Lilly (Ileanisse) Soto is a junior at McKendree University who has been actively involved in a number of social justice initiatives on campus. She has been an active leader in the student-run Define American group that seeks to expand student, faculty, and staff understanding of what it means to be American by shedding light on issues of injustice faced by many first and second generation American students. She is particularly passionate about Latinx issues, spearheading an initiative to help with Puerto Rican flood relief and education. Lilly has also worked to develop culturally sensitive and inclusive programming as a resident assistant and a member of the Student Government Association. She is a current student representative on the campus-wide Social Justice and Equity Committee and is helping to lead several workshops in the Spring.
It took me moving from "The Sunshine" state (Florida) to the "Rural Midwest" (Illinois) for me to realize how real social justice issues are, how prevalent inequality is, and how much lack of education has negatively affected people's understanding of others from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Experiencing such a cosmic culture shock lead me to not only become involved with the Social Justice and Equity committee, but also Student Government Association, Residence Life, Define American, and other organizations on campus that strive to innovate and overcome social injustice issues. I came to understand that equality of opportunity is truly the root of social injustice. In order for societal systems to function for all, people must first learn how to forgive and accept one another to foster unity. On campus, I actively work with students and staff members to build a cohesive environment for everyone on. It is important to bring many groups together for a common goal, so I communicate with many people to over come the adversity we face not only in our community, but in society. I also served as one of the head organizers for fundraising events to assist with hurricane relief efforts.