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American Girl Launched A New Doll And She’s So Important For Our Younger Generation Of Latinas

Latinas are being encouraged to shoot for infinity and beyond thanks to The American Girl Company’s 2018 Girl of the Year, Luciana Vega. American Girl’s latest doll is 11 years old, from Chile, and dreams to be the first person on Mars. Those are some pretty stellar ambitions!

Luciana is the brainchild of an American Girl/ NASA collaboration.

In a statement announcing the doll’s release, the company wrote:

“Like the characters who came before her, 2018 Girl of the Year Luciana Vega shows what it can mean to be a girl of strong character in her time, in this particular historical moment that we all share, where creative thinking, collaboration, and STEM literacy provide opportunities for meaningful growth.”

Dr. Ellen Stofan, a former Chief Scientist at NASA and a current member of Luciana’s advisory board, explains the importance of having a doll that stimulates young girls and their interests in STEM.

“We are living in a society that is increasingly technology-focused,” Stofan said. “If we have only half the population—or slightly less than half the population—trying to figure out how to navigate this increasingly complex world we live in, we’re not going to do as well. We are not going to do as well if we’re not tapping into the talent of everybody.”

Luciana’s STEM storyline sends young Latinas a message that they hold infinite potential within themselves.

Having more women in STEM would be a key catalyst in closing the gender divide. Female participation in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) have the greatest potential of conclusively altering social norms and achieving equality for the masses. Yet, today, STEM fields are only represented by 3.6 percent of Latinas.

Luciana’s launch coincides with American Girl  sponsoring 20 scholarships for girls interested in attending space camp.

According to the American Girl page for Luciana, the doll’s stories will be made up of equal parts STEM and character-building plot lines.

The page reads:

“In pursuing her goals, Luciana must contend with challenges, obstacles, and even failure—which ultimately highlight the qualities that make a reliable team player, a caring friend, a thoughtful leader, and a resilient change-maker.”

American Girl has been telling stories of female historical, cultural, and academic figures and influences for decades through as series of dynamic and diverse dolls. They help build greater positive representation for young girls, who can see themselves reflected in the dolls and their accomplishments.

Last year’s American Girl of the Year was Gabriela McBride, a dancer and girl of color. She too aimed to make a difference in the world by breaking “down barriers.” Here’s to Luciana, who’s planning to do the same by setting her sights on the stars!


Read: TECHNOLOchicas Is Empowering Latinas To Chase Their Technology Driven Dreams

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I Have $150k in Debt — Here’s What Financial Experts Told Me To Do

Money Moves

I Have $150k in Debt — Here’s What Financial Experts Told Me To Do

Money is a topic that is difficult to talk about. Traditionally, society has told us that there are three things that we should not talk about in polite company: religion, politics, and money. Well, politics seems to be the only thing anyone talks about these days. As for religion, well, I’m of the “to each their own” policy. But money is something that we often still ignore — especially when it comes to frank discussions about debt.

Nobody likes to admit that they have debt. Whether it’s credit card debt, student loans, or paying off cars, most of us have something that we’re keeping quiet about. According to CNBC, 70 percent of college students are graduating with a “significant amount of loans” which total $1.5 trillion in debt for the over 44 million Americans who have student loan debt. In fact, a recent survey revealed that two-thirds of millennials have at least $10,000 in student debt and more than a third admitted to over $30,000 in debt, according to Inc.

Even worse, 42 percent of those that had more than $30,000 in debt were women and 11 percent of millennials have over $100,000 in student loan debt. Unsurprisingly, credit card debt is actually even higher for millennials (at 46 percent) and car loans come in just behind student loans (at 34 percent). Then there’s also medical debt to think about, as well as the 20 percent of millennials who actually have a mortgage.

Some of us, like me, have debt in all of the categories.

When my husband and I met and moved in together just six weeks into our relationship, we did it because we were in love and knew we wanted to be together for the long haul.

ehplusmoney/Instagram

However, what we didn’t know at the time (and came to learn very quickly) is that we both came with a heaping amount of debt. Now, two and a half years into our relationship and nine months into our marriage, I can tell you that our debt has only increased: Collectively, we have around $150,000 in debt — about $100k of that in student loans, $40k in car loans, and another $10k in credit cards and medical bills. Add to that the fact that we just bought our first house and, well, our financial situation has gotten a bit more complicated.

It’s not easy to talk about finances, and it’s especially not an easy thing to do with someone you love. Sadly, money is often cited as a common cause of marriages falling apart — which is precisely why my husband and I are trying to tackle these issues sooner than later. I know that we won’t get out of debt any time soon, but having a secure financial plan is a good way to step into our future, together. So, shortly, after getting married, we decided to speak with some financial experts about how exactly to tackle our $150k in debt… WITHOUT driving each other crazy or stopping some of our other personal goals (like traveling together or having kids in the next couple of years).

Nora Dunn, a former Certified Financial Planner and blogger behind the financially savvy travel site, The Professional Hobo, told us that a lot of it depends on what we as a couple are earning and what our goals are. Dunn advised that my husband and I evaluate the importance of each of our goals. Was buying a house more important than taking vacation? How much did we expect to spend on a house based on the market in our area? According to her, it was all about taking an ‘everything in moderation’ plan, where we would examine our take-home income and expenses, and then divide our disposable income between different goals, depending on how our goals are prioritized.

After some discussion, we decided that prioritizing goals, and dividing our income accordingly, definitely seemed like a good place to start. In fact, Shana Bickel, CPA and Financial Coach, mirrored that advice when she told me that “it is not for me to tell the couple how to prioritize their financial goals.” The important thing, she says, is “to identify and get very clear about those goals and then develop a plan to pay off debt while saving for a home and allowing travel that makes sense for their financial health and well being.”

