(Left to right) Valeria, Samuel, Tania, Melani, Anali, Bambadjan, Jorge

Initially, I was going to write something like this and share it at our very first Define American Gala at Rutgers-Camden, where we would’ve been celebrating the work we have accomplished, the present, and what’s to come in the future. It would have served as the closing of my chapter as part of the Rutgers-Camden family. But, that didn’t happen because of the coronavirus. The University shut down the school and sent students home in the middle of the semester.

It was abrupt and disappointing, to say the least, especially for graduating seniors like myself who had their last semester of college cut short.

Because of that, I wanted to take this time we all have together in our homes to highlight the successful year we’ve had. As college students, we don’t take the time to take a step back and appreciate the work we’ve done and the time spent with friends and family in our community.

With that, I am so proud of the work the executive board has done throughout the year and want to take a moment to acknowledge that.

RU-C Define American Chapter Communications Chair

During the past year, we were able to create spaces for undocumented students to share their experiences and stories. We worked with various campus offices to facilitate ally workshop training to educate our staff to assist our undocumented population better.

We traveled to Washington, D.C., and stood in solidarity in front of the Supreme Court steps with our DACA friends and family and demanded the program be protected.

Define American Chapter members in Washington, D.C.

On-campus, we organized our students around the lack of resources on campus utilizing the #ResocurcesForAll that began with the national organization. That included sending a letter in conjunction with our SGA to the Chancellors office requesting Rutgers-Camden join our other campuses in hiring a full-time undocumented coordinator to support our undocumented population directly.

Most importantly, we showed all students they can have a voice at the table and use it to push for the changes they need.

(Left to right) Samuel, Carimer, Alma, James

Together we have accomplished so much in such little time, and all of us should be proud of what we’ve done to ensure our campus embodies the values of Rutgers University. I am grateful to have been in leadership positions and grown with so many of you. People who have been there since the beginning, like Valeria, Carimer, Alma, James, Julian, and of course, the fantastic e-board this year. It’s been one hell of a ride filled with joy, success, failure, and love, but I wouldn’t have wanted to do it anyone else.

Keeping all of this in mind, it’s important to remember the struggle continues not only in our country but within our communities. We are living in unprecedented times with students and their families struggling, undocumented Americans being left out of federal and state aid, the future of DACA uncertain, and so much more. However, we are not powerless. That’s where we need to step up as leaders. There’s power in our communities and each of our collective stories and experiences. The foundation has been laid for future executive boards and students to build on our previous successes and push our boundaries. As my time at Rutgers-Camden comes to an end, I am so excited to see where all of you take the student organization next.

And so, I will end on this.

The day you find your inner power is the day your life changes forever. The Define American family helped me do just that, and I will be forever grateful.

I never expected three years ago for Define American to have made the impact it has. I have met so many inspiring, dedicated, and powerful people in my four years.

To everyone I’ve worked with on the executive board, at Define American, including faculty, staff, and administrators on-campus and everyone else in between, thank you. Thank you for believing in me. For trusting me. For growing with me. And, for giving me the best four years I could have ever asked for in a college experience. I love each one of you like family. And while I’m sad to be closing this chapter of our story, I am excited about what the future holds for all of us. So, for now, stay safe and well. I hope to see all of you soon so we can continue doing the good work and fighting the good fight together.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store