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Life and Work with Rocio Velazquez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rocio Velazquez.

Rocio, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in Guatemala City. my parents emigrated from the province and I am the younger sister of two. After I graduated as a pre-Kindergarten teacher at age 18, I decided to study law because I felt urged to work for my country’s children in a broader way. I earned my degree as a Guatemalan attorney and my career was carried out in different state institutions going from the Supreme Court of Justice to the Ministry of Education. There, I had the opportunity to affect my country in a positive way by working closely in public schools reconstruction projects and in the national reading program “Leamos Juntos.” In 2015, for security issues, my family and I needed to leave my country and after experiencing an unexpected and very stressful transition, we settled in Miami.

With the help of many great people, I found a new road to my life as an immigrant, though my focus always remains the same: advocate for childhood and families.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not been a smooth road at all! My biggest struggle was overcoming the fact that we needed to build a new life in a country I had only visited as a tourist. I had always prepared myself personally and professionally to work for Guatemalan children and all of the sudden I was making decisions in a different country about where we were going to live or which school would be best for my son. I found myself buying beds and spoons for all of us. It was sad, it was terrible, but it was also our best option. My husband, an amazing Cuban that I met in Guatemala, always jokes about how when we stepped into the flight that brought us here, he only had $100 in his pocket, and that was it. We never went back.

Another struggle was the language, I’d studied in an English-Spanish bilingual school since I was six years old and that opened me a door in the United States, Nevertheless, I struggle a lot with language barriers, mostly at law school. My oldest son, who was seven when we arrived, was bilingual but in French and Spanish. I recall sitting with him two weeks before he was about to start school and teaching him the alphabet and basic words in English like “door”, “teacher”, “pencil” and “I need to go to the bathroom.” We were very blessed that his first teacher was also a Guatemalan, who came to Miami when she was also seven. She felt connected to my child immediately, so did he. By the end of the school year, he was fully an English speaker and he wrote a note to his teacher that reads: Mrs. Futrell, thank you for teaching me English! It melted my heart and filled my eyes with tears of joy and gratitude.

My advice for other women, not only young but any women (after I learned that you can start different journeys throughout your life) is first to keep your feet on the ground. For good or for bad, try to see the reality you are facing, that will help you to move forward from where you are. Second, find your passion. That will become your compass in life. Doesn’t matter at what age you find it, or even if you are in the path of looking for it. Your passion or being conscious that you are looking for it will keep you to stay focused and will drive you to the right people and places. Third: stay close to people and things that make you laugh.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Latina Mama Coach – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
After my first child in 2007, I became passionate about breastfeeding, and since then I’ve been supporting families (in Miami mainly Hispanic families) in parenting and breastfeeding issues, as a volunteer at La Leche League and as a breastfeeding, parenting and immigrant blogger at Latina Mama Coach. I enjoy connecting women, supporting them in their own projects. I’m constantly looking to build a village for Latina mothers.

I am a 2019 candidate of the LL.Mprogram -Masters of Law for Foreign Lawyers- at Florida International University. Recently elected as Board Member for Florida Breastfeeding Coalition, and a volunteer interpreter for American for Immigrants Justice –AIJ-. I have also a full-time job at The Children’s Movement of Florida, a nonprofit that advocates for early childhood. For my contributions to health, human rights and human welfare in the community, I was awarded the Alexandra Bach-Lagos 2018 Scholarship from the Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers.

Above all, I am a proud mother of two beautiful boys and a happy wife.

I specialized in breastfeeding and parenting issues. I encourage women to seek and value the power within them. Women are a source of life, love, and joy in society, I like to help women to identify what we truly are. Our bodies are constantly adapting to a lot of different changes and we create amazing miracles like babies and human milk. I am a passionate advocate for children’s and mother’s rights. I spread this message in all the spaces I work in. Since I live in Miami, immigration issues have also become a part of me, I’d supported women from my country who has suffered family separation at the border and serve as a link when they needed something to be explained or if they need to be connected to a specific person or institution.

There’s a wealth of academic research that suggests that a lack of mentors and networking opportunities for women has materially affected the number of women in leadership roles. Smart organizations and industry leaders are working to change this, but in the meantime, do you have any advice for finding a mentor and building a network?
Be honest and true to yourself. Do not pretend you are someone else. Be proud of who you are and where you come from. Bring your story to the table, be open and trust others. Say yes to any new event or opportunity to meet people, even if you are not comfortable with it, but do not try too hard to fit into something you are not. Don’t’ have a mentor, have many mentors. Be always a learner. There will be people that you would not call them a mentor but they really are and be aware that there are mentors for so many different things as there are different areas in your life. Networking could be tough if you are not used to that kind interaction, as an immigrant it could be even harder. In my country, you do not do networking the same way is done in Miami. Learn at your own pace, watch and learn what works best for you. If you stay true to yourself, at some point it will start to happen on its own. One person will connect you to the other; you will connect people to others, and so on and so forth. Build relationships with the new people you meet. Networking is not just about reading a badge, shaking hands or exchanging business cards; it is about treasuring what others truly are.

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Getting in touch: VoyageMIA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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