What’s your story?
My story starts with family. I am the daughter of Cuban immigrants who sought political asylum in the United States after a communist dictatorship took over Cuba. I grew up listening to their stories of struggle, survival, and striving towards success. These experiences and values shaped how I engaged with and viewed the world.
In bearing witness to the ways in which my parents worked to give back to their communities, I learned about the importance of giving back to my communities and I dedicated myself to modeling my parents’ example. My motivation to engage in social justice work, particularly in the areas of youth empowerment and racial and gender equity, stemmed from my parents, and by the inspiration that I drew from the other powerful individuals in my life, some of whom I have come to read about, some of whom I came to know, some of whom I came to love, and all of whom I have pledged to fight alongside over the course of my personal development.
I envision a future in which socioeconomic status, ethno-racial background, nor gender identity are determining factors for an individual’s ability to access basic human rights and requirements for safety and sustainability. Through YP4, I want to continue to develop myself and others further as true agents of change.
How did you find your way to YP4?
I found my way to YP4 with the help of alumni Amanda Matos who introduced me to her Blueprint, The WomanHOOD (Helping Ourselves Overcome Discrimination) Project—a Women of Color led program for high school girls in the Bronx dedicated to facilitating workshops on issues of racial justice, gender empowerment and equity, media literacy, public speaking, and leadership development. Through my involvement with The WomanHOOD Project, I learned about the YP4 Fellowship Program and was accepted as a Fellow in 2014. My Blueprint entailed creating the position of Director of Training and Staff Development—a position I would later hold—to continue the sustainability and growth of The WomanHOOD Project. YP4 has been and continues to be an integral part of my personal and professional development as a progressive leader, and I look forward to my continued involvement with the program.
What personal and professional experiences do you bring with you into the YP4 space?
I bring a variety of experiences into the YP4 space that focus on social justice advocacy, youth empowerment and leadership development, and multiculturalism. I am a recent graduate of Columbia University where I double-majored in Sociology and the Studies of Ethnicity and Race. My academic interests as a student included youth empowerment and leadership development, particularly for women of color.
On a personal level, my Latina identity and the obstacles that I have encountered as a woman of color in often predominantly-White spaces motivate and continue to push my desire to operate in the change movement.
Although I often dealt with issues of inequity as a researcher, from an academic lens, I also worked to operationalize what I learned. When reflecting on the experiences that developed my passion and capacity for social justice work, I find that all of my professional work has influenced my journey, from my time as an Undergraduate Teacher for under-resourced, first-generation New York City High School students to my tenure as the Chapter President for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar Chapter at Columbia University.
During the summer of 2015, I had the honor of serving as a White House Intern for the Office of the First Lady, where I edited, prepared, and coordinated responses on behalf of the First Lady for her Public Mail. Directly prior to joining YP4 staff, I spent a summer at Columbia as the Supervisor for the Double Discovery Center, a college preparatory high school program for under-resourced, first-generation students in the New York City area.
I am excited to be bringing my personal and professional experiences to the table, and to grow further alongside the other brilliant and passionate folks who make up Young People For!
What are you looking forward to on the team and within the Network?
I am looking forward to learning and growing alongside other amazing individuals who are also committed to social justice, while simultaneously developing my own skills as a Latina activist in the progressive movement. Through my involvement with YP4, it is my goal to keep educating the next generation of progressive leaders, and to learn the ways in which social justice work permeates all facets of our lives.
If you could have dinner with any organizer past or present, who would it be?
If I could have dinner with any organizer it would likely be Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress, and the first Black woman to run for President of the United States. Shirley Chisholm believed in more than politics; she dedicated her life to fighting for change and dismantling years of systemic oppression that affect women of color across the nation. Shirley Chisholm’s story and commitment to social justice is incredibly inspiring and empowering. It would truly be an honor to go back in time and meet her and learn from her powerful wisdom, strength, and experience.