UCLA Labor Center

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 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

Biography

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.

 

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.