Meet Alejandra. At 13, she crossed the US-Mexico border with her mother into a desert full of terrifying coyotes. By her own account, she felt like a criminal. An administrative error landed her in a 10th-grade classroom – rather than 8th grade, where she was supposed to be. Alejandra graduated with a 3.75 GPA and is working on her economics degree.
And meet Andres. He was brought to the US from Ecuador as a four-year-old and can’t remember any life other than the one he’s had here. He excelled all through his schooling, graduating high school in the top 15% of his class. But, because he is undocumented, he doesn’t qualify for any kind of financial aid. He has volunteered his efforts to Hurricane Katrina relief, building housing for the homeless and working with at-risk kids. Yet he’s desperately struggling to stay in college because he can barely afford it.
These are just two of the brave and tenacious “DREAMers,” who were brought to the US illegally as children and find themselves with no options for the future just as they’re graduating high school and reaching adulthood. Immigration reform legislation currently making its way through Congress would, if passed, offer these young achievers a shot at citizenship.
It’s this group as a whole that was named “Líderes of the Social Revolución (Leaders of the Social Revolution)” at last month’s Social Revolución (SR) awards, part of the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Texas. Launched at last year’s SXSW by multicultural ad agency Cultural Strategies, The Social Revolución awards recognize US Hispanics’ use of social media to effect social change.
Alejandra’s and Andres’ stories – and those of many other young undocumented immigrants from all over the world – are posted on Dream Activist, an online resource and networking tool for DREAMers, by DREAMers. The site was one of the three winners of the “New Americano” award at SR.
Here’s a quick look at some of the other winners:
Laura Donnelly Gonzalez and Alicia Rascon – They also won a “New Americano” award for their work on Latinitas, a program that empowers elementary-, middle- and high-school Latinas through media and technology. Participants are trained as reporters, bloggers, vloggers and podcasters The girls also learn to work with Web 2.0 platforms, open source software and social media.
Axel Caballero – He won a “Mobilizer” award for his nonprofit site Cuéntame (Tell Me), which covers politics, immigration, culture and social action from a Hispanic perspective, and reaches its audience through the site as well as through several social media platforms. Caballero uses Cuéntame to help educate readers and viewers and urge them to get involved in their communities and in political activism.
Magaly Chocano – She won an “Innovator” award for SA2020, an initiative she developed for San Antonio, Texas, Mayor Julián Castro. The Web site and its adjunct social media profiles connect individuals and businesses with local nonprofits that address issues such as development, education, health, civic engagement and the arts – with the goal of transforming San Antonio into a world-class city by 2020.
Every time I hear a politician make another ridiculous statement that either infantilizes or demonizes Latinos as one monolithic mass, I would love to tell them: “check out what these amazingly smart, talented and innovative Hispanics are doing.”
Because our country is teeming with them.