“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” -- Margaret Mead

Friday, April 27, 2012

Reaching for the Stars at Commencement

I can't believe it. I'm finally graduating. It's an incredibly exciting moment and still very much surreal. Photos will follow, but before then, I'd like to share with you an article posted on the MDC homepage about this year's stellar graduates, including yours truly.

I want to thank God, my family, friends, mentors, advisors, colleagues, co-workers and so many others who have helped make my dream to graduate come true. Your support and encouragement made all the difference in my life.

More than 13,000 Miami Dade College Graduates Reach for the Stars April 28

Miami, April 20, 2012 - ... From balancing school with full-time jobs and raising children as single parents to creating trailblazing, nationally-recognized projects that impact the community, their passion and commitment is inspiring. They also remind us about the power of family support, in and out of the classroom. Many are entering the workforce and others transferring to America’s most prestigious universities to continue their studies.    
Meet some of this year’s stellar graduates:
When Wolfson Campus student Jessica Giraldo walks across the stage to receive her diplomas in paralegal studies and pre-law, she will be the first in her family to achieve this dream. Among her relatives, her Colombian father will be there to see her fulfill the promise she made to him when she was 16. “I’ve always felt that I inherited their dreams. And they always encourage me to get an education,” she said. Giraldo went beyond her parent’s expectations. She was recently honored with a national 2012 Newman Civic Fellow award for helping to create the 305 Rise mentoring campaign. She has served as president of MDC’s Society for Law and Community Service, is a Paralegal Studies Advisory member, volunteered to preserve the Miami-Dade County Law Library, worked on projects with a local domestic violence shelter mentoring elementary school children, and the State Attorney’s Office, among others. She was also selected to attend a prestigious leadership seminar at Harvard University last year.  Her goal is to become an attorney.   

Monday, April 23, 2012

Education Matters Project, Jessica Giraldo, It only takes one person to make a difference

This is my story on why education matters to me. I mention how one person made a difference in my life - one mentor who believed in me and catapulted me into the Harvard Latino Leadership Initiative.

Filmed by Jeremy C. Wilson for the Education Matters Project during the Voto Latino Power Summit in Los Angeles April 14-15, 2012. Follow the project on Twitter at @EduMattersProj.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

MDC President Eduardo Padron presents me with Newman Civic Fellow Award

My boyfriend records the presentation and acceptance speech of the 2012 Newman Civic Fellow Award. I share my passion for social justice with President Eduardo Padron and the Board of Trustees. I also specifically mention that as young people, we care and we have a voice to make positive change. To all my friends and family - you can do this too. It only takes one person to believe in you who feeds your dream.

Monday, June 27th (Part 1) – Story of Us

I’ll just go ahead and say it – it has been several months since my last post. (This is where you say I’ve been forgiven). I have been productive, however! The 305 Rise retreat for our 20 American Dream Scholars was a success! We even made front page news on the Miami Dade College website. You can read more about the retreat here.

Intro to Leadership
That’s me all the way to the right – introducing the definition of leadership to 20 first-year, first-generation (mostly) college students.

More on that later – but before I tell that motivating, inspiring, exhausting, liberating story, let’s pretend we’re in Back to the Future and go back in time to June 27, 2011 – the day I began to build myself back up after a couple of intense days of self-reflection and internal conflict (see my previous posts on Day 1 of the LLI).

Last we left things, we had gone through the “story of self,” which invites others to be in relationship with you – in other words, it answers the questions “who am I?” “why am I here?”

Today, we explored the story of “us” – how to invite others to join your community – answering the questions, “what are the values of this community? what are we called to do?” In my last post, I described how my father influenced me to pursue an education and how my younger brother was my inspiration to be a role model, giving me the courage to succeed at my second chance at an education.

In the story of us, however, I would also describe how we allllll have younger siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews who face challenges similar to the ones I (and we) faced in pursuing a higher education. I would talk about the DREAMer in Florida who was valedictorian of her high school, raised in the United States most of her life, but was being deported because of her immigration status. I would talk about the student who has the talent, the drive and the motivation, but not the money, to attend college. I would even talk about Trayvon Martin and how things could have been different had he lived in different zip code.

305 Rise talking with Ganz
Marshall Ganz dedicates some time to our group, discussing what we’ve learned and how it has changed our perspective.

The story of us also inspires hope. I would add that after four years, I graduate on April 28th and that my younger brother will be attending Miami Dade College - with scholarships. I’d add that because of her community, that DREAMer was able to delay her deportation for another year. I would also describe that if we act together, we can provide opportunities for students who can’t afford an education or whose lives are cut short due to racial inequality.

In short, the story of us enables people to relate to each other by using the stories we share in that community. The story of us focuses on our shared values, hope and experiences.

305 rise with Ganz
Marshall Ganz poses with 305 Rise (from left: Myself, Laura, our mentor Natalie, Vanessa, Marshall Ganz, Jessenia, Anabetsy & Luis)

I found it easier to develop this party of the story – grateful to be shifting the focus away from me and instead identifying the challenges that we, as a community, face together.

The biggest lesson from the story of us is that there is power in finding a common purpose despite our differences. We may all come from different backgrounds, speak different languages, look different – but there is a common thread that unites us: our humanity. The way we share our humanity is through emotions – through the anger we share when he hear about an injustice, or the hope we feel when we know that we can make a difference and that we are not alone.

"If I am not for myself who will be for me?
When I am only for myself, what am I?
If not now, when?" 
- Rabbi Hillel, 1st Century Jerusalem sage

In other words, 

It starts with you.
You can't do it alone, you need community.
The time is now.

There is power in community: what will be your role? Will you stand up and fight?

Next LLI post: Eliseo Medina and an evening in Harvard Square.