I can’t say there was one particular time in my life that made me want to be a human rights defender. Instead, a series of experiences have lead me to commit my life to ensuring equal justice and opportunity for people groups all over the globe.
My mom is a first generation American, having migrated from Panama in her youth. My dad, a former U.S. Marine, grew up in rural South Carolina in the Jim Crow South. As a result of their upbringing, each of them always emphasized the importance of education. On top of that, however, my parents always made sure my siblings and I realized we had a responsibility to those less fortunate. The goal, therefore, is not just to get a good education, get comfortable in a well paying job and live your life in solitude. Instead, my dad drilled into me the significance of helping others accomplish their dreams, while my mother’s stories and experiences reminded me not to neglect the other side of my heritage.
When I found out I had a chance to attend the Amnesty International Regional Conference in Houston with some of my sixth grade students, there was no way I was passing up the opportunity. I am a firm believer that no person is too young to be an advocate, and being able to see so many of my students ask thoughtful questions and contribute with engaging dialogue served as a stark reminder of why I do this work.
Currently, I work to ensure that students from traditionally impoverished communities have educational and extra-curricular opportunities they otherwise would not have access to, such as attending summer sleep away camps. Additionally, I also partner with a college readiness and afterschool program, raising money to help undocumented immigrants attend four-year colleges and universities in the United States. I envision a world where girls all over the globe — from North and Central Africa to Southeast Asia to the Northern Triangle of Central America — are educated with equal fervency as our boys. I believe in an America where opportunity is not limited by zip code, and where young people who desire to pursue a college degree can do so without fear of deportation. By the time I leave this earth, I hope to have helped these dreams become a reality for millions of young boys and girls worldwide.
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