2016 Summer Fellows
Megan Brookens is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Urban Studies and minoring in Urban Education. She currently takes part in multiple campus organizations, including Penn First which started this year to address issues with the support and recognition of first-generation and low-income students in higher education. She was matched to Penn through the QuestBridge College Match program and has been actively involved in the Quest Scholars Network chapter at her school, particularly by organizing service opportunities to support students in the Philadelphia school system. Megan is active in the West Philadelphia community through her work with the Netter Center for Community Partnerships and the Music and Social Change program. Through these groups, she has made connections with many amazing students and become even more frustrated with the lack of resources and opportunities for many low-income and minority students due to systematic racial and class oppression. She is currently interning with the Mayor’s Office of Education in Philadelphia where she enjoys working with the Community Schools and Universal Pre-K initiatives in order to combat inequalities in the local school system through policy. Megan plans to pursue a career that encompasses her passion for education, human rights, and social justice. She grew up in the small town of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania.
Sanah Jivani is an honors college student double majoring in sociology and communications at the University of Texas at San Antonio and is an active public speaker and writer. She is the founder of a non-profit organization called The Love Your Natural Self Foundation, which focuses on empowering individuals all around the world through events, movements and hands-on sessions. She started this organization after losing all of her hair to Alopecia in the seventh grade. She struggled with wigs, bullying, self-harm and self-hate for years. Now, her non-profit organization hosts projects in 28 countries worldwide. She has reached over 10,000 students through speaking engagements and raised over $10,000 in fundraising for her non-profit organization. Sanah provides free resources and self-esteem based curriculum for schools all around the world. Outside of her work with her non-profit, she is one of thirty We Are Family Foundation’s Global Teen Leaders, a TEDx Speaker, Natural High’s 2015 Youth of the Year, a DoSomething and College Board Youth Advisory Council Member, a State Farm Youth Advisory Board member and a Prudential Spirit of Community Award Finalist. She hopes that this hard work and positive energy will someday change the world!
Dianne Kaiyoorawongs is a junior at Yale University majoring in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration. She was born in Bangkok, Thailand and moved to the United States when she was three years old. This experience first fed Dianne’s interest in immigration reform, and Dianne has since volunteered in refugee resettlement and aiding immigration detainees. She is currently spending the semester in Morocco, and conducting independent research on immigration from sub-Saharan Africa. After graduation, Dianne hopes to study law and Public Policy to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. Dianne will be placed with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc
Raymond Magsaysay is a first-generation immigrant student and Quest Scholar majoring in Sociology and minoring in Hispanic Studies and English: Race & Ethnicity at Vassar College. He is passionate about utilizing coalition-building and critical, intersectional frameworks to combat the inequities that exist in the nation’s interlocking immigration, education, and criminal justice systems. Most recently, Raymond interned with the Diverse Elders Coalition in Washington D.C. as a Burnam Fellow to help shape aging policy for minority and LGBT people. At Vassar, Raymond has led successful campaigns with the Student/Labor Dialogue, a collective of workers and students dedicated to cultivating a dignified and empowered working environment, in addition to holding multiple leadership roles on campus to ensure that students of color and other marginalized populations thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. Raymond was recently named a Vassar Tananbaum Fellow and plans to continue his work in law and policy this summer with the Committee; upon graduation, he plans to attend law school to better equip himself to contribute to the creation of a more just society.
Renata Mauriz is an undocumented student attending Brown University. She has taken advantage of the university’s open curriculum to create her own educational path focusing on public policy, ethnic studies and sociology with a pre-law track. At Brown, she has revived the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition, which advocates for better campus resources and transparent policies for undocumented students as well as support for local immigrant communities in Rhode Island. Prior to being a student at Brown, Renata also led efforts with the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society to create a scholarship for undocumented students at her community college. She is proud for collectively helping lead the New Jersey Tuition Equity for DREAMers Campaign, which successfully resulted in passing the NJ DREAM Act, a law granting undocumented students in NJ access to in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. She is also a core member of Wind of the Spirit, a grassroots immigrant rights organization based in NJ advocating at local, state and national levels. Renata is originally from Brazil and calls both Brazil and New Jersey home.
2015 Summer Fellows (in alphabetical order):
Isaura Amezcua is a sophomore at Georgetown University, majoring in Government, with an intended minor in Justice and Peace. Isaura’s interests in immigration reform and social justice grew when she participated in a Kino Border Immersion trip to Tucson, Arizona. During this trip, she witnessed first-hand the negative effects current immigration policies have on families and communities throughout the United States. As a result, Isaura started volunteering with the Kalmanovitz Initiative Day Labor Program which advocates for worker rights and empowers the laborer community. She is also a member of Hoyas for Immigrant Rights, a student organization that helps create informed dialogue on immigration and immigrant rights on campus. Isaura is originally from El Monte, CA, and is a daughter of immigrant parents. She will be placed with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. This fellow’s stipend is made possible by CLINIC, thanks to the generous donation in memory of Claire Robinson.
