Here at Safe Passage, 21 girls and their families will come together for one of the most important events of these girls´ lives. In Latin culture, young girls celebrate their quinceañera as their coming of age. This year, these 21 girls will embark together in an exciting and emotional day filled with food, dance, family, and tradition. In the weeks before this festive day, the girls participated in a number of workshops to discuss topics that will provide them with the education that every young woman needs.
The workshops vary in themes such as body changes, pregnancy prevention, becoming a career-woman, and self-esteem. According to Maryori, one of our quinceañeras, her favorite workshop was the one about body changes. She said, ¨I found this workshop especially helpful because although my mother and school taught me about how my body is evolving, I still don´t completely understand what is going on and why. I really like when we learned what the myths and facts of our bodies because I am always hearing from people that we can´t do certain things such as shower or exercise, and the workshop brought to light why these myths are false. Karol, another quinceañera, really enjoyed the self-esteem workshop. She said, ¨The message was one that we all could relate to. We have all experienced and know what self esteem is, but it is important for us to know how to value ourselves and each other.¨
Every Saturday the girls have also been part of Baile Latino, a dance workshop, meant to teach the girls different genres of dance so that they could dance with confidence the day of their celebration. Karol said, ¨I don´t have much experience dancing, especially in front of a big crowd. The dance workshops have helped me as well as the other girls feel more comfortable to dance in front of other people. Together we laugh at each other but it helps us shake off our nerves.¨
This event changes the lives not only of the girls, but also for their whole families. Prior to the Quinceañera, each girl will learn how to do the traditional waltz with a special relative that will be done on the first dance to open the event. The mothers will also learn how to pass the candle to their daughters which is a significant moment because that is when a mother passes on advice to her daughter and officially recognizes her child as a young woman. Maryori remarks on this moment as being ¨very special for both my mother and myself because we are so close and this marks the bond we have as two women¨.
The girls each recognize that this big event ties them all together. Astrid, another quinceañera, says, ¨Most quinceañeras have a whole party to themselves. Having to share my party with twenty girls is very different, but it is great because I can spend this special moment with some of my best friends.¨ When asked why this day is so important for her, Astrid noted that, ¨This signifies you have come to a certain stage in your life where you are more responsible and held more accountable for your actions, but it is also a special time in which the memories are so much sweeter.¨ The event is scheduled for the end of July. The First Unitarian Church from Schenectady, New York sponsors the quinceañeras and will be at Safe Passage helping make the event a success.