News Column

Group Gives Hispanic Girls Good Role Models

May 3, 2011

Devika Rao


Started as an after-school activity in 2006 by two teens, Moda Real has helped more than 100 Hispanic girls learn leadership skills.

Alexandra Richards and Paula Barrenechea, then 14 and 13 respectively, have seen Moda Real grow as an organization that benefits girls between ages 8 and 18.

"Moda Real began as a way to teach young Hispanic girls about inner beauty as well as outer beauty," said Barrenechea, now 18, who attends Holy Spirit Preparatory School in Atlanta. This became a necessity for young girls who were receiving negative messages on how to dress and behave, ultimately attracting negative attention, she said.

"These girls face a culture clash between the American and Hispanic cultures, and with their parents working all of the time, the adaptation becomes difficult so the social messages they receive about how to dress or act can have a negative impact ," said Richards, now 19.

When the two teenagers launched this idea, their mothers got involved with their daughters and volunteers to work with the girls who joined the program.

"It is important that our kids go out and give back to the community," said Ilse Barrenechea, who is a director for Moda Real. "(Our girls) are receiving great information, but they won't know the value of it unless they pay it forward."

The organization works with three Hispanic missions, and the program holds weekly meetings and periodic retreats that teach, self-esteem, leadership, friendship and family unity. After the yearlong program, the girls take part in the annual fashion show allowing the girls to show poise and how to dress in a tasteful fashion.

"There is nothing like seeing the confidence of a young girl who starts to completely believe in herself," said Paula, who hopes to see Moda Real changes the lives of many more Hispanic girls.

To get involved with Moda Real, visit

Who's doing good?

Each Tuesday, we write about the prior week's charity events such as fun-runs, volunteer projects and other community gatherings that benefit a good cause. To suggest an event for us to cover, contact Devika Rao at

Source: Copyright 2011 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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