Before coming to Tufts, I would say that I was a very shy person that avoided confrontation and would keep quiet about things that bothered me. I would rant to my mom or my friends but refused to challenge the status quo. I did not know what it meant to actually stand up for what I believed in, and to an extent I did not know what battles were worth fighting. I hoped that if it came down to it, I would be able to stand up and fight back for my community, my family and friends, and myself — but I wasn’t sure if that was true. My first semester at Tufts I was not involved in any extracurriculars, but my Latinx Peer Mentor was the co-president of Tufts United for Immigrant Justice (UIJ). She had talked to me about getting involved and how it would be a good experience for me — especially through immigrant justice and advocacy which is something that I was very passionate about. She finally convinced me to go to their general meetings second semester of my first year! Being in that space made me uncomfortable because I was surrounded by many people who were so passionate and outspoken about the injustices both on campus and beyond — and I was not used to being able to speak my mind for fear of repercussions. They created a space for me to be able to sit and be surrounded by amazing students, but also a space for me to share and participate whenever I was ready.
For reasons beyond me they nominated me for an e-board position for the following year, and to my surprise I accepted it! That was the beginning of my lifelong journey and commitment to advocacy and immigrant justice. Being part of the e-board taught me so much. It taught me to speak up and tell people when they are wrong and abusive towards the immigrant community at Tufts and beyond. It taught me that there will always have to be a fight for rights and supports within an institution and we have to be strong enough to speak up for those and not back down when we’re told no. It taught me that there are things worth fighting for, and although it may take time, it’s too important to let it go. Most importantly, it taught me that I have a voice and that my voice is powerful tool to create meaningful, intentional, impactful change. This year I’m UIJ’s president and we’re hosting an annual conference dedicated to student network and empowering student advocacy across the country. I would not be the leader, the person, the student that I am today without UIJ and the powerful community that supports me.