Jovani Mendez-Sandoval, a second year student at Elon University, is a Leadership Fellow and Odyssey Scholar. Since his arrival to Elon, Jovani immersed himself in service, leadership learning and development, coalition building and mentorship. With a desire to serve others, Jovani collaborates with the Alamance Chamber of Commerce to facilitate Alamance Youth Leadership Academy (AYLA) workshops for middle school students. AYLA currently serves over 175 youth in the Alamance community. Jovani is instrumental in coordinating presentations and activities for the students to identify their leadership potential and learn ways to empower others. Jovani shows a commitment to his own learning and development by engaging in leadership education and development workshops, trainings and experiential activities. It is through these programs that Jovani gains a better understanding of himself as a leader, how to lead with others, and how to make an impact on his community. Jovani exhibits mentorship and role models positive behavior in his role as a an Odyssey Program Scholar and It Takes a Village Project Mentor. He serves as the secretary and treasurer for Immigrant Realities a student organization on campus.
My realization of Latin American immigrants experiencing injustice in their country of origin and in the U.S has empowered me to help bring awareness and social change. My passion to learn more about Latin American immigrants started when my family members and friends opened my eyes to their daily struggles. To discover the hidden experiences of other immigrants, I began to engage with undergraduate research by critically analyzing the experience of Central American immigrants placed in U.S detention centers while identifying salient coping mechanisms that engage in response to these stressors and trauma. This process includes analyzing the literature on child-family separation and immigrant detention conditions as well as conducting interviews of immigrant groups and migrants for a better insight of the long-lasting impact of family separation on the overall well-being of children and their families. My undergraduate research has granted me the opportunity to present my findings at a local and national level to bring awareness of an unjust legal system that violates the human rights of Latin American immigrants in U.S detention centers. This is only the beginning to create a holistic change to improve the human rights of immigrants in the U.S.