The Power of Ideas: Nurys Camargo

With the Chica Project, Camargo is fostering Massachusetts' next generation of female leaders.

Nurys Camargo

Photograph by David Salafia

The Stat

Latina women are the fastest-growing demographic at the state’s colleges and universities, and are opening businesses at a rate six times the national average.

The Idea

The Chica Project is a volunteer-based organization that seeks to develop a pipeline of mentors to empower Massachusetts’ next generation of Latina leaders.

The Leader

Camargo knows the importance of mentoring. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Miami by a Dominican mother who worked at K-Mart and a Venezuelan-Colombian father who was imprisoned when she was a teen, Camargo worked on campaigns for John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Deval Patrick. Now an executive at AT&T, she searched in vain for organizations that would give her the opportunity to give back, eventually starting her own mentoring program targeting Latina women like herself. “When a dynamic leader like Nurys decides to share that dynamism, it’s a great thing on its own merits,” says the governor, who calls her a force of nature. “And as a model, it’s powerful.”

The Program

Every third Sunday, 25 high school students from Springfield, Holyoke, Lawrence, and Boston meet with some of the 150 Latin-American mentors Camargo has recruited— judges and executives, teachers and nonprofit leaders—for daylong leadership clinics. The young women learn how to dress for interviews, apply for internships and scholarships, and gain cultural awareness to counter stereotypes. “I’m a teacher without a classroom,” Camargo says, “and a coach without a field.”

The Results

 Over three years, Camargo has built a network of young leaders. “[The Chica Project] allows us to see beyond what we normally see,” says Natalia Castillo, a Lawrence sophomore. “I realized I’m not the only Latina trying to get somewhere in life.”