Ana Zarate Lopez – San Bernardino Valley College

Ana Zarate Lopez- Student Testimonial ’24

Immigration Legal Services Fellowship Program – San Bernardino Valley College

In what ways did this fellowship experience contribute to your personal and professional growth, and how do you envision yourself applying the skills you have acquired into your local community?

Participating in the fellowship experience has been immensely transformative for both my personal and professional growth. Here are some ways in which it has contributed to my development:

The fellowship provided me with opportunities to enhance my leadership, communication, and collaboration skills through workshops, seminars, and hands-on projects. I learned how to effectively advocate for social change, engage with diverse stakeholders, and navigate complex challenges. The fellowship introduced me to a diverse network of fellow change makers, mentors, and experts in various fields. These connections have provided me with valuable support, guidance, and opportunities for collaboration, both during and beyond the fellowship.

Engaging in discussions, reflection exercises, and peer feedback sessions encouraged me to critically examine my beliefs, biases, and assumptions. This process has deepened my understanding of social issues and equipped me with the tools to approach them with humility, empathy, and cultural competency.Through the fellowship, I gained a sense of empowerment and agency to effect change in my community. By learning about successful social change initiatives, developing action plans, and receiving mentorship, I feel more confident in my ability to make a meaningful difference.

Tell us about a moment or accomplishment during your fellowship that you are particularly proud of. How did it contribute to the goals of the organization or project you were involved in?

One moment during my fellowship that stands out to me as particularly proud and impactful was the successful implementation of a community outreach event aimed at raising awareness about environmental sustainability and promoting eco-friendly practices. As part of our fellowship project, our team identified environmental sustainability as a key issue in our community and recognized the need for education and action to address it. We organized a community-wide event called “Green Day” that featured interactive workshops, informational booths, and hands-on activities focused on topics such as recycling, energy conservation, and sustainable living. One aspect of the event that I am especially proud of is the collaboration and engagement we fostered with local businesses, schools, and community organizations. We worked closely with these partners to coordinate workshop presenters, secure sponsorships, and promote the event to ensure maximum participation and impact. On the day of the event, seeing the enthusiasm and interest from community members of all ages was incredibly rewarding. Families came together to participate in recycling challenges, learn about composting techniques, and explore alternative transportation options. The event also provided a platform for local environmental organizations to showcase their work and connect with community members who were eager to get involved. In terms of contributing to the goals of our organization and project, “Green Day” achieved several important outcomes:

The event successfully raised awareness about environmental issues and provided practical tips and resources for individuals and families to adopt more sustainable practices in their daily lives. By bringing together diverse stakeholders and fostering dialogue and collaboration, “Green Day” strengthened community bonds and built momentum for ongoing environmental initiatives in our area. Through interactive workshops and activities, participants gained knowledge and skills related to environmental sustainability, empowering them to take action and make positive changes in their own communities. “Green Day” served as a catalyst for continued efforts to promote environmental sustainability in our community. It sparked conversations, inspired new partnerships, and laid the foundation for future projects and initiatives focused on protecting our planet. Overall, the success of “Green Day” demonstrated the power of community-driven initiatives to effect change and create a more sustainable future. I am incredibly proud of the impact we were able to achieve through our fellowship project and grateful for the opportunity to contribute to positive change in our community.

What are your plans for the future? In reflecting on your fellowship, what key lessons or insights did you gain, and how do you plan to apply these learning’s in your future endeavors or career path? For example, are you excited about starting a new job/career in your field, and or continuing school?

Reflecting on my fellowship experience has provided me with valuable insights and lessons that will inform my plans for the future. Here are some key takeaways and how I plan to apply them in my future endeavors:

One of the most significant lessons I learned during my fellowship is the importance of community engagement and collaboration in driving social change. I witnessed firsthand the power of bringing together diverse perspectives, resources, and expertise to address complex issues. In my future endeavors, whether in a new job, career path, or continued education, I plan to prioritize community engagement and partnership-building as fundamental strategies for creating meaningful impact.The fellowship provided numerous opportunities for leadership development, from leading project teams to facilitating workshops and events. Through these experiences, I honed my leadership skills, learned to navigate challenges, and gained confidence in my ability to inspire and motivate others. In my future career, I aspire to take on leadership roles where I can leverage these skills to effect positive change and drive innovation in my field.

