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“She Looks Like Me!”: Minnesota’s First Latina Mayor Visits Girls Inc. Youth

By Wennicha Yang, Girl’s Counselor, Girls Inc. at YWCA Minneapolis
February 15, 2019
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Recently, Maria Regan Gonzalez visited the fourth and fifth-grade Girls Inc. group at Emerson Spanish Immersion School. Regan Gonzalez was sworn in Jan. 8, 2019 as the new mayor of Richfield, MN, making her the first Latina mayor in Minnesota history.

The girls were super excited to meet Maria. With anticipation, they looked out the windows from their classroom and exclaimed, “I want to see her limo! I want to see her bodyguards!” However, they couldn’t find her limousine and bodyguards anywhere.

Long, Brown, Curly Hair… Just Like Me!

Some youth peeked through the hallways when they heard heels clicking. As they squirmed to see who it was, one girl yelled out, “She’s so beautiful!” Eagerly running back to the whole Girls Inc. group, she described her: “She has long, brown, curly hair just like me!” The youth quickly sat in a circle and waited for Maria to arrive. All of a sudden, they became quiet as they gazed at Maria, the first Latinx mayor in Minnesota.

Becoming Mayor to Protect Her Community & Fight for Equality

In the circle, Maria shared her story: “What is a mayor and why did I run for it?”

Maria explained that she ran for mayor because she wanted to represent the people. Growing up from a family of immigrants, she wanted to be a voice to protect them. She also shared how she grew up valuing community and how she made it a commitment to fight for equality. She made sure to let the girls know that in being mayor, she was still a regular human being just like everyone else. She didn’t have any personal bodyguards and did not ride in a limousine. She has a big role to fill, but at the end of the day, she was a normal person like everyone else.

Good Leaders are Strong, Smart and Bold

Many of the girls expressed how they felt incapable of protecting their families in the anti-immigrant culture we live in. With Maria’s background, she was able to provide them with comfort and assurance that everything was slowly getting better. There are many people who are being elected to office and represent the immigrant community and communities of color. Maria encouraged them to continue practicing their leadership so that they could one day hold that power in making decisions that would protect their families and friends. The girls shared with Maria that they believed a good leader meant that they were kind, strong, smart, bold, empathetic and hardworking. In turn, Maria empowered them to follow their heart in becoming the leaders they want to be.

A Leader Who Looks Like Them

With Maria’s visit, girls were exposed to a leader who looks like them. They walked away from this meet-and-greet feeling able to create change and were assured that positive changes were happening in America to create better and safer communities for everyone.