I am Latina: Single Gender Catholic School and Leadership Development of Latinas
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For this study, I researched the literature focused on Latinas and leadership development. It detailed discussed the obstacles Latinas encounter and the cultural factors that reinforce negative stereotypes, such as the role and influence of the patriarchal church, as a male dominated culture, on the Catholic school system. The study explored the experiences and perceptions of five Latinas who attended a single gender Catholic school, Felton Catholic High School, and their journey into leadership roles. Anzaldúa’s (1987) Borderlands theory was used to understand how the women navigated through nepantla, the in-between space, found their voices, and established inner peace, which ultimately led them to experiencing a type of liberation/empowerment, which in turn gave birth to the new mestiza, a new identity. Las nepantleras (Anzaldúa, 2015) are boundary crossers who initiate others from a listening, receptive, spiritual stance. They rise from their own visions and shift into acting them out; thus, introducing change. This takes place through Anzaldúa “path of conocimiento…inner work” (Anzaldúa, 2015). A foundational belief that the participants echoed was that of spirituality (inner peace). Anzaldúa’s definition of spirituality aims at becoming aware of interconnections between all things by attaining a grand perspective (Anzaldúa, 2015). This served as a coping mechanism for the women immersed in a male dominated work culture. The findings also suggested that strong family support and a positive ethnic identity were contributing factors in cultivating their leadership abilities. The participants created new narratives, new stories in essence “putting Coyolxauhqui together” (Anzaldúa, 2015, p. 138). They were able to re-write their personal stories with their family’s support. The participants unlearned “colonized behavior” that may have been taught in a patriarchal school. They were able to overcome limitations that may have been imposed on them as students. In this case, the participants used their leadership skills learned in a collectivist environment for the betterment of community to counter the dominant culture of individualism. Each participant appeared to follow the conocimiento stage of “the crossing” by defining herself in terms of who she is becoming, not who she has been (Anzaldúa, 2015, p. 136). It is a call to break free from coping strategies and undergo conversion. Anzaldúa’s (1987) Borderlands theory is an instrument that empowers the voiceless through the path of conocimiento, knowledge (Anzaldúa, 2015). Keywords: Latina leaders, single-gender schools, Catholic schools, Borderlands theory, and conocimiento.