Atziri Valadez, a second year paralegal studies major at the College of Saint Mary, has distinguished herself as a leader, both on campus and in the community in the area of immigration reform advocacy. Her engagement demonstrates the importance she attaches to collaboration and her recognition that truly working for change is a lifelong pursuit. She is a member of Young Nebraskans in Action (YNA), the student arm of the Heartland Workers Center, an immigration reform advocacy organization in Omaha, Nebraska. Passion for immigration reform also led her to an internship with the Immigrant Legal Center, where she worked in the Center's domestic violence outreach program. Atziri is also deliberate in bringing her connections in the community onto the college campus. She joined the College of Saint Mary's student club, Students for Justice, and helped connect the club to immigrants' rights organizations in the community. She has helped plan rallies, participated in campus events focused on immigration and has served as a mentor to her fellow students. She is, in short, the perfect fit for a program which brings together visionary and committed students in pursuit of the public good.
I became interested with issues surrounding immigration my freshman year of college. It was September 5th, 2017 when the president announced that the DACA program would be ending. When I heard this, I decided that I needed to use my voice and become an advocate for Dreamers all around the country like myself. I joined a community club called the "Young Nebraskans in Action" and we started to protest this decision. I experienced lobbying for the first time. On campus I shared my story and became vice president of the social justice club "Students for Justice". I became passionate about immigration issues and decided to apply for an internship at the Immigrant Legal Center in Omaha. When I was accepted for the internship, I was placed in the domestic violence area. I met with immigrant women and children, listened to their stories, and talked to them. After my experience and my advocating, I knew that my passion would lead me to my career, and I hope to one day become an immigration attorney.