Rafael Medina is a senior at the University of California, Los Angeles, majoring in History with a minor in Education Studies. Rafael was accepted to UCLA as a Law Fellow, a program that exposes him to case study and jurisprudence. Rafael engages in numerous volunteer activities. These activities include volunteer work with JusticeCorps, which recruits, trains, and places over 270 undergraduates and recent graduates in court-based self-help centers throughout California. He also volunteers as a teaching assistant in the School of History and Dramatic Arts where he focuses on the US Civil Rights movements. Rafael’s desire to equalize educational, socioeconomic, and political opportunities and outcomes stems from his lived experience and desire to advocate for his own family and community. Rafael is from Pico Rivera, a small Latino-immigrant suburb of Los Angeles. Rafael will be placed with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. This fellow’s stipend is made possible by CLINIC, thanks to the generous donation in memory of Claire Robinson.
Mayra Melendez, is a senior at Salisbury University, majoring in International Relations, Conflict Analysis, and Dispute Resolution. Mayra’s roots in immigrant advocacy can be traced back to when she and her family lost their status due to the errors of an immigration attorney. Mayra was formally introduced to immigrant advocacy through the Maryland Dream Act Campaign. She co-founded S.T.A.N.D, Students Taking Action for Necessary Dreams, a youth immigrant group dedicated to immigrant rights, and equal education access for students. Locally, Mayra has acted as a liaison for several state and national organizations to help increase education and legal access for the local immigrant community. She recently helped co-organize the Undocumented Students Forum at her institution, with the hope of increasing undocumented student resources at Salisbury University. Mayra is originally from Lima, Peru. She will be placed at the Washington, D.C. office of the National Immigration Law Center. This Fellow’s stipend is made possible by NILC.
Lorenza Ramirez is a sophomore at Tufts University, majoring in International Relations with a concentration in Latin America, and a Minor in Communication and Media Studies. She is passionate about leveraging graphic design as a powerful education tool. For instance, in high school, she helped design a class curriculum and the class textbook on Latino Immigration to the United States. She has previously interned with the Community Education Center at the American Immigration Council in Washington, D.C. Among her many activities at Tufts, she serves as an Editor of the Tufts Traveler Magazine. Long-term, she plans on studying law, and desires to increase public awareness regarding US immigration policies. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Lorenza has also lived in Oaxaca, Mexico and Florence, Italy. Lorenza will be placed with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. This fellow’s stipend is made possible by CLINIC, thanks to the generous donation in memory of Claire Robinson.
Teofanny Saragi is a sophomore at Pomona College, where she intends to major in Public Policy Analysis, with a concentration in Sociology. Her interests in cultural identity, policy, and civic engagement translated into her current passion for educational access for underrepresented minorities. At Pomona, she serves as a student representative for the five-college Asian American Advisory Board, in which she seeks to foster a strong Asian and Pacific Islander community. She is actively involved in the QuestBridge Scholars Network as the Community Engagement Committee Leader and she engages with the minority community beyond her campus through the Draper Center for Community Partnerships. After completing her Bachelor of Arts, Teofanny aspires to engage in public service and attend a graduate school of public policy. Teofanny will be placed with Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. This fellow’s stipend is made possible by the FirstGEN 2015 Crowd Funding Campaign – and the over 40 funders who made donations.
Emily Taing, the 2015 Chepenik Financial FirstGEN Fellow, is a junior at the University of California, Los Angeles, as an intended International Development Studies and Asian American Studies double major. She currently takes part in multiple campus organizations, including Fellowship for International Service and Health at UCLA, which regularly provides basic health services to underserved communities in Mexico. In addition, Emily volunteers as an English teacher for Tassel, teaching “live” English lessons over the web to children in rural Cambodia. She is also the vice president of scholarship for her sorority where she provides career development workshops and academic support to her chapter members. Off campus, Emily works as a Corps Member for Jumpstart, teaching preschool children, from low income backgrounds, regarding the literacy skills needed to be successful academically. She hopes in the future to attend law school and work in the fields of international affairs and human rights. She was born in San Francisco and raised in San Jose, California. Emily will be placed with the Lawyers’ Committee’s Educational Opportunities Project. This fellow’s stipend is made possible by a generous donation made by Chepenik Financial.
