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Advancing Women

Karina Smith, a believer in the power of challenges to push people forward


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A new category in the Bend Chamber's awards this year, the Advancing Women category is intended to highlight the work of a person of any gender, working to advance the role of women in the community.

The winner is Karina Smith, an educator working to promote equity through her role as Director of Regional Migrant Education at High Desert Education Service District. A representative of Volunteers in Medicine nominated Smith, who describes herself as a bicultural, bilingual Latina from Argentina. "I seek opportunities to empower, support, and help navigate systems and provide opportunities to grow," told the Source. "I believe that I cannot do the work by myself. I believe in collaboration and the fruit that comes out of collective thinking."

In addition to her day job, Advancing Women award winner Karina Smith is pursuing a PhD, with a dissertation focused on Latinas and leadership and intersectionality. - MEGAN BAKER
  • Megan Baker
  • In addition to her day job, Advancing Women award winner Karina Smith is pursuing a PhD, with a dissertation focused on Latinas and leadership and intersectionality.

Here's more of what Smith said when we sat down with her.

Source Weekly: Who is a woman who inspires you?

Karina Smith: My mom, Mirta, has so many struggles she still faces almost every day, but despite those she is still looking forward—seeing the battles as opportunities to learn and that we need to take that with the grace of every day. Those are not things we need to dwell upon, but we need to learn from it so we can bounce back and face things differently.

SW: What does being nominated for the Advancing Women award mean to you?

KS: Being nominated, for me, is more about—well, I just want to pull back more to the people who inspire me every day. I don't own that; it was the people who inspired me, motivated me, taught me, offered me challenges and opportunities, so it was an opportunity to continue moving forward. I am honored, and humble, because I feel that many other women could be seen in this chair, in this position.

SW: Can you talk a little bit about the people you serve at your job?

KS: I was nominated through Volunteers in Medicine, and I work at the High Desert ESD as the director of the Migrant program. The program serves students and families seeking to achieve the education to finish high school.

We provide support and opportunities to the students. Each parent that comes in through the door deserves to know that they are in a safe place so they can hear themselves—where their voices can be amplified and also where they have an opportunity to experience what a system of change looks like for them.

SW: What do you think the Central Oregon community could do better to support or welcome immigrants?

KS: I believe that Central Oregon—we have different communities, and each community has their own culture. But to all serve our families—and I can testify from my experiences—[we need] an acknowledging; a celebration of differences.

SW: What challenges do you find among LatinX women that you hope to help overcome?

KS: My [PhD] dissertation is about Latinas and leadership and intersectionality. One of the challenges is, as I continue in my research, is that Latina women have a culture that is part of their own identity. Family is important for Latina women, and when leadership and family come, Latina women have challenges navigating different cultures. The American culture and the LatinX culture, I found that for many reasons, as long as Latinas have the support of their families Latinas will be able to achieve. But it is important to identify, who is the group that is holding it together, and when actually you are in doubt or you are concerned about how to move to the next step, who is believing in you? Who is working with you?

About The Author

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. While the pandemic reduced "hobbies" to "aspirations," you can mostly find her raising chickens, walking dogs, riding all the bikes and attempting to turn a high desert scrap of land into a permaculture oasis. (Progress: slow.)

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