Mariana Grijalva, a junior at the University of Houston-Downtown, is a student leader active in highlighting issues facing immigrants. Always a champion for the underdog, for the past three years she has worked with the Emerging Latino Leaders Institute, Mi Familia Vota, and United We Dream organizations, to learn about civic engagement and advocacy. Mariana has worked in her local community and has also visited with local and state representatives about issues such as the uncertainty surrounding DACA. Last semester she started the student organization - Gator Courage - on campus, where she focuses on encouraging her peers to speak up about issues that affect them or are important to them. Through this organization, this semester Mariana and her peers will raise awareness about environmental hazards in immigrant communities. She is passionate about helping others and believes that by working together and helping each other, people's voices can be heard.
I have always had a passion to help in the community, and did so while I was growing up. In high school, a guest speaker from Mi Familia Vota, a non-profit organization, helped me to see the variety of problems that many communities were facing. I began to understand the issues, such as immigrant rights, more deeply and started studying them through different perspectives. I received training in civic engagement through the Emerging Latino Leaders Institute, and learned to speak with legislators about fair treatment for immigrants in the United States. I kept fighting for immigrants in my community, especially because my parents and older sister were victims of inequality towards immigrants. Most recently, I have started my own organization on campus because I believe that it is important for young people, especially students, to stand up for issues that are important to them. Last semester we participated in a national walk-out so that people could see how communities are affected if there are no immigrants. This semester we will raise awareness about environmental issues that plague neighborhoods.