As an undergraduate at Yale, I decided to major in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration to gain access to my own history as a first generation Chicana. The courses I took and the mentorship I received from my ER&M professors immediately fueled my community action work. I became a founder and active member of several student organizations, spearheading campaigns and educational projects on immigrant rights, bilingual education, and Black/Brown relations. With the help of my ER&M adviser, I conducted research for my undergraduate thesis at the National School of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) in São Paulo, Brazil. The MST has a well-developed system of schools, providing access to marginalized rural communities (similar to the ones my parents grew up in). My time spent in MST schools allowed me to see education not only as a tool for individual empowerment, but also as a vehicle for social change.
After graduating from Yale as a Latin American Studies and ER&M double major, I began my work as the Latin American Education Associate for the Other Worlds Collaborative, a multi-media project on globalization and just parallel economies. I also sought training in popular education and spent a year working with Otros Mundos A.C., an NGO in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. I served as the Outreach Coordinator and helped design popular education materials and media, and assisted with educational outreach to Mexican and Mesoamerican indigenous and campesino communities. Like my work in Brazil, my work in Chiapas put my college coursework into perspective.
Through the ER&M major at Yale, I learned to understand my own narrative, but more importantly, through my work in Brazil and Mexico—work the major facilitated—I learned to understand my responsibility to help others access the same sense of self-knowledge and worth.
Marisol León is a first year student at the UC Berkeley School of Law. Upon graduation, she hopes to combine her passion for education and social justice work by being a legal advocate for low-income communities of color.