We asked our NOTA Speakers if they connect to their roots of origin and if so—how it made them stronger in who they are today? Here’s what they had to say.

Stephanie Nogueras: A trailblazer in the world of accessibility and inclusion.

“I grew up with my Puerto Rican family who strongly influenced me as a person which was faith itself. They heavily rely on praying and reading a bible to guide them in their lives. They hold the faith in their hearts for life. As a deaf person, I used to be self taught that I should not be afraid to do new things/challenges. There is so much stigma, discrimination and barriers for disabled people out there. I just keep going and ignore the ignorants. In my mind- let’s take a leap of faith= all the time. That’s kind of my motto in life. They often talk about how we should pay attention to the signs such as our dreams that might try to tell us something. It should be a cautious warning or just a message to share with. All of that constantly reminds me to pay attention closely to the little things in life that I should cherish and find the little joys in life as well. I apply faith to positive thinking and motivating others that disabilities should not stop them from living to the fullest.”

Maria Ross: Acclaimed author, speaker, and brand strategist who empowers audiences with her resilience and unwavering positivity.

“My grandparents come from: Two small towns outside of Bari, Italy Growing up, I felt very lucky to know my roots and heritage when others here in the US did not, even though, at the time, I wanted to “be like everyone else”and not feel so “ethnic.”Knowing where my family comes from gives me a sense of place, of beligning, and as I’ve gotten older and wiser, an appreciation to celebrate my culture and difference. I know the stories of courage, adversity, family, and tradition that make me who I am and remind me I stand on the shoulders of those who came before and sacrificed so much so I could have opportunities. My son gets less exposure to that, with our family now being so spread out and older relatives no longer with us, so I hope to share more of that with him as he grows to give him that sense of identity and belonging as well.

Linda Garcia: Dynamic leader, speaker, and advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

“As a child of immigrants in America, I find that oftentimes we are the teachers of American culture in our households; we are the translators and the advocates. My mother spent much of her time dedicated to “becoming herself” in America and very little time talking about our heritage or her roots. We only went back to visit Mexico once as a family. My mother was focused on embodying the immigrant American dream; as a determined housekeeper and the alpha in our home, she managed to purchase her first home at just 27 years old in Southern California. Work was her entire identity; it made her happy. My mother’s stories about life prior to my existence mostly surrounded her experience crossing the border and adjusting to America. Her life before that has always been a mystery and one that I now, as an adult, understand she was trying to forget. My favorite story is about how when she landed her first job in Dallas, Texas cleaning hotel rooms and how there were few Latinos in town, she became close to two Black women, Linda and Joann. They taught her a lot about basic necessities, like riding the bus and cashing her check. When I would ask her how they communicated, she would laugh and say they would point at things. My mother named me Linda Joan (she did not know how to spell Joann) as a tribute to those two women. While I did not have a strong connection via my mother to our heritage or family roots, I did use the absence of that knowledge to explore myself within, without any preconceived notions from my parents, to filter my perspective, and while I do often wish I knew more about my mother and our lineage its clear to me that I come from a strong pack of alphas. Alphas that love to make new discoveries and lean into the fear of the unknown.”

As we celebrate Women’s History Month and honor the contributions of women around the world, let us also recognize the transformative impact of connecting to our roots of origin.
Their stories of resilience, authenticity, and advocacy serve as powerful reminders of the boundless potential within each of us to create positive change.

Join us in celebrating these extraordinary women and their inspiring journeys of courage, determination, and resilience.

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