Carmen Vargas (right) with her daughter and fellow student, Paula Vargas (left) at the Herndon ETS class
Carmen Vargas (right) with her daughter and fellow student, Paula Vargas (left) at the Herndon ETS class

Growing up in Guatemala with her single mother and three older brothers, she often did not have the resources to pay for food, schooling, and other necessities. She wed at 15 into an unhappy marriage and had two daughters. Thanks to her resilient spirit and her vision of a better life for her and her children, she traveled to Virginia in her early 20s and started her own cleaning business.

Because of her experiences growing up, Carmen was determined to make sure that her children grew up in a healthy environment. When her daughter started to get into trouble, she was inspired even more. She identified the needs of the youth in the community by having her daughters invite their friends over to their home. From this one gathering, Carmen’s youth group was born. The group attracted attention from the county, and eventually was given a larger venue to hold meetings. The support from the county allowed the group to grow, forming mentors and involving youths of younger ages.

Carmen Vargas knows first-hand the ability of the empowerment women and youth to transform lives and communities.

Carmen’s youth group has had a significant impact on the community. The local teens, including Carmen’s children, have benefited from the life lessons they learned from the small organization. When Carmen was referred to Empowered Women International, she was given the opportunity to expand the youth group even more by turning her group into a full-fledged organization and starting an accompanying women’s group. Carmen calls EWI her family, a support system, a motivator, and an inspiration. Upon graduation from EWI’s program, Carmen will earn her very first graduate certificate and, in her own words, will have earned “the tools to improve my life and make an impact in my community. It’s a dream come true!”

impact at a glance

Carmen Vargas: “EWI gave me the tools to improve my life.”
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