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Lydia Zemmali stands at a table handing paper to a person whose back is to the camera

Lydia Zemmali, '20

Advocacy in action

Summer interns stand in front of the Latin American Association.
Summer interns in front of the Latin American Association. Lydia is in the center.

A Georgia legislator sits to my right. To my left, a representative from Forward.US, a nationwide advocacy organization, is opening the meeting with the current situation: DACA's fall is imminent.

I am sitting in on a Latin American Association strategic meeting where Atlanta-based advocacy organizations, faith leaders, corporate businesses, and state legislators are discussing what to do should President Trump choose to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

They are taking their cue from the DACA recipients present in the room, asking "How can we best serve you?"

A DACA recipient, an accomplished lawyer, responds, "I need to know you will do everything in your power to get between me and the ICE officer trying to deport me."

The message is met with swift action. People write press releases, develop emergency preparedness plans, and arrange meetings with congressional representatives to work for the DREAM and American Hope Acts. In task forces, champions of social justice and businessmen work alongside each other to show the Atlanta community a united front in support of our DREAMers.

I had never witnessed collaboration of this kind. In that meeting, I had a profound realization that I want to continue be in these types of rooms—rooms in which people from many sectors of society concert their efforts, sharing their networks and expertise to bring about change.

Every single day, the Latin American Association showed me how to break down barriers for Latinos living in Atlanta. Each resume completed or Medicaid application filed is evidence of their impact. They showed me that, when run by culturally competent people with a connection to those they serve, a nonprofit can also be a community hub.

My time there impressed upon me the importance of advocacy in any career path I choose, and my fellow coworkers embodied the kind of advocate I want to be: one who is responsive, culturally competent, and collaborative with different stakeholders. 

Lydia Zemmali, '20, participated in Community Service Work-Study as a family well-being intern at the Latin American Association in Atlanta, GA.
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