Another financial expert took a more straightforward approach.

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“Sell those cars!” said Lynne Somerman and The Wiser Miser. “If you’ve got big financial goals like this, there’s no situation where I can recommend $40K in car loans when you can buy a reliable used vehicle for $10K. Even assuming you still need two cars, that’s $30K that you’ve now got towards a down payment. After that, it would depend on the type and interest rates on the student loans. If they’re private loans, go aggressively after them. If the interest is higher than about 4-5% on the student loans, they’d be my next priority. If their income is high enough, you could do both here.”

However, David Rae, a Certified Financial Planner based in Los Angeles, has a more realistic approach.

“Get those cars paid off and drive them forever!” he advised. “You don’t need a new car every two or three years. My car is paid off, and I plan to drive it forever. Each of those car payments is like a trip to Europe each year. Would you rather have a brand new car or a trip to Europe?”

He’s definitely right about that, which is why we have made paying off our cars our #2 priority (after paying off our credit cards), since we’d also like to save for an international trip in the near future. Rae also reminds me that, although student loans are important, so is saving for retirement.

“The student loans are going to take a long time to pay off. Get serious about them, but make sure to contribute to your retirement at least enough to get a company match,” he said. “This will be like free money from your boss, and the government will give you break on your taxes.”

Meanwhile, Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, a money coach who runs The Fiscal Femme, said that it is all about opportunity cost.

“We can only use or spend each dollar we have once, no matter how much or little money we have,” she reminds me. “How can we use it in a way that will maximize our joy per dollar in the shorter and long-term? It’s about looking at each option and choosing consciously. If a couple is paying down their debt and that’s really important to them but they also want to travel, they might decide to let go of expenses in other areas to make that work. What expenses aren’t bringing them much joy? Would they rather live in a less expensive apartment for the time being so that they have more money to travel? When we take a look at each expense annually (including our bills) it’s much easier to see where our money is going and decide if we want to allocate it any differently.”

Taking a look at our overall finances, my husband and I were able to use this advice to devise some financial goals, set some priorities, create a payment plan, and figure out what we want to save for.

barefootbudgetmama/Instagram

It took some serious negotiating but we came away with a clearer picture of our finances. It’s not going to be easy, mind you. Having debt as a couple is difficult, but unfortunately, something that almost all of us face these days. If you don’t have student loans, then you might have a car payment or credit card debt or medical bills from that time before ACA when you didn’t have health insurance and ended up in the hospital (guilty!). But ultimately, the best thing you can do for yourself when it comes to your finances, whether you are coupled up or not, is to do the work to figure it out.

As Rae put it, “Get serious about your finances now — it won’t get easier when you have kids. You may make more money but you will be busier and tired. Parenting is hard. Just saying.”


Read: Mexico’s President-Elect Kissed A Women Reporter On The Cheek Instead of Answering Her Questions

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Here’s How This Latina Broke Through Barriers To Become A Leading Force In The World Of NASCAR Auto Racing

Running This

Here’s How This Latina Broke Through Barriers To Become A Leading Force In The World Of NASCAR Auto Racing

In 1978, young girls across the country sat eagerly in front of televisions to see Sally Ride, the first American astronaut rocket to space and shatter one of the country’s most elevated glass ceilings. Among the girls watching Ride as she made history was Alba Colón a little girl born in Spain, raised in Puerto Rico with a newly planted desire to one day reach the stars too.

Ride’s mission to space inspired Colón to pursue a career in STEM so that she could one day become the world’s first Latina astronaut.

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“I was always interested in space,” Colón told CNN in an interview where she detailed how Ride’s mission to space brought her to the realization that she could actually be someone who could go there. “My model was Sally Ride. So I wanted to be like her. I used to have a poster of her in my room.” In her pursuit of a voyage to space, Colon went to college and earned a degree in mechanical engineering. But before she graduated, Colón’s desire to helm a NASA spacecraft took a bit of a detour.

After getting involved with the Society of Automotive Engineers at her university, Colón realized a new path for herself entirely. “I started to fall in love with vehicles and with the racing side,” Colón, now an engineer for NASCAR, explained.

After college, Colón joined General Motors as a data acquisitions engineer.

Icon Sports Wire / Getty

For twenty years she has worked with the company’s NASCAR program, working her way up a cutthroat and rigorous ladder. Today, Colón acts as the lead engineer for Chevy Racing, a premier team in the world of auto racing.

In her role, the Latina oversees the technical resources of every NASCAR Sprint Cup Race team and manages a group that operates on a constant drive to improve the cars take part in races. With her help, GM has improved the design bodies, engine parts, and software of the cars that rip around race tracks, win championships and reel in devoted audiences from across the world.

As a Latina, Colón’s story makes her an impressive figure in the industry — in her own right.

Daniel Shirey / Stringer / Getty

Women in the fields of science and engineering are a rare sight to be seen even in today’s age.

In general, women are severely underrepresented in STEM areas.

But when it comes to Latinas, the numbers are downright scary.

According to the National Science Foundation, only 28% of U.S. scientists and engineers actually working in the science and engineering realms are women. Latinas make up merely 1.8% of that population.

Knowledge of this disparity has pushed Colon to chase after a new goal.  These days she has set her sights on inspiring children of color to get involved and interested in STEM spheres. As a representative of GM, she travels across the country to attend various diversity programs in an effort to encourage university and elementary students to build careers in both math and science fields.

“Many of these students, the examples they have at home is parents that didn’t finish school,” Colon shared. “So I want to show them hey, I am a Hispanic kid and I worked hard to get where I am. You can be like me. You don’t have to stop when you finish high school. You can keep going.”


Read: In The United States, FIFA Referee Badges Are Hard To Come By, This Latina Is One Of Three Women To Have Earned One

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