UCLA Labor Center

Immigrant Working Families are Sewing Resilience in the Fast Fashion Industry of L.A.

About Sewing Resilience 

Sewing Resilience is a short film by Artivists Wil Prada and Pea Nuñez about the life of Santa Puac, a mother of three, garment worker, and worker-leader in the movement to end exploitation in the garment industry of Los Angeles, the capital of U.S. garment production. For Puac, organizing for justice is always a family affair because her children are her motivation on her quest to fight for justice. Sewing Resilience premiered, in late 2019, at the UCLA Labor Center as part of the Working Families in Focus photography and film exhibit directed by Los Angeles artists of color to capture the lives of janitors, garment and domestic workers, and their children at their unions or worker centers. Working Families in Focus is an initiative of the Parent Worker Project and was also curated by Wil Prada, UCLA alum, filmmaker, and photographer.

Santa at the 2019 Mother’s Day event at the Downtown UCLA Labor Center

About the Artivist & Filmmaker Wil Prada

For Prada, the film is very personal and uplifts the voices, resilience, and power of immigrant working families. In an interview, Prada said “the film reflects a lot of the stories of people in my family and hits very close to home. My dad at one point had three jobs: he was a dishwasher, he would deliver newspapers, and he worked at the Pizza Hut. Growing up, my mom worked at the Jack in the Box and also did house cleaning.”

Wil Prada

Making the film, for Wil, “was an opportunity to uplift and amplify the voices of immigrant parents, the issues they’re going through, and what’s important to them.” Wil explains that “the film dispels myths such as that immigrant parents don’t care about their children’s education and that’s why they don’t go to school meetings. The truth is that they’re working long hours, which makes it hard for them to go to parent meetings.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To learn more about Prada’s work and how Sewing Resilience came about, you can read the rest of the interview here. You can also check out our recent panel discussion featuring the filmmakers and garment worker activists here.

Meet Inesa Sargsyan, 2020 Dream Summer Graduate

Placed with SEIU 721 for Dream Summer 2020.

Biography 

Inesa Sargsyan was born and raised in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia. She moved to the United States at the age of fifteen and has lived in Los Angeles ever since.

From an early age, Inesa was very passionate about learning foreign languages, exploring different cultures, geographies, and closely following international politics. To further her interests, Inesa had intended to pursue an International Relations major in Armenia and become a professional interpreter/translator working in the field of foreign diplomacy. She participated in several United Nations, and other NGO, organized conferences and seminars in Armenia to become more knowledgeable of the field and have a closer look into the world of international relations and diplomacy.

After moving to the United States, she became even more passionate and curious about exploring the field of international relations. She discovered the wide scope of factors, professions, stories, and opportunities that the field has to offer. Determined to pursue a career in the field of international relations, Inesa completed her high school education in 2019 with High Honors and a State and District Biliteracy Seal. She also participated in the Math and Science Magnet program offered by the Los Angeles Unified School District. Inesa is now a sophomore at Los Angeles Valley College and is planning to transfer to a university next fall to study International Relations.

We asked Inesa: What was your experience with the Dream Summer fellowship like? 

“Working with SEIU 721, through the Dream Summer fellowship, has been a life-changing experience for me. This fellowship has been my first hands-on experience in public affairs. It has made me even more determined to pursue a career in the international relations field since the field largely deals with public affairs between individuals, organizations, politicians, and governments. During some of the events that we, the fellows, helped organize, such as the Mobile Workers Gig Conference and the Essential Worker Hearing, I was able to closely observe the ways that elected public officials address the issues and concerns brought up by their constituents.

Throughout the fellowship, I also had the honor of helping organize the nationwide Strike for Black Lives that took place amid the current racial and health crisis. The strike was definitely one of the highlights of my fellowship because it was a success with over 700 cars forming a caravan demanding justice for black communities. People were protesting systemic racism in the US and demanding living wages, benefits, and union rights for all workers.

Being able to observe a social justice action of that scale become a reality and to contribute to it has been monumental for me. The strike was the first major action, of such a huge scale and influence, that I had the opportunity to help organize.”

