Young Latina Begins Path Towards Fair Public Policy for All Communities

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Samantha Contreras was recently selected as a scholar for the Drum Major Institute (DMI).  A representative of DMI asked if Ms. Contreras could write a blog post for Citizen Orange and I happily obliged.  Following are the words of future leader Samantha Contreras. 

I began my activism and passion to serve the public when I came close to the end of my educational opportunities and my dreams due to the lack of access for students who do not hold legal status in the country. To millions of people the word “immigrant” is one that is synonymous to “aliens” and “criminals.” To me, immigration is an issue of family, opportunity, and hope. In one word, the issue of immigration is me. Personally living the attacks on the immigrant community has forever impacted my life and I am wholeheartedly committed to altering the perception of immigrants as well as transforming the status of all underprivileged communities across this nation through progressive policy revamping.
I began my community involvement with CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, since the age of seventeen as a community organizer for the rights of immigrant youth for the past 3 years. I am also a board member for the Southern Californians for Youth Network for the past 4 years and a past intern for the Center for Community Change.

My grassroots organizing experience propelled me towards a new challenge— using my activist experience to develop better public policy. This past summer I was accepted to the DMI Scholars Program of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy. It was just what I was looking for in order to gain experience and knowledge in creating policy with real humane solutions for people in disadvantaged communities and was fortunate to be part of the first class of Scholars. This program provided me with an amazing and different kind of experience. The the DMI Scholars Program gave me a first hand experience into the life of a busy political analyst, an area where I desired more knowledge and exposure. I have done my share of campaign planning, advocacy, and organizing but in this program I truly felt a rookie. I learned how to write a policy memo, analyze the media for socially constructed norms and propaganda, once in a lifetime opportunities to network, and the opportunity to learn from my peers from other parts of the country.

I have been working to impact the political arena from an adjacent part of the circle of change, community organizing, for many years but impacting the political arena from the unexplored sector of policy analysis was something new. I thought it would be and easy transition but it was the biggest challenge I had experienced in a long time. Tackling policy change from a community-organizing sector has a different process with an on hands experience with the community policies are impacting, insight that a policy analyst at times only reads about. However difficult it may be to combine both my experience as an organizer and now as a policy analyst, it is something that is necessary in the halls of Congress and local governments to achieve progressive change in this nation. DMI has provided me with an experience that has forever impacted me and has widened my perspective.

I am thankful to DMI for this experience that has strengthened my commitment, but also for facilitating my assessment of the areas that I believe are essential to perfect in order for me to be a successful policy analyst and an even a better policymaker.

Samantha Contreras is a Drum Major Institute Scholar and a student at Santa Monica Community College. She is a Youth Organizer with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

If you are a college Sophomore or Junior who is interest in learning how to enter the world of public policy, check out the DMI Scholars program http://www.drummajorinstitute.com/dmischolars/. Apply online before January 27th, 2008

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1 Comments

janna said:

Samantha is definitely on the right track! Her combination of practical experience, passion, and now all those open doors and networking through the DMI will make her a force to be reckoned with. It makes me feel more optimistic for our future to see up and coming policymakers like Ms. Contreras. Nice to hear some good news for a change! Thanks for introducing her.

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on November 29, 2007 3:44 PM.

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