Our #AskHer series is an interview with our partners, community members and supporters who work tirelessly for women and girls. This interview is with Fresia Guzman, Director of Youth Opportunity Centers with Identity, Inc.
Identity’s Mission – In pursuit of a just, equitable and inclusive society, Identity creates opportunities for Latino and other historically underserved youth to realize their highest potential and thrive. Identity works in Montgomery County, MD and has been a Stand Together Fund and Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative Grantee Partner.
The Women’s Foundation: In one sentence, tell us why you joined your organization?
Fresia Guzman: Many years ago in Bolivia, the country where I am from, I helped create a foundation of the first Ombudsman. Every time that I met with that team, I felt so passionate about the work they were doing – creating a more equal society in Bolivia. Those feelings inspired me then and continue to do so now. Fast forward to 2016, when I found out about Identity I felt the same way, and I was sure that it was the place where I wanted to work.
TWF: In one word, how would you describe your staff/team?
TWF: What should people know about your organization that they may not otherwise read or hear about?
Fresia: That many of our staff were involved with Identity even before they started working with us. They were past participants of our programs, and they work with us now because they want to change lives the same way Identity changed theirs.
TWF: As we look forward from the pandemic, what hurdle is your organization facing to building back better?
Fresia: One of the biggest hurdles that we are trying to overcome is the education lost during the pandemic for our black and brown community. Now the gap is even larger than it was before. This will be a big priority for us moving forward.
TWF: What’s one of your organization’s accomplishments you would like us to know about?
Fresia: Our early child education (ECE) workforce program. It empowers young woman to obtain a certification from Montgomery College, work in a paid internship, and then find a job in a family daycare. When we first talk to beginners of this program, they often do not believe in themselves and in their potential. With the help of our team, they learn that they are not alone because we walk with them, creating opportunities and eliminating barriers. Now they inspire and share their own experiences to other young women.
TWF: What do your clients need the most right now?
Fresia: Affordable childcare. This is one of the biggest barriers for our clients in pursuing education, a career or being successful in a job.
TWF: With unlimited funds, what would you do with/for your organization or clients?
Fresia: With unlimited funds, I would launch more workforce programs like ECE for youth and for adults. Identity has a relationship with 5,000 thousand adult clients every year and many of them want a career, need a job, or need to obtain the qualifications to have a better job but need someone to help open doors to new opportunities. I would love to manage a job center that understands and tailors its programs to the necessities of the population that we serve.
TWF: Which of your own identities do you most value, personally and professionally?
Fresia: I always work to have an equilibrium between my role as mother, wife, and professional. There are times when I had to choose one over the other and it was not easy. But now, I’ve found the equilibrium. I love my job, in September I celebrated 27 years of marriage, and have three wonderful kids that are more adult than kids now.
TWF: Here’s a quick lightning round of questions:Do you prefer: DC-area Spring or DC-area Summer? Spring
TWF: Do you prefer: Monuments or Museums?
TWF: Favorite female or gender expansive icon?
Fresia: Janet Yellen, Christiane Amanpour, Malala Yousafzai
TWF: Favorite part of the Washington region?
Fresia: I love the national mall with all the museums nearby.
TWF: What’s one thing you can’t get enough of?
Fresia: Having dinner with friends or family.
TWF: What should we abolish forever? (Can be more than 1 answer)
Fresia: Bullying, discrimination.
TWF: Is there anything you want to be sure that we know that we haven’t already discussed?
Fresia: We need to continue promoting gender equality and empower our girls and women by preparing them for well-paying jobs, by supporting their confidence and emotional well-being and by making sure there is high-quality childcare available to them that is affordable.
Learn more about Identity, Inc. and their work on their website!