We asked Inesa: How has the Dream Summer fellowship helped you grow?

 “As part of the fellowship, one of our obligations has been to contact workers and inform them about upcoming actions and events organized by SEIU 721. Being able to have one-on-one conversations with workers, hearing their stories, and experiences has helped me become more understanding and empathetic of others.

Through the fellowship, I learned how to navigate difficult and challenging conversations in a professional manner. I also obtained valuable lifelong skills such as time management, leadership and organizing skills. These skills will help me achieve my career goals and future endeavors, as I continue with my journey in the world of Global Affairs.

I am incredibly grateful to have been given this life-changing opportunity to work with SEIU 721 and grow as a student, activist, immigrant, and future foreign diplomat.”

Learn more about Dream Summer here.

Meet Freddy Lopez, 2020 Dream Summer Graduate

Placed with APALA, AFL-CIO for Dream Summer 2020.

Biography 

Freddy Lopez was born in Guatemala and has lived in Virginia since the age of 12. He is a junior at George Mason University’s Honors College majoring in Sociology.

Freddy is currently the Internal VP of UndocuMason, a student-led organization at GMU that aims to create a more inclusive environment for undocumented immigrants through education and advocacy. As the Internal VP, Freddy advocates for the implementation of in-state tuition and university-led fundraising for undocumented students. Freddy is also an UndocuAlly Trainer at GMU. He trains hundreds of faculty, staff, students, and fellow organizers on how to be a better ally for the undocumented community.

Freddy also uses his organizing skills to advocate at the state level. He advocated for the newly implemented Virgnia legislation that grants in-state tuition to undocumented students and provides “driving privilege cards” to undocumented immigrants. After graduating from GMU, Freddy plans to attend law school and use his J.D. to continue fighting for the rights of immigrants. He hopes to continue working closely with his community and to one day become a legal resource for a youth-led organization.

We asked Freddy: What was your experience with the Dream Summer fellowship like? 

“I am very grateful to have spent the fellowship with the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFL-CIO. Working with APALA has been an eye-opening experience that helped me realize the importance of intersectionality and being community-oriented when advocating, especially within the labor movement. During my time with APALA, I had the opportunity to work on three major projects that allowed me to get a front-row seat into the current landscape of the labor movement and the issues facing the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, especially during the COVID-19 health crisis.

Through APALA, I worked with the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans’ (NCAPA) Housing and Economic Justice Committee. I co-led the development of a virtual teach-in about economic justice and the AAPI identity. During the teach-in, we discussed how the needs of working class AAPI communities are often ignored due to the model minority myth and how to create a movement that builds political power for those most marginalized. While working with NCAPA, I learned about the different ways organizations collectively organize and advocate for housing and economic issues impacting AAPIs at the national level.

I also had the opportunity to help create APALA’s 2020 Emerging Leaders Training (ELT) program. The program helps APALA members build their individual leadership; strategize chapter recruitment and engagement; and create actionable goals for racial and economic justice. I learned so much from participating in the creation of this program. My colleagues and APALA’s National Board Members provided me with insight into what organizing and leadership within the movement truly means, especially when aiming to train fellow organizers like APALA members at the national level.

I also helped lead APALA’s “National Healthcare Workforce Infection Prevention Control (IPC) Training Initiative,” a CDC sponsored initiative to develop a user informed, culturally competent, COVID-19 IPC curriculum to help train AAPI healthcare workers. I worked with union leaders, APALA members, and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum to launch this initiative that is expected to aid AAPI workers on the frontline across the nation.

These 3 projects have equipped me with priceless skills and knowledge that have helped me realize the many different ways in which I, a brown first-generation immigrant, can go from thinking I had no voice, to using what I know to uplift the voices of the most marginalized and organize for collective liberation.”

We asked Freddy: How has the Dream Summer fellowship helped you grow?

“My time at APALA has helped me become confident in my ability to organize, strategize, and lead. At the same time, APALA has taught me the importance of looking at issues through an intersectional lens and to always uplift the voices of the communities impacted by social inequality in the U.S. I learned from so many AAPI leaders who taught me what collective liberation truly means and helped strengthen my skills. I am forever grateful to APALA for welcoming me with open arms.

