My name is Angelina Zevallos and I am extremely grateful to be given an opportunity to speak out on behalf of the students here who, like me, belong to struggling families. I stand before you today as the proud daughter of hardworking Peruvian immigrants. As such, I feel compelled to share a story from my life that illustrates what it means to be a Latina woman and a community leader.
In 2015, I was struggling to find my identity. I knew I wanted to get a Bachelor’s degree, but I did not know what my career was going to look like or how I would apply my degree to tackle social disparities. It was not until I developed and launched my own hunger alleviation program called Youth Voice Activate that I discovered my true potential as a scholar and activist.
Now, although implementing such a program may seem exciting, it was also an extremely complicated task that gave me a high level of self-awareness. And in just the first week of sharing my idea about sending food in care packages to those in need, somebody from the public turned around and shouted “You’re a credit to your race” because I was simply young and had bigger plans than most other Latinos. Coming from a low-income family, I knew about the financial limitations I had as an educated student of color; however, that did not stop me from applying to grants and ultimately organize community food drives, which have fed 800 homeless families across Alameda County. The silver lining in all of this is that I was able to become adaptive and resilient in the face of opposition.
I know that as a Latina leader in my community, I have a unique opportunity to share my perspective around overcoming the odds. And that is why my message for everyone here today is that you do not have to conform to any limitations, and that skin color, gender, age and income are not determining factors in one’s potential to succeed. It is because of the financial support and networking opportunities from the Hispanic Community Affairs Council that we will witness every student pursue their goals and rise above challenges.
In regards to my college and career pathway, I envision UC Berkeley increasing my access to opportunities that will link me to the United Nations where I hope to confront issues of global concern and inspire the future leaders of tomorrow. When it comes to alleviating systemic oppression, I cannot do it alone. I must lean on my Latino comrades as visionaries to find creative ways to share accountability and prove that diversity does drive innovation. And that starts today. To quote the incredible Dolores Huerta, “Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, and every minute a chance to change the world.