One of the stories that we’re proud to uplift comes from California’s Central Valley. The agricultural heart of California, the Central Valley is often overlooked in access to resources and opportunities. But immigrants are the backbone of this community that feeds much of the country.
In response to the pandemic, Immigrants Rising’s Catalyst Campus Fund launched the Central Valley Project, which combined a cash grant alongside leadership development to foster growth in this region. Check out Berenice’s story about how the Central Valley Project affected her.
Nice to meet you, Berenice! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Berenice Ramirez, a Mexican immigrant, a student at West Hills College Lemoore, a mother to two beautiful children, and a wife. This year, I was a participant in Immigrants Rising’s Central Valley Project.
What kind of challenges did you have to overcome to participate in the Central Valley Project?
I knew that my participation would be challenging: I needed to make sure that I had childcare, I didn’t have a working computer, and I felt really self-conscious about my accent. But Estefanía and Rocío from the Immigrants Rising team provided me with a laptop and gave me the encouragement that I needed to know that I belonged in the program.
And what were you able to accomplish through the program?
With my team members, Eloghosa, Juan, and Ruben, we devised a way to empower undocumented young people in the Central Valley to access resources through app-based technology. We built it based on our own experiences navigating complex systems as undocumented students. I remember how it felt to be turned away because I didn’t know that there were resources for students like me out there. But I now know that there are resources out there that I can access to prepare me for success.
What experience are you taking with you from the Central Valley Project?
I didn’t know that I needed the Central Valley Project to help me thrive, but Immigrants Rising’s Central Valley Project was an experience that gave me the confidence to know that I can succeed. Not only was I happy to receive assistance, but to build solutions and to have community with my cohort is something that I can’t put a price tag on.
Throughout my journey, there were times when I felt like I wanted to give up, but I was able to put myself back on track. Even after dropping out of high school, I found my way back to education through adult school. After surviving a brutal car accident, I was persistent in piecing my life back together. And through this fellowship, I now know that I am not alone in my journey because I have this wonderful community with me.
Thanks for sharing your experience in the Central Valley Project with our community, Berenice! We can’t wait to see what’s next in your amazing journey.