As I plan for my next steps post-graduation, I hope to use everything I have learned from APALA and the fellowship to continue my role in the movement.”

Learn more about Dream Summer here.

Meet Christine Nabung, 2020 Dream Summer Graduate

Placed at SEIU 721 for Dream Summer 2020.

Biography

Christine Nabung was born in the Philippines. When she was five years of age, her family immigrated to Los Angeles, California. While growing up in the United States, Christine knew that she was an undocumented immigrant, but it wasn’t until high school that she felt the weight of her immigration status. As Christine navigated the college application process, she experienced various barriers and obstacles due to her immigration status. It was also during this critical time, in her youth, that her father was deported. Christine’s family was torn apart and life would never be the same for them.

Despite these unjust and traumatic events, Christine is determined to pursue higher education. In December of 2017, she was chosen as a Posse scholar to attend Middlebury College in rural Vermont. Christine is currently working towards a B.A. in Environmental Justice and a minor in Education Studies. She is also heavily involved on campus by providing support to first-generation students and hosting monthly open mics.

Christine’s experiences sparked her passion for helping others and her desire to prioritize social equity in the work she engages with. She believes that there are multiple ways to solve social justice issues and enjoys creative problem solving. Her favorite creative problem-solving method is storytelling because she believes personal anecdotes are powerful, inspire change, and empower underrepresented communities.

We asked Christine: What was your experience with the Dream Summer fellowship like? 

“Through the Dream Summer fellowship, I had the opportunity to work with SEIU 721. My first project at SEIU 721 was to help drivers, in the gig economy, fight for their rights. In collaboration with the Mobile Workers Alliance (MWA), SEIU 721 led a campaign that challenged the gig economy by demanding for the recognition of workers’ rights and the improvement of working conditions for drivers.

I, along with a team of 9 people, made daily calls to drivers who work for companies like Lyft, Uber, and Instacart. We listened to their experiences, provided them with information, and mobilized them for major actions and events. From June 25th to the 26th, I attended MWA’s conference, a global meeting where drivers from all over the world discussed the rights of gig workers and shared resources. At the conference, I learned about the different processes workers go through to create a union and how to continue making progress through the COVID-19 pandemic.

On July 20th, SEIU 721 joined a national one-day strike led by janitors, nurses, homecare workers, and thousands of others fighting for racial and worker justice. The event was a huge success with over 700 cars filling the streets of Los Angeles in a caravan for justice. Shortly after on July 23rd, I attended a virtual hearing joined by Los Angeles County Board Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and hundreds of essential workers. At the hearing, people shared their stories and talked about what it’s like to be an essential worker during the current health crisis. I was moved by the stories and frustrated to hear that people endure harsh working conditions to survive. Folks in the discussion emphasized that workers who are essential are not expendable.”

We asked Christine: How has the Dream Summer fellowship helped you grow?

“Working with SEIU 721 has taught me so many valuable lessons. First, it has reinforced for me the intersectionality of social justice issues and how a crisis, like the pandemic, only amplifies the already existing injustices within our communities. I also learned that organizing is necessary to challenge power and that power can be fairly redistributed by encouraging collaboration and partnership. The fellowship also made me reflect on our current systems and how maybe it is not about fixing these systems, but rather recreating them to achieve a truly equitable and just society.

This experience also taught me the importance of communication. A single conversation can catalyze change whether it be through learning about another’s experience, brainstorming next steps, discussing campaign plans, or simply reminding someone about an event. Building genuine and lasting connections is the foundation of a successful movement. Overall, I am extremely grateful that through this fellowship I had the opportunity to work with SEIU 721. At SEIU 721, I found a community that helped me find confidence in myself and strengthened my passion towards supporting my community.”

Learn more about Dream Summer here.

