Jenée Chizick-Agüero is the founder and publisher of Motivos, the nation’s largest bilingual magazine with youth-generated content.
What led you to start Motivos?
My parents are both educators. I didn’t see myself as someone with classroom discipline skills. Philly public schools are hard! But I wanted to impact youth. I wanted to help them reach their full potential.
Why did you decide to focus on the Latino community?
In my [graduate] thesis, which was all about addressing the academic achievement gap amongst Latinos in the U.S., a lot of it was based on self-esteem. People are pushing down on your language and your culture, and they’re telling you you’re not good enough, so there’s this disparity, this difference in equity. Starting with culture and lifting it up kind of starts to even the scales. It’s really, really important to empower underserved communities, communities of color, with that knowledge, with that power, to be able to tell their own stories and bring light to the positive things that are happening because that’s not always shown or told in the mainstream media.
What does Motivos mean?
It comes from motivation. We’re always teaching students that why you did something is more important than what you actually did. If you know why you’re doing it, that will drive your decisions. And if you face things in life that are challenging, you’re going to know if it’s a yes or no because you know why you’re doing what you’re doing. You know what your future goals are. We teach them to identify their passion and connect it with a purpose to strategize for a future they see themselves in.
How do your young readers benefit from the content that Motivos offers?
Students benefit because they can get near-peer role models. They get internships and fellowships. They can get published and that goes in their resumes for college. We’ve been to national conferences. We’ve traveled internationally to build schools in Honduras. We did a cross-cultural exchange to Columbia, South America. We try to get the kids out and about. Parents benefit because they’re super proud of their kids. They’re so excited that their son or daughter is being highlighted for something positive that they’re doing.
What’s the best part of your work?
It allows me to help youth reach their full potential and to shine. Just the feedback of “no one ever told me I could do this”: That is my mark of success. Before I ever started, I thought, what is my mark of success? If I know I impacted at least one life, then I’m on the right track. We tell students, “You don’t know who’s reading your story and whose life you’re going to change. You’re making an impact.”
Motivos accepts submissions in English and Spanish from high school students, college students and other adults. Volunteers are also needed to assist with editing and with writing workshops. For more information, fill out the contact form on the Motivos website.
–Michelle Histand, ’17, M.A.