UCLA Labor Center

Denise Panaligan, 2021-2022 DRC Alumni Council Member

Denise Panaligan, alum of the UCLA Dream Resource Center’s (DRC) 2013 Dream Summer fellowship, will serve as a 2021-2022 DRC Alumni Council member. Along with eight other council members, Denise will guide the DRC’s Alumni Network and advise the DRC staff team on programmatic priorities. The DRC Alumni Council will also lead professional and leadership development for alumni, while supporting and mentoring current DRC fellows.


Denise was born in the Philippines and raised in Koreatown (Los Angeles, CA). She is currently a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient and is passionate about immigrant rights, working with young people, and education. Her passion is a result of her lived experience as an undocumented immigrant. During high school, Denise did not receive the support she needed because her teachers did not know how to assist a student with an undocumented immigration status.

This traumatic event sparked Denise’s decision to work towards a world where schools can be a place of belonging and access to quality education is the norm, not the exception. Denise is currently working towards a doctorate degree in education leadership. Her dissertation focuses on eliminating racial disparities in school discipline through restorative justice, increasing resource equity for marginalized students, and sustaining civil rights protections.

Over the course of her academic and professional career, Denise has engaged in external affairs strategy, executed media relations, conducted policy analysis, and developed coalitions with diverse stakeholders. In October 2020, Denise was featured in a roundtable discussion for Fresh Off the Vote’s podcast episode, “Untangling Undocumented,” that examines how race and law work together to erase Asian Americans from the undocumented narrative. The roundtable also shared resources for audience members to complicate and untangle their notions of “legal immigration.”

Q&A with Denise  

Why did you apply to the DRC Alumni Council?

“During Dream Summer 2013, Yves Gomes, a fellow alum of the program, shared a quote with me from Yuri Kochiyama, ‘Remember that consciousness is power. Consciousness is education and knowledge. Consciousness is becoming aware. It is the perfect vehicle for students.’ It was this quote and my interest in ensuring that decisions are grounded in the core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion that motivated me to invest deeply in the DRC Alumni Council.”

What are you looking forward to the most as a council member?

 “I look forward to developing my expertise on immigration policy and being a DRC thought partner. The DRC’s Dream Summer fellowship was a catalyst in my life that enabled me to operationalize vision and develop strong organizational skills. I am excited to play a major role in supporting the DRC’s efforts in community education, partnerships, and fundraising.”

Meet Dream Summer 2019 fellow Dani Alderete

The UCLA Dream Resource Center (DRC) finalized their selection of fellows for the 2019 Dream Summer fellowship and will be kicking off the fellowship from June 20th to June 22nd! The next generation of immigrant youth social justice leaders will be joining the DRC for a three day kick-off filled with leadership and professional development workshops and on-the-ground experience in social justice movement building.

Forty-two amazing fellows were selected this year for the 2019 Dream Summer fellowship! Meet Dani Alderete, a finalist who the DRC wants to highlight because of his continued work in the immigrant rights movement and a returning Dream Summer fellow! Dani graduated from Dream Summer 2018 but will be joining the DRC for Dream Summer 2019 to continue developing his skills!

Dani Alderete


Dani Alderete was born in Cuautla, Morelos, México and goes by Him/They pronouns. They arrived to the United States at the age of four and has lived in Long Beach ever since. Dani started kindergarten in the Long Beach Unified School District and navigated primary school without knowing how to speak English. The advocacy and assistance of Dani’s mother, as well as teachers, staff, and neighbors, helped Dani become adjusted to living in the U.S. Dani was always aware of their family’s undocumented immigration status; however, it became more salient when Dani started high school. During high school, Dani became aware of the various barriers ahead due to their immigration status such as being ineligible to apply for a driver’s license and being ineligible to receive financial aid for college.

Yet Dani maintained hope for the future and persevered by graduating from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) with a B.A. in Human Development and minors in Queer Studies, Spanish, and Gerontology. During Dani’s undergraduate career, they had the opportunity to be a part of the 2018 Dream Summer fellowship. The validating and caring community that Dani found in Dream Summer, encouraged Dani to stay connected and build a community with immigrant peers at CSULB by joining the student organization For Undocumented Empowered Leaders (FUEL).

Dani leading a “Stress Management with Aromatherapy” workshop during Dream Summer 2018.

Dani plans to attend graduate school and is currently working on applications for programs in college counseling/student services and mental health services. After graduating, Dani’s goal is to work at an AB540/Undocumented Center to help immigrant students reach their educational goals. Dani knows how difficult it is to access and navigate higher education as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S., so they wants to assist in creating inclusive, accessible, and equitable spaces for immigrant students. In the future, Dani also hopes to open up a private practice that provides mental health therapy and career coaching to the LGBTQIA+ community and immigrant communities.

Dani sharing a significant moment they experienced during the 2018 Dream Summer fellowship.

Why the Dream Summer fellowship?

“I applied to Dream Summer because I wanted to build community with other immigrant youth and learn more about community organizing. Since middle school, I was aware about my undocumented immigrant status and always had a desire to get involved in the immigrant rights movement. However, I was unsure of how to get involved and experienced deep anxiety and fear about sharing my immigration status with other people. I would frequently run into Facebook videos featuring Dream Summer alumni that the UCLA Dream Resource Center would post on their page. The videos were inspirational and I saw the amazing work that fellows were doing throughout the fellowship and later on as Dream Summer alumni. That inspiration and my desire to get involved are some of the main reasons why I applied to Dream Summer.”

-Dani Alderete

Learn more about Dream Summer here.