Sara Alagha, 2020 IJF Fellow

Sara Alagha

San Diego Fellow

Host Organization: Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans

Meet Sara Alagha! Sara is the San Diego fellow for the 2020 Immigrant Justice Fellowship (IJF), the UCLA Dream Resource Center’s California-wide rapid-response fellowship. The fellowship empowers and defends immigrant communities from mass detention and deportation by creating a partnership between immigrant youth leaders, on-the-ground organizations, and the UCLA Dream Resource Center. Learn more about IJF here.

Sara will be hosted by the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA) to strengthen her skills as an immigrant rights advocate. PANA is a research, public policy, and community organizing hub dedicated to advancing the full economic, social, and civic inclusion of refugees. Learn more about PANA on their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Q&A with Sara

We asked Sara a few questions to get to know her and understand why she is joining the 2020 Immigrant Justice fellowship. 

What do you want us and our community to know about you?

“I recently graduated from San Diego State University, in 2019, with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Sociology. My family is originally from Syria and we lived there for several years when I was a child. I am fluent in both Arabic and English and pride myself on being bilingual.”

What about the fellowship are you excited about? 

“I’m most excited about developing my skills and taking on new challenges that can help me grow as an individual. I’m also looking forward to working more directly with the immigrant community in San Diego because I feel that I can connect with them, considering that I come from an immigrant family myself.”

What drives you?

“My strong sense of justice and equality is what drives me. I believe in helping those who are neglected or oppressed by the system and elevating their voices to collectively fight for their rights. I believe in uniting our voices to reach a common goal, and that’s equality.”

What are your hobbies or what makes you YOU? 

“Some of my hobbies include watching reruns of The Office and Friends, spending quality time with my friends and family, taking frequent walks among nature, and going to the beach. I also love to travel any chance I get. Earlier this year, I visited Morocco and Portugal.

Meet Dream Summer 2019 Graduate, Armando Delgado Jr.

We are ecstatic to announce that the UCLA Dream Resource Center’s Dream Summer 2019 fellows will be graduating this Sunday, August 18th! The fellows engaged in critical work, throughout the fellowship, to ensure that social justice continues to be a strong force within the United States. Each fellow performed a critical role to advance the work of the host organization they were placed with and to sustain the immigrant rights and labor movement. The graduation will celebrate the leadership, dedication, resilience, and growth exhibited by each one of the Dream Summer 2019 fellows. 

Meet Armando Delgado Jr., one of the Dream Summer 2019 fellowship graduates!

Placed at United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) for Dream Summer 2019.

Biography

Armando Delgado Jr. comes from a single-parent household. His mother and three sisters have been a great support system throughout his life, such as by helping him accomplish his educational goals. Armando graduated with a B.S. in Physiology and Neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego. Having worked in the education field for three years at the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley, he has successfully served as a mentor to students and helped students gain access to post-secondary educational opportunities. 

Although Armando enjoys working in the education field, in the future he hopes to utilize his skills to increase inclusion and accessibility for individuals with disabilities in the technology and healthcare fields. Having a disability himself, Armando understands how challenging it is for people with disabilities to navigate and find support in a socially and politically turbulent world. He also understands the difficulty of seeking aid in a society that implicitly or unconsciously discriminates against and secludes people with disabilities. He hopes to challenge these societal norms through his work. With this goal in mind, Armando will pursue a Ph.D. in public policy or human-centered design and engineering to examine how technology mediates communication and interactions with disabled populations.

Armando presenting during a power analysis activity at the Dream Summer 2019 kick-off.

We asked Armando: What was your experience with the fellowship like?

“My participation in the Dream Summer fellowship has been a pleasant and positive experience. It has provided me with the opportunity to learn how immigrants and allies organize, at a national and local level, to advocate for immigrant rights. The fellowship has also shown me how to raise awareness and increase advocacy for immigrant rights by building a strong community of supporters. 

I also learned how to effectively work at an organization that specializes in increasing community action for a specific social justice issue. The workshops that were presented to us, during the Dream Summer kick-off, gave me a huge eye opener to the wide range of fields in social justice, such as community outreach and field organizing. Through the workshops, I learned that in order to dismantle economic, political, and social barriers we must first understand the problems in our communities and how these problems affect individuals daily.”