Karen Vallejos, the 2015 iCore Networks FirstGEN Fellow, is a senior at Southwestern Adventist University, with a double major in International Business and History. She has been a contributor to the founding of The Dream Project, a nonprofit group in Virginia that supports immigrant students who desire to pursue higher education. She is also the co-founder of DREAMers of Virginia where she has lobbied at both the state and national levels advocating for the DREAM Act. She has previously interned on Capitol Hill for Senator Tim Kaine, at The Center for American Progress under the Economic Policy Department where she helped plan the first White House Summit for Working Families, and at The Advancement Project, a civil rights and law organization. At her university, she served as a student senator and the President of her Business club, where she led initiatives that helped various under resourced communities. She grew up in Arlington, Virginia but is originally from Bolivia. She will be placed with the Lawyers’ Committee’s Public Policy Project. This fellow’s stipend is made possible by a generous donation made by iCore Networks.
2014 Summer Fellows (in alphabetical order):
Karla Davis attends MidAmerica Nazarene University in the Kansas City metro area (2014). While studying corporate communications, marketing, and graphic design, she discovered a passion for social justice issues. As a nontraditional and minority student, Davis recognizes the need to advocate for marginalized groups and hopes to dedicate both her personal and professional life to such causes. Davis is actively involved in her community and has served in a variety of capacities — as a youth member of the National League of Cities, an intern at the Olathe Latino Coalition, as well as the president of her university’s Student Diversity Council, whose purpose is to empower students to stand up against the injustices of today. Davis will be placed with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. thanks to the generous donation in memory of Claire Robinson.
Update: Davis has committed to a year of national service for 2014-2015 with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, and has been placed at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle, Washington.
Read Davis’ summer reflective essay here.
Nirvana Gisle Felix attends the University of California, Berkeley, as a social welfare major with intended minors in public policy and education (2016). She is currently part of an organization on campus called Inside the Living Room, which assists immigrants and refugees in completing political/LGBTQ/domestic violence asylum. Felix is passionate about empowering and educating people of color, especially Pilipin@s, in their endeavors to maneuver their way towards higher education and beyond. She currently interns for the bridges Multicultural Resource Center and has assisted in the planning and implementation of the Graduate School Tour, a weeklong trip during which undergraduate students are given the opportunity to tour various East Coast graduate schools. Felix hopes to one day work for a nonprofit organization focused on education reform. She was born and raised in San Jose, California, and will be placed with the Lawyers’ Committee.
Read Felix’s summer reflective essay here.
Genesis Garfio is a DREAMer who attends Columbia University (2017). She is studying political science and economics in the prelaw track. Garfio is a member of Chicano Caucus, an organization dedicated to provide members of the Columbia University student body who self-identify as Chican@, Mexican, or Mexican-American, with an environment that will help them to fulfill their educational goals and to promote cultural consciousness. She is also a member of the Columbia Democrats. Garfio is heavily involved with the LGBTQ community on campus and serves as an SAT/college prep tutor for students in Harlem. She considers Houston, Texas her home, but is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico. She will be placed with the Washington, D.C., office of the National Immigration Law Center.
Juan Rangel studies at the University of Notre Dame and is majoring in political science and Latino studies (2015). He has been involved with student government throughout all three years at Notre Dame, and this year he served as the student body chief of staff, which included chairing the Immigration Task Force. Rangel also founded and serves as the president of the Student Coalition for Immigration Advocacy, which works to educate students about immigration issues and advocate at the local, state, and national levels. He interned last summer with the Office for Immigrant Affairs and Immigration Education at the Archdiocese of Chicago. He is originally from Mexico but calls Central California home. Rangel will be placed with the Washington, D.C., office of the National Immigration Law Center.
Read Rangel’s 2014 summer reflective essay here.
Update: Juan is now working at the Washington, D.C. office of the National Immigration Law Center, the organization he interned for during his FirstGEN summer.
2013 Inaugural Fellows:
Tania Chairez attends the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, studying Marketing and Sociology (2014). She serves as the vice chair of the Latino Coalition, which promotes and advances the agenda of Latino students at the University of Pennsylvania through collaboration with the University’s policy making bodies. Chairez is also the co-founder of Penn for Immigrant Rights, a student group aiming to increase the dialogue regarding immigrant rights and immigration issues on campus. In her local community she is also a core member of DreamActivist Pennsylvania. Chairez considers Phoenix, Arizona home but is originally from Mexico. Chairez will be placed with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Update: Chairez is a 2014 Teach for America corps member in her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.
Najaah Daniels attends St. John’s University in Queens, New York, as a Rhetoric and Public Address major (2015). Daniels is currently serving as a New York Needs You Fellow, which helps first generation college students select, secure, and succeed in their careers. She is a recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholars Program. Most recently she was elected the President of the St. John’s Chapter of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society and has served as the NAACP New York State Youth & College Division President (2009-2011). During the 2013 spring semester she interned with the New York County District Attorney’s Office in downtown Manhattan. Daniels is a native New Yorker. Daniels will be placed with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Update: In January of 2014, Daniels was accepted as a Spring 2014 White House intern in the Office of the Vice President where she worked with the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. After her time at the White House, Daniels worked as a consultant for Becky’s Fund, continuing her work in the violence against women arena.