Grace's Why

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Release Date: 
Friday, March 13, 2020

Grace, our VISTA member at the Office of Appellate Defender in NYC and VISTA member of the year, shares why she is dedicated to public service.

Grace in the office

The mission of AmeriCorps provides me an opportunity to bond my past life experiences with a future in public service. The memories of these life experiences endow me with a sense of obligation to the community – to commit my life’s work to addressing the societal problems I personally experienced and saw those around me struggle with.

I was born in the South Bronx to a young mother and working-class refugee family from El Salvador. My tough home environment required me to be self-directed and work hard at a young age to help support my family and to provide myself the structure I needed to survive. It was through the challenges I faced along the way that I learned to navigate the obstacles that many low-income Black and Latinx Americans experience. For the privilege of pursuing higher education and to provide for my own living expenses right out of high school, I had to work my way through college in jobs with long and hectic hours. Fortunately, the future I envisioned for myself pushed me through these difficult times.

I pursued a degree in Public Administration with the hopes of being able to better understand the socio-political structure of our country. This education would enable me to pass on that institutional knowledge to underserved communities, empowering them to navigate the many obstacles that my own family endured. As a student, I completed research related to American civil rights, inequality facing minority communities in the United States, international relations, and public policy data analysis. My studies empowered me with a firm understanding of public policy in America, and within this I saw the tremendous need for public servants of diverse backgrounds and perspectives to help shape policy innovations serving communities in need.

My life story is just one of so many in our country (predominantly within poor, minority communities) full of adversity at every turn. The only chance I have to derive purpose from my experiences is to dedicate my life trajectory to helping those who come from similar circumstances navigate the unequal system that they will be confronted with due simply to their socio-economic status at birth. AmeriCorps and the Office of the Appellate Defender in New York City provide me with this distinct opportunity to translate my survival into purposeful work.

The opportunities I granted to me through these organizations drive me to continuously aim higher and break barriers - my community needs leaders who are able to overcome adversity to light the path and uplift others along the way.