Armando discussing some of the topics that will be spoken at UTLA’s Leadership Conference.

We asked Armando: How has the fellowship helped you grow?

“The fellowship has helped me grow into an individual who is more vocal. Through my host organization, United Teachers of Los Angeles, I learned how important it is to use your voice effectively⏤to create impact and change⏤when organizing for a social justice issue. It is important for one to express their opinions and fight for what is necessary.

The fellowship also gave me insight into how grassroots organizations and unions utilize social media platforms to conduct community outreach. I learned that social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can be utilized as powerful tools to challenge authority and unite individuals under a common ground. The fellowship also taught me how to summarize large heaps of data and translate that data into infographics for a target audience to easily understand. People must easily understand a problem or issue in order for solutions to be implemented.”

Learn more about Dream Summer here.

 

Meet Dream Summer 2019 Graduate, Bezawit Tenna

We are ecstatic to announce that the UCLA Dream Resource Center’s Dream Summer 2019 fellows will be graduating this Sunday, August 18th! The fellows engaged in critical work, throughout the fellowship, to ensure that social justice continues to be a strong force within the United States. Each fellow performed a critical role to advance the work of the host organization they were placed with and to sustain the immigrant rights and labor movement. The graduation will celebrate the leadership, dedication, resilience, and growth exhibited by each one of the Dream Summer 2019 fellows. 

Meet Bezawit Tenna, one of the Dream Summer 2019 fellowship graduates!

Placed at the National Education Association for Dream Summer 2019.

Biography

Bezawit Tenna lives in Maryland and is currently a fourth year student at Towson University studying Political Science with a minor in Business Administration. Bezawit moved to the U.S from Ethiopia, with her family, on a hot summer day in 2006. At the young age of eight and with no prior knowledge of English, she was ready to embark on a journey that would change her life forever. Navigating through elementary school⏤without knowing how to speak English⏤posed many challenges for her social and academic life. However, given her sociable personality and with the help of her English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers, the language barrier only became a temporary dilemma.

Although school life was not very difficult for her, moving through the system as Black Immigrants was a challenge for her family. She noticed the lack of resources her parents had, from finding employment to help regarding legal work and assimilation. Inspired by the hardships her and her family faced, she made it her goal to alleviate some of the stress immigrant families face. She volunteered at various centers that provide resources to immigrants such as CASA de Maryland and the Ethiopian Community Center.

Upon graduating in Spring 2020, she hopes to work at an organization that helps marginalized groups⏤like immigrants⏤embrace every opportunity, notice their innate value, and see all things as possible. Through personal and educational experience, she understands the significance of current issues facing the U.S. immigration system. Due to this experience, she is interested in gaining first hand knowledge in key policy and international relations issues regarding immigration and human rights.

Bezawit preparing for an NEA CAPE meeting in LA.

We asked Bezawit: What was your experience with the fellowship like?

“For the Dream Summer fellowship, I was placed under the NEA Center for Social Justice (CSJ) and specifically under the Community Advocacy and Partnership Engagement (CAPE) department. Prior to the fellowship, the National Education Association (NEA) was only an organization that came up while talking about the educator Code of Ethics during a discussion in my education elective classes. I was never aware of the depth of the organization and the significant role it plays within the social justice movement.

At NEA CSJ, I was responsible for ensuring that minorities, particularly immigrants, are represented in the public school system as well as given the resources and support to achieve all of their goals. I researched different ways that immigrant students can organize to put on various events, such as Know Your Rights workshops and Citizenship Drives. Overall, through this fellowship, I was able to contribute to the fight for a more diverse classroom (teachers, administrators, and staff) that meets the demographics of our diverse student population. This is an essential part of the American public school system because representation is a crucial aspect of success for young and impressionable students.”

Bezawit meeting with NEA Senior Policy Analyst, Stephanie Luongo, regarding a research project on ethinc studies in public schools in the U.S.

We asked Bezawit: How has the fellowship helped you grow?

