NHI Alumna Valeria Alvarado Launches Immigrant Story Project
Valeria Alvarado learned a lot from her involvement in National Hispanic Institute.
From her Great Debate project administrators Carlos Paz and Sonia Lopez, when she prepared to represent Houston in the 2012 Texas Great Debate, she learned first-hand about public policy and activism, and her work with a neighborhood center and on a mayoral campaign (both inspired by Paz) became foundational parts of her high school experience.
From Michelle Saenz-Rodriguez, who spoke to her and other NHI students about her work as an immigration lawyer, the phrase “I’m happy to go to work every single day” has stuck with her as a goal for whichever path she might choose, knowing that helping her community will be a vital part of that.
And from her impressive involvement, including the 2013 Texas LDZ, the 2014 Northeast CWS, staffing the 2014 Texas LDZ, and three straight Celebracións, she transformed her idea of success and came to fully understand the idea that “it’s time we created our own stories” —— an idea that’s manifested in her latest project, officially launching this coming Monday.
Called “We, Too, Are America,” the project will tell and celebrate the stories of immigrants and undocumented immigrants throughout the United States.
Valeria was taken aback by one of the many out-of-the-ordinary actions of President Trump’s first two weeks in office —— namely, an executive order to call attention to crimes committed by undocumented immigrants through the publication of a weekly list, as part of a campaign allegedly in the interest of public safety.
“Initially, I almost didn’t believe it,” Valeria said of the announcement. “I went to the White House website, I went to news sources I trusted. I study the history of conflicts, in places like Bosnia and Rwanda, and conflicts almost never start as conflicts. They start with words, and with initiatives like this,” adding that as a precursor to the Holocaust, “the Nazis circulated lists of crimes that Jewish people committed.”
“I knew that I couldn’t stand by and be silent, and I could have gone a lot of different ways,” Valeria said. “I knew I wanted to fight back, but in the NHI tradition, I decided that I wanted to create something, which can be for the whole undocumented community.”
Currently a sophomore at Villanova University (which she is attending, in part, because of its long history with NHI), Valeria has relied on NHI alumni to help her find some of the people she’ll be highlighting in the weeks and months to come. “It’s just been success story after success story with NHI, and they’ve been a great network in helping build this.”
Initial stories will include a construction worker from Mexico who has lifted himself from homelessness and a college RA from Rwanda who is exhibiting leadership. She notes that there’s impressive diversity in the stories that she’s finding so far, and she’s also caught the attention of Huffington Post and Remezcla in the run-up to the project launch.
“NHI teaches each of us to be our own leaders, but also to serve within a community,” Valeria said. “I feel like this is giving a platform to people who need one. We’re all contributing to a much greater thing by doing this.”
Valeria invites other NHIers who want to write for the project to contact her via email or through the Facebook site.