We’re pleased to introduce Madeleine Villanueva, the Catalyst Fund Specialist at Immigrants Rising. Her work focuses on broadening access to higher education for undocumented young people!
So Madeleine, much of our audience is familiar with your work as the Catalyst Fund Specialist, but how have your personal experiences inspired the work that you do?
Mabuhay, Immigrants Rising community! Being undocumented myself, I used to believe that higher education was just another item to check off in the many steps of getting papers. But my time at Immigrants Rising and as one of the leaders of UPLIFT, a collective supporting undocuAPIs like myself, made me realize that education is one of the key pathways to success where people learn new skills, build connections, and make the change they want to see in the world.
How does being a member of the API community shape the undocumented experience?
I know from my personal experience that opportunities are skewed. Our system does not set undocumented young people up for success. The issues are compounded when you look at how they intersect with the undocuAPI experience—educators are not aware of the various cultural experiences that face our community.
And how is your personal experience as a member of the UndocuAPI community reflected in the work that you do?
Undocumented people are the best people to lead and empower our own community. So this year, I worked with other UPLIFT members to prepare a resource guide to help educators better reach and engage undocuAPI students.
Can you share with us about your reflections on undocumented leadership?.
Very often, we don’t get to lead because of issues with money, capacity, access to opportunities, and insecurities that stem from the shame associated with being undocumented. Immigrants Rising is unique in its investment in empowering the individual, which transforms them to be a better leader and create the change they want for their community.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Madeleine! Be sure to check out our resources page and the undocuAPI resource that Madeleine created with members of UPLIFT.