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.

Biography

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.”

We Matter: A Poem for Immigrant Justice

The UCLA Dream Resource Center (DRC) invites you to read “We Matter,” a poem by 2020-21 Immigrant Justice fellow Sara Alagha. The Immigrant Justice Fellowship is the DRC’s 12-month California-based fellowship that provides emerging leaders organizing and advocacy experience in the immigrant rights movement. Fellows are placed with on-the-ground organizations that address the criminalization of immigrants and health and wellness issues.

Sara was placed with the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA), a research, public policy, and community organizing hub dedicated to advancing the full economic, social, and civic inclusion of refugees. Throughout the fellowship, Sara worked alongside PANA to assist immigrant and refugee communities primarily from Syria and Burma. Touched by Sara’s dedication to justice, many community members provided Sara a dua (Arabic word of prayer). They prayed for her health, wealth, family, and success.

Sara wrote the poem “We Matter” to express her gratitude for their prayers and to express the deep connection she has with community members. As an immigrant from Syria, Sara understands firsthand the challenges community members are facing. “Poetry is highly valued in my culture, ‘We Matter’ shows appreciation to my culture and community. The poem highlights the words of gratitude community members gave me and emphasizes their resilience and compassion, despite the trauma many of them have been through.”- Sara Alagha