Fearless Voice: Araceli Mendez - Columbia Land Trust
Women rising up at Adelante Mujeres.

At Adelante Mujeres, Araceli Mendez is teaching the next generation of Latinas how to make an impact on conservation and care for the earth, one step (and group) at a time. As the Chicas Program Coordinator at the women led organization, Mendez focuses on supporting Latina youth in leadership development, cultural identity, and academic success. This month, our fearless voice shared a little about herself, and her work for an organization that’s dedicated to helping Latin women “rise up”.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m originally from Oceanside, California, and I’ve lived in Northeast Portland a little over three years. The best part has been the close proximity to nature and the outdoors. I can go out thirty minutes in any direction and find a quiet place. I also really enjoy taking Pax, my fur baby, to rivers and letting him swim around. I also love watching sunsets from any high points in Portland. I enjoy camping and hiking in search of waterfalls. The sense of wonder and awe I feel when I reach a waterfall is overwhelming and it’s when I feel most connected to nature.

What do you do with Adelante Mujeres? 

As the Chicas Program Coordinator, I provide support to my team members who work directly with the Latina youth we serve. One of my goals is to provide the Chicas team with the proper training and skills to continuously improve the quality of our program. Since our program focuses on the social-emotional development of youth, it’s very important that everyone on the team connects with the Latino community/culture and can provide the appropriate support for the youth, which is where I come in.

How does conservation impact your work?

I’ve learned a lot about conservation in my time at Adelante Mujeres. The agriculture program teaches the rest of the organization to approach land cultivation from a place of gratitude and respect. With this mindset, we teach our Chicas the importance and value in taking care of the earth; the idea of conservation doesn’t have to be a grandiose project, and it can start with small habit changes. I care about conserving and protecting natural landscapes in general, so if I can teach a group of 30 young girls the impact they can have on land conservation, then we are making great strides.

What comes to mind with the question: What’s Your Place? 

So many places come to mind! One of my favorite places is on a soccer field. Soccer is my connection to my family and my community, whether I’m watching or playing, soccer is my happy place. Another place is on the beach, there is something about the ocean that brings me a peace of mind. Lastly, since moving to Portland, I appreciate any place I can speak Spanish.