Éxito which reflects the expansion of the program to include boys and parent programming. Now in schools across the state, the program is serving 6-12th grade weekly, asset-based, culturally relevant afterschool programs.
Al Éxito launched a youth-led business in 2017 with a mission to partner with Latino owned businesses, demonstrate a culture of giving, and provide essential skills and opportunities for Latino youth.
To provide additional support to our college-going students, the Mary E. Campos Scholarship Program was created in 2018. Mrs. Campos exemplifies the mission of Al Éxito, in empowering the Latino community and especially youth through education, leadership development, and civic engagement. The Mary E. Campos Scholarship is in honor of her dream to see young people, especially students of color, continue to study and fill positions of leadership within their communities. The scholarship is provided for Al Exito participants from across the state whose dream is to obtain an education and to give back to their community, as Campos continues to give. The scholarship is awarded to students who are engaged in their community, have a clear vision for their academic achievement, and are in need of support.
Al Éxito University launched in the summer of 2018 to address the retention rate of Latinx college students. The three day-two night camp partners with colleges from across the state to provide intensive workshops that provide participants with the skills and information needed to prepare for, apply to, and succeed in college- including effective study skills, SAT and ACT preparation, college admissions process, as well as financial literacy and student aid. Issues that are specific to Latinx students are addressed by educators and students who have experienced college and can share their knowledge. Many of Al Éxito students are first-generation college students and need additional supports that will be provided at the camp, including social and emotional balance and cultural awareness. Al Éxito University cultivates students’ leadership skills, especially focused on leading their own individual academic excellence.
In 2018, Al Éxito created an LGBTQ+ youth group with the goal of providing support and mentorship opportunities for students.