“The Dream Summer fellowship and NEA strengthened my skills, as well as helped me develop new skills. Throughout the fellowship, I mainly engaged in researching issues around immigration within the public school system. Through conducting research, I learned how to think complexly and how to present information in an effective and efficient manner. Communicating research data about immigration issues can be difficult because it is a multiplex issue.

The fellowship also helped me develop networking skills because I was encouraged to engage with staff by scheduling interview meetings with them. I was able to schedule a couple of interviews with staff working in human resources, communications, and advocacy. The interviews helped me understand that social justice work can be done both internally and externally. Prior to this fellowship, I would never have thought about asking someone to engage in a sitdown conversation regarding their work. This allowed me to recognize that networking is more than exchanging business cards and email addresses.” 

Learn more about Dream Summer here.

 

Meet Dream Summer 2019 Graduate, Abigail Gonzalez

We are ecstatic to announce that the UCLA Dream Resource Center’s Dream Summer 2019 fellows will be graduating this Sunday, August 18th! The fellows engaged in critical work, throughout the fellowship, to ensure that social justice continues to be a strong force within the United States. Each fellow performed a critical role to advance the work of the host organization they were placed with and to sustain the immigrant rights and labor movement. The graduation will celebrate the leadership, dedication, resilience, and growth exhibited by each one of the Dream Summer 2019 fellows. 

Meet Abigail Gonzalez, one of the Dream Summer 2019 fellowship graduates!

Placed at Equality California for Dream Summer 2019.

Biography:

Abigail Gonzalez was born on December 6th,1999 in La Barca, Jalisco, Mexico. When Abigail was just a six-month-old baby, her family immigrated to the United States for a better life and future. After moving to the U.S., Abigail grew up in the small neighborhood known as Boyle Heights located in Los Angeles, California. She attended First Street Elementary School, Hollenbeck Middle School, and graduated from Roosevelt High School in 2018. Throughout high school, Abigail was very active within her school and local community. She was class president for three years, was a four-year varsity softball player, was a member of the Mayor’s Youth Council, and a College Track scholar. 

Abigail is currently attending Pasadena City College (PCC) and will be transferring this fall to Pomona College, where she plans to pursue a degree in public policy. After graduating, Abigail hopes to work at a nonprofit organization that provides all immigrants⏤regardless of their immigration status⏤with educational opportunities, legal assistance, and mental health resources. Abigail’s career goal is tied to her personal life experience. Abigail comes from a mixed-status immigrant family, so she wants to empower her community and create positive social change because she is highly aware of the struggles immigrant families face. In particular, she understands how an individual’s immigration status can highly impact the type of opportunities available to them.   

In February of 2018, Abigail and her family were featured in NPR’s podcast Code Switch to discuss what living in a mixed-status immigrant household is like. Abigail’s mixed-status household includes her younger brother who is a U.S. citizen and her two older sisters who are both recipients of the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA provides eligible immigrant youth⏤who were brought to the U.S. as children without proper documentation⏤temporary relief from deportation and a work permit. Unlike her brother and sisters, Abigail is neither a U.S. citizen or eligible for DACA. She is currently undocumented because the program is no longer accepting new applicants, since President Trump rescinded the program. Abigail’s older sister, Miriam Gonzalez, is a plaintiff in the lawsuit suing the Trump administration for its decision to rescind DACA.

Abigail at the Census 2020 press conference, held by Los Angeles County Supervisor representative Hilda Solis, that addressed the potential inclusion of a citizenship question on the U.S. Census.

We asked Abigail: What was your experience with the fellowship like?

“As a Dream Summer fellow, I was assigned to work with Equality California (EQCA), the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. EQCA works on improving the lives of California’s LGBTQ community through grassroots organizing and political advocacy. This summer, I had the pleasure to work with EQCA’s 2020 Census outreach team. I was in charge of the outreach to college campuses in the Los Angeles County. Our goal was to engage LGBTQ and immigrant youth with the U.S. 2020 Census. Outreach was challenging because it is summer and many campuses do not have a lot of students present, but I was able to connect with five campuses that will allow EQCA to host tabling events for census outreach. These tabling events include talking to students about the importance of the 2020 Census and getting them to pledge to fill it out.

