Lizette Ceja



Location: Claremont, CA, United States

Campus: Pitzer College - Claremont, CA

Fellowship Class Year: 2010

Featured Fellow Spotlight

What do you stand for?

I love that question! My parents came here as immigrants and worked in the fields. They weren’t given proper rights.  Because of that I see the lack of equity within different labor sectors that are often impact undocumented people and how labor, class, and race are intertwined. So I would say that I stand for worker’s rights and immigrant rights.


And how did you come to YP4? 

I was told about it from alumni of Young People For. They told me that YP4 is Progressive, connected, interested in helping build others and community & that I should be a part of the organization.


What has been your greatest achievement so far?

Recently I finished an event with community members and high school students where we documented oral histories with the Pomona Historical Society.  The purpose of the project was to document the history of the development of Pomona. It was really inspiring because it was a multi-generational collaboration. Elders came out to talk about what these lands and how the colleges used to use cheap labor of Mexican, Japanese, and Pilipino people. It was really inspiring because many don’t know this history.


What motivates you?

My motivation largely stems from grandmother and mother. Since I was little my grandmother would tell me stories of why they came to this country from Mexico. In 5th grade California tried to remove Drivers Licenses for undocumented people.  I remember my mom spoke at the demonstration about her experience & path.  I am surrounded with motivating and optimistic people.


Is there someone you’ve met or worked with that’s really inspired you?

One person?

Professor Gilda Ochoa – she is  a friend, professor, and mentor. She makes sure academia is rooted in the community need and culture. She rooted my desire to reform the education system for immigrant students.

Also, Professor Kathleen Yep, one of first people to advocate for ethnic studies. As a mentor she has been really good for my personal growth because she has helped me understand the importance of self-care. She has pushed me to think about how we can cultivate collaboration with people typically left out of the equation.

Finally, Julie Rodriguz Chavez. I worked with her sophomore year when I was working with highschool students. She taught me a lot about challenging what it means to challenge professionalism and how to dismantle compartmentalization of work. She showed me how all our work is connected.


What is your one main life goal that you want to accomplish? (What is your vision for the world?)

I would like to get a law degree so that I can do legal advocacy work.  I was motivated to go to law school after I saw the passion and drive of attorneys at MALDF. I want to work with the community to see what policies need to be changed to achieve equitable standards.


What is a struggle that you’ve faced or are facing in your work?

I’m still mastering the art of persuasion. It’s challenging to articulate views that challenge arguments and persuade others to see humanity of issue.

I’ve also had trouble accessing media for the purpose of helping the outside community be able to know this multi-cultural, intergenerational work is happening.


What advice do you have for others dealing with those struggles?

I’ve found that people relate well to numbers – starting big picture at how many undocumented students in the United States, then talking about California, and so on and so forth.

I’ve had luck through researching the counter arguments & concerns of others. I’ve also tried listening to people & hearing them out instead of just going on the defense.  The more I’ve talked to people about how the issues pertain to my life – the more I’ve found that people understand. I think it forces people to really question their own opinions. When you make it personal and relevant to their life it’s hard to otherize the issue at hand. The more it pertains to someone’s life the harder it is to turn a blind eye.


Is there anything else that you want to say?

I love YP4! I’ve been able to connect with so many amazing people. I’ve had so much support from fellows and staff with programming and everything.