During my time at American and in the School of Public Affairs Leadership Program I have strengthened my passion for social justice issues such as the right to a quality education, juvenile justice, and protection of rights within the immigrant community. This has only grown stronger since graduating from college because unfortunately communities of color are disfranchised and targeted in the United States. Although people quote the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” that is not true and has never actually been true in the U.S. AU and the Leadership Program have taught me that to fight to make a difference in these communities and I found the best way is to develop policies that will make a lasting impact.
Working at the DOJ alongside paralegals and attorneys for over two years gave me a first-hand look at populations being targeted such as immigrants, the elderly, and those with low socioeconomic statuses and provided me the ability to help these disadvantaged communities. Through my Spanish skills I helped get justice for Spanish-speaking victims who were threatened with false claims of deportation or imprisonment. I felt so much pride helping a community I am a part of, and I hope to continue these efforts throughout my career.
I have found different pathways to further my knowledge and determination to stop the inequalities occurring in the United States. One path was through taking classes that allowed me to delve deeper into issues I was passionate about. The other avenue was through my sophomore social action project for Leadership. For my juvenile delinquency class, I wrote a research paper explaining how youth in low socioeconomic neighborhoods are not given the same opportunities to succeed, causing them to commit delinquent acts and even enter into adult facilities. In the pursuit of my passion for education and the juvenile justice system, the Leadership Program provided a platform to organize an awareness event. This event discussed the problems and possible solutions within the juvenile justice system involving the inequalities in education with youths living in disadvantaged communities. The panelists included individuals from non-profits in D.C. such as D.C. Lawyers for Youth and The Annie E. Casey Foundation. After completing my research paper and panel, I realized that I wanted to make a long-term change contributing to policy change and legal advocacy for disadvantaged youths. I want to work on K-12 education policy because I believe that providing an excellent education and teachers helps students realize their value and the greatness they can do in this world. We have failed if we have youths in the juvenile justice system. I want to not have to juvenile justice reform because sometimes it’s too late for those youths and no child deserves that.
Furthermore, the 2016 election and the Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship I did over the summer at UC Berkeley empowered me to advocate even more for communities of color such as the immigrant community. The undocumented immigrant community in the United States is treated as second-class citizens even though they contribute to their community and this economy. Consequently, for my senior capstone my research focused on the immigration policies under President Trump, and how they affect school access, educational success, and mental health for undocumented students and their families. I wanted this research to contribute to the rights of undocumented students and their families, so I presented my findings at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research and submitted my work to the LEAD Fund Student Authors Program which is not under publishing review. This research is just a stepping stone for what I want to do after I graduate from American University because this issue is becoming more prevalent in this country.
My four years at American University and the Leadership Program helped me develop my passion for advocating for
the inequalities and wealth disparities of black and brown low-income communities because they are the ones who are disproportionately affected by the discriminatory educational and criminal justice policies. Their voices should be heard and valued because too often, this country has disregarded their poverty and misfortune as a flaw in their character rather than the prejudiced and discriminating policies created. For this reason, completing a Master’s degree in Public Policy is the path I will be taking to create stronger policies for communities of color. If it wasn’t for the Leadership Program giving me the support, guidance, and foundation to advocate for social and racial issues, I would not have been as successful throughout these four years in college. Now more than ever it’s time to make change and resist the draconian policies passing in our government. I do not want to stand idle, I want to be part of the change for a better world for all.