Through her job at PASOs, a maternal and child health program for Latino families in South Carolina, she helps people overcome barriers to healthy lives. In a state that has one of the country’s fastest-growing Latino populations, Margarita holds a role on the front line.
“As immigrants, we have the strength and desire to transform ourselves,” she says. “But it is not just moving across one border to another country. There are more than physical barriers to cross — there are cultural and emotional challenges when you decide to live in a different culture.”
Margarita speaks from her own experience. She came to the United States six years ago, leaving her home in Colombia to continue her education in South Carolina. She was working as a research assistant when PASOs’ founder, Julie Smithwick-Leone, needed help moving the program forward.
Julie had created PASOs — which means “steps” in Spanish — to support an underserved group of women and raise their chances of a healthy pregnancy. Developed with input from the Latino community, the effort worked to educate parents and increase access to important resources.
As Julie’s first staff member, Margarita led classes in prenatal care and how to navigate health resources, answering questions about family planning, nutrition and exercise. She held outreach events in libraries, schools and churches, linking mothers to information and services.