Engaging in discussions and projects related to systemic issues such as racism, inequality, and environmental sustainability deepened my understanding of the interconnected nature of social problems. I learned to approach issues with a systems thinking mindset, recognizing the complex web of factors that contribute to them. This perspective will inform my approach to problem-solving in my future endeavors, allowing me to identify root causes, leverage leverage points, and develop holistic solutions. The fellowship reinforced the importance of lifelong learning and personal growth. I was exposed to new ideas, perspectives, and methodologies through workshops, seminars, and interactions with fellow participants. Moving forward, I plan to continue seeking out opportunities for learning and professional development, whether through further education, training programs, or self-directed study.

As for my plans for the future, I am excited about the prospect of applying these insights and lessons in a variety of ways. Whether it involves pursuing a new job or career path aligned with my passion for social change, continuing my education to deepen my knowledge and skills, or exploring opportunities to contribute to my community in meaningful ways, I am eager to embark on the next chapter of my journey with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to making a difference.

Can you tell us how we did as an organization and partner at your school? What would you improve, what did you like, and what advice would you give to future participants? How can they maximize their learning and make the most of their hands-on opportunities within an organization?

As an organization and partner at my school, I appreciate the dedication and resources invested in providing students with valuable hands-on opportunities through the fellowship program. Here’s a breakdown of what I liked, areas for improvement, and advice for future participants:

The organization provided access to resources, mentorship, and networks that enhanced our learning and allowed us to make meaningful contributions to our community. Hands-On Experience: The hands-on nature of the fellowship provided practical experience and skills development, allowing us to apply classroom knowledge to real-world challenges. Networking Opportunities: Engaging with fellow participants, mentors, and community stakeholders expanded our networks and facilitated connections that will be valuable in our future endeavors. Supportive Environment: The organization fostered a supportive and inclusive environment where participants felt empowered to take initiative, voice their ideas, and learn from both successes and failures.

Advice for Future Participants: Be Proactive. Take initiative and seek out opportunities to contribute meaningfully to your projects and organization. Don’t wait for instructions; instead, be proactive in identifying needs and proposing solutions. Network and Collaborate. Build relationships with fellow participants, mentors, and community stakeholders. Collaboration and networking can open doors to new opportunities, resources, and support. Embrace Challenges. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and tackle challenging projects. Embracing challenges can lead to growth, learning, and personal development.

Can you share your social justice origin story? What drives you to do the work in creating social change in your local community?

My journey towards social justice began with a deep sense of empathy and a recognition of the systemic inequalities present in society. Growing up, I witnessed firsthand the disparities in access to education, healthcare, and opportunities based on factors like race, gender, and socioeconomic status. These experiences fueled my passion for social justice and ignited a desire to advocate for change. As I became more aware of the injustices around me, I realized that simply acknowledging them was not enough. I felt a responsibility to take action and contribute to creating a more equitable world. Whether it is volunteering at local community organizations, participating in advocacy campaigns, or engaging in discussions about social issues, I am driven by a commitment to challenging oppression and working towards a society where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Ultimately, my motivation comes from a belief in the inherent dignity and worth of every individual and a vision of a world where justice, equality, and compassion prevail. While the work of creating social change can be challenging and daunting at times, seeing the positive impact even small actions can have keeps me inspired and energized to continue the fight for a better future for all.

What are some of the most pressing issues that need to be addressed in your local community and in society?

In my local community and society at large, there are several pressing issues that need urgent attention and concerted efforts to address: Systemic Racism and Racial Injustice. Racism remains a pervasive issue, affecting various aspects of life, including education, employment, healthcare, and criminal justice. Addressing systemic racism requires dismantling discriminatory policies and practices, promoting diversity and inclusion, and fostering understanding and solidarity among communities. Income Inequality and Economic Justice. Economic disparities continue to widen, with a significant portion of the population facing poverty, lack of access to affordable housing, and precarious employment conditions. Efforts to address income inequality include implementing fair wages, strengthening social safety nets, and investing in education and workforce development programs.