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Young Latina Immigrant Learns That Changing Public Policy Is the True Way to Immigration Reform

By Samantha Contreras

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The following blog post provides insight into how young people can realize their dream of affecting change in today’s society through learning about the world of public policy.
The Drum Major Institute, a non-profit think tank dedicated to changing public policy through research in social and economic issues, sponsors the DMI Scholars program for students.
Students accepted into the program are trained in the necessary skills towards applying and succeeding in entry-level public policy positions.
College sophomores and juniors are encouraged to apply for the DMI Scholars program . Deadline to apply is January 27, 2008.

CALIFORNIA: 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 with “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 DMI Scholars Program gave me a firsthand 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, through 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 an easy transition but it was the biggest challenge I had experienced in a long time.
Yet, 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.
Learn more about Samantha
Samantha 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.

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