How one Latina woman reconnected to her heritage and set out to help others do the same

Photo by Nicole Dschaak, courtesy of Nadia Cates

Nadia Cates, who is currently serving with her husband, Shawn, as mission leaders in the Costa Rica San José West Mission, wasn’t always proud of her Hispanic heritage. It was not until she was an adult that she felt a desire to connect to her roots. But in turning her heart to her ancestors she found greater strength, confidence, and purpose than she had known previously. She decided she wanted other Latina young women to discover that strength as well. So, Ella Rises was born, a nonprofit aiming to inspire and empower Latina youth to reach their potential while preserving their unique heritage.

Read the excerpt below to learn more about the birth of Ella Rises. You can also listen to the full interview with Nadia in the player below or by clicking here. You can also read a full transcript here.

Nadia Cates: The Power of Remembering Who We Are
Nadia Cates is on a mission. Literally. She and her husband are mission leaders of the Costa Rica San José West Mission. But long before putting on the black name tag she now wears, she felt a desire to create something that would preserve the hispanic heritage she has grown to love and cherish—a heritage that has given her power and confidence. But on this week’s episode of “All In,” she explains why that was not always the case.
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Morgan Jones: You started something called Ella Rises, and you’ve talked about how this idea you feel like was inspired of the Lord. Can you tell me a little bit about the experience that sparked Ella Rises?

Nadia Cates: Yes, I’d love to. I have a couple thoughts come to my mind and one is that I created a folder in my notes tab in about 2017 called Ella Rises. And it was first inspired by the concept of lift. I loved learning about flight, learning about lifting and being elevated. And, in fact, there’s this quote by Wilbur Wright. And he says, “No bird soars in a calm.”

And I would say that Ella Rises stemmed during a difficult time in my life when I was dealing with anxiety. And it was severely affecting me in my parenting and in my role as a mother. And the challenges I was facing, they often felt like more than I could bear. And this concept of rising above them fascinated me. I knew that I could, but I knew that it wouldn't happen. Or I knew that I could with the Lord’s help. I think that for those who are not members of our Church, of course they can rise too, you know, but we have the gospel in our lives, and we can do it with God.

In 2018, I recorded some thoughts in that same folder inspired by Sister Elaine S. Dalton’s talk titled “Now Is the Time to Arise and Shine!” She used the word “arise” numerous times in that talk. And it really struck me. I remember while I recorded that, it was so closely tied to Ella Rises. And I did not know then whether Ella Rises was for me or for someone else, but I knew that rising, letting go of the chains that hold us back, and turning to the Lord for guidance and for strength belonged here in Ella Rises.

Fast forward to most recently, I was sitting in a meeting and a setting with a lot of women. And we got to hear from Sister [Sharon] Eubank. During that moment, she had a time where she was answering some questions. And one of the questions that popped up was with regards to serving people and serving women in Relief Societies across the globe. And she replied with a different set of questions. She said, “What are you doing in your communities? How are you serving the women in your neighborhood? And in your ward? How are you doing with your ministering?” And that really struck me.

For some time I had been trying to stay connected to my heritage and to serve women in Mexico. And though that will continue to be a mission of mine, I realized in that moment, in that meeting, that I needed to turn my energy in a different direction.

And Ella Rises—the purpose of focusing this energy to lift the Latino young women in my community—was born.

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