I also attended two press conferences, with EQCA, about the 2020 Census. The first press conference brought local leaders and community members together, right after the Supreme Court’s decision on the potential inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census. The second press conference was hosted by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer in order to inform his district about the census work he is supporting. These two press conferences were significant because they were the first I had ever attended. They taught me about the work that other community organizations are doing regarding the U.S. Census.”

Abigail with Dream Summer Project Coordinator, Leticia Bustamante, at the 2020 Census press conference in Los Angeles. 

We asked Abigail: How has the fellowship helped you grow?

“If I am being completely honest, I never thought I would be able to have an opportunity like this because I am not eligible for DACA. Therefore, this fellowship has been nothing but a huge learning experience for me. It is the first fellowship that has allowed me to learn skills necessary for a job. This fellowship was a lot of firsts for me. It was my first time being in an office and professional setting. I never thought I would be able to experience this, at such a young age, because opportunities like these are rare to find when you are undocumented⏤and even more so when you do not have DACA. 

Overall, I have grown a lot professionally. Throughout the fellowship, I wrote professional emails, made professional phone calls, and attended staff meetings. These experiences helped develop my professional skills such as time management, organization, problem-solving, communication, and more. These are skills that one cannot develop and improve, if one is not in a professional setting. 

This fellowship was also great for networking. I met a lot of cool people who are doing great work! They have provided me with both professional and life advice. I have grown so much⏤both personally and professionally⏤in just a couple of weeks because of this fellowship.”    

Learn more about Dream Summer here.

 

Meet Dream Summer 2019 fellow Paulina Ruiz

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 Paulina Ruiz, a finalist who the DRC wants to highlight because of her continued work in the immigrant rights movement and a returning Dream Summer fellow! Paulina graduated from Dream Summer 2018 but will be joining the DRC for Dream Summer 2019 to continue developing her skills!

Paulina Ruiz

Biography:

Paulina Ruiz was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and arrived to the United States at the age of six. Since then, she has resided in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a B.A. in Spanish Literature and a minor in Mexican Studies. After graduating, Paulina decided to utilize her language skills to aid and defend the immigrant community. As an immigrant rights activist with a disability, Paulina’s biggest goal is to bring out of the shadows more marginalized people like herself. She firmly believes it is not only important to bring more people like herself out of the shadows but to also strengthen intersectionality in the immigrant rights movement, by teaching individuals how to effectively organize for the immigrant differently-abled community.

Paulina leading a workshop entitled “Activism: Ableism and the Immigrant Movement” during Dream Summer 2018.

Paulina provides workshops, to organizations and individuals involved in the immigrant rights movement, that teach how to make and take space with people of different abilities. In her workshops, she explains key barriers that people with disabilities and an immigrant background may face such as lack of access to adequate healthcare, employment opportunities and education. Alongside this work, she also mentors individuals with disabilities on how to fight social norms that limit the space they hold in society. Although the barriers to equality for both immigrants and people with disabilities are huge—and maintaining a space in the immigrant rights movement is tough for people with disabilities—Paulina seeks to put a face to the millions of people in her situation who are still in the shadows. She wants to live to see a world where people with disabilities and immigrants are respected and have the opportunity to hold positions of authority that can lead to positive social change for both groups.

Paulina at the 2018 Dream Summer closing retreat.

Why the Dream Summer fellowship?

Paulina decided to apply to Dream Summer again because it is an innovative fellowship and a stepping stone in the immigrant rights movement that holds space for people with different abilities. She has seen firsthand how welcoming the mentors at Dream Summer are and how willing they are to accommodate people with disabilities. Paulina knows that Dream Summer can open many doors, since the program helps fellows build their skills by placing them in social justice organizations across the U.S. She is sure Dream Summer will open more unimaginable opportunities for her and other immigrant rights advocates. She wants to encourage others to take a leap of faith and seek this opportunity—like she did—because it is life changing.

Learn more about Dream Summer here.