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Esmeralda Leon hiking in Bryce Canyon. Leon, a student of aerospace engineering at the University of Southern California, exemplifies the success of programs supported by the Eva Longoria Foundation.
Photo: Stephanie Mendoza Jimenez
Diversity & Inclusion
October 8, 2020

Encouraging young Latinas to reach for the stars

Wells Fargo supports the Eva Longoria Foundation in young Latinas’ college success.

Since its launch in 2012, award-winning actor, director, producer, and noted philanthropist Eva Longoria Bastón’s foundation has worked with Latinas across the United States and Mexico to help them reach their full potential. The Wells Fargo Foundation, as a sponsor for the past three years, plays an important supporting role in the Eva Longoria Foundation’s college scholarship program for first-generation Latina students.

Enter Esmeralda Leon, who is demonstrating stratospheric success within the program as one of the few Latinas in the aerospace engineering program at the University of Southern California.

In addition to her studies, Leon actively participates in extracurricular clubs and programs related to her major, which has helped her establish a network of professional contacts. As her career prepares for takeoff, she has also become a mentor to other young Latinas interested in STEM careers.

“I’m motivated to mentor others, so that others don’t miss out on opportunities to do things that they are passionate about,” said Leon. “I want to help others keep growing and aiming for the best.”

Leon’s sentiment is similar to Longoria’s, who herself launched a career from modest beginnings. She started her foundation to help Latinas excel in education and succeed in business through programs in STEM education, mentorship, parent engagement, college scholarships, small business capital, and training.

Young woman in blue dress holds diplomas and certificates
Esmeralda Leon receives multiple awards at Senior Awards Night in 2017.
Photo: Rita Leon

Longoria’s foundation has supported Leon’s professional aspirations since she was in high school through mentorship opportunities, educational activities, and other inequity-bridging engagements — all of which have received a boost from corporate supporters like Wells Fargo.

“Our support goes beyond the traditional scholarship,” said Luis Gonzalez, a senior consultant for Wells Fargo’s Social Impact and Sustainability team, focused on Greater Los Angeles. “As a corporate contributor to the Eva Longoria Foundation, Wells Fargo’s focus has been on supporting Latinas in low- to moderate-income communities by creating economic sustainability initiatives that include education, career pathways, personal and professional growth, and beyond.”

Through the Eva Longoria Foundation, students like Leon receive access to financial resources for necessities like textbooks, board, and rent.

“Each semester, the support from this program just takes a huge burden off my shoulders,” said Leon, whose parents emigrated from El Salvador.

“I had to figure out a lot of things on my own,” Leon said. “A lot of my fellow students have parents or family members who are in engineering fields, and they don’t have to worry about paying for stuff. For me, having this scholarship and financial support really helps me focus on academics.”

Based in Los Angeles, the Foundation also provides support systems for Latina entrepreneurs of all ages who are interested in launching or growing their small business. Despite systemic barriers, Latinas start small businesses at six times the national rate — and the Eva Longoria Foundation assists them through access to capital, business training, and mentorship programs. Latinas are one of the fastest growing groups of entrepreneurs in the U.S., according to the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative.

“We want to encourage innovation and exploration as the Eva Longoria Foundation continues to work with students across the country,” Gonzalez said of Wells Fargo’s ongoing support. “Overall, we fully support the mission of helping these young women be successful in all aspects of life.”

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