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López Spends Life-Changing Week in D.C. at the Summer Institute for Latino Public Policy

Senior Priscilla López, who is pursuing a BA in Humanities and Justice, attended the Summer Institute for Latino Public Policy (SILPP) in Washington, D.C. The Institute is organized each year by the Inter-University Program for Latino Research (IUPLR), a nationwide consortium of 25 university-based research centers and departments focusing on Latina/o studies. John Jay students are eligible for this unique program because the College’s Department of Latin American and Latina/o Studies is a member of the IUPLR. This program is an educational program for junior and senior undergraduate students, combining technical and practical experience in public policy with leadership training. Every year, 30 student-scholars meet in Washington D.C. for an intense one-week training and orientation to public policy and the legislative processes through seminars, workshops, site visits to national organizations and meetings with Congressional representatives. The program’s aims are to provide an awareness and comprehension of public policy issues affecting Latinos in the United States. López said she found support, funding, and encouragement from John Jay’s Department of Latin American and Latina/o Studies.

López, who is a Queens, NY native and whose parents are from Ecuador, says her experience in the Summer Institute for Latino Policy program was unforgettable.

“I gained a newfound appreciation for the legislative process and a better understanding of how policies affect the Latino community,” López said. “The Institute also gave me the opportunity to network and create long-lasting friendships with other students. They came from different Universities and from different states. I am so fortunate to have shared this experience with an amazing group of students.”

“The Summer Institute has been in existence since 1986 and is an excellent opportunity for our students to be exposed to the policymaking process and interact with students from throughout the country,” said Professor Lisandro Pérez, Chair of the Latin American and Latina/o Studies Department. “We hope to sponsor more students in the coming years,” he added.

The group traveled to Capitol Hill, where they visited the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. They had the opportunity to meet with Congressmen Joe Garcia (FL), who spoke about immigration reform proposals, and with Raul Ruiz (CA), who spoke about environmental issues affecting California. The congressmen impressed upon the group the crucial importance of knowing one’s state representatives and their views on issues.

López says she also learned about timely issues such as farmer rights in California, education reform for undocumented Latina/o students in Florida, and the need for more Latina scientists in Boston’s dental workforce. López says that the program instilled within her a passion to attend law school and become a civil rights attorney.

“Change is possible. One must not forget that voting in non-presidential elections is just as important as presidential elections because social change can start at a local level. As a young advocate for women’s rights, I realized that social change can also start with yourself.”

Lopez said her experience was not possible without the guidance and support of Olga Herrera, National Coordinator of the Inter-University Program for Latino Research at the University of Notre Dame and Ana M. Ardón and Janet A. Barajas, who were coordinators for the intense one-week program.