Tar Heel Trailblazer: America Juarez-Maldonado
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, the Carolina Latinx Center decided to highlight one of our amazing leaders in our community. This week we had the pleasure of interviewing America Juarez-Maldonado, a third-year student at UNC double majoring in Environmental Studies and Public Policy with a minor in Latino/a Studies. Her hard work, drive for success, and her dedication to helping the Latinx community is admirable. We are grateful to be able to share with you her story.
1. Tell us about yourself.
“I’m a first-generation student and I feel as though that is important to say because it’s definitely different when entering these kinds of spaces, especially a predominantly white institution. I’m currently the Co-President of Mi Pueblo as well as a part-time organizer at Poder NC action. I really care a lot about people and have been in positions where I feel as though I haven’t been helped enough or had the support I needed, which drives me to help others.”
2. What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
“Kind, unique, and strong.”
3. What has your experience at UNC been like?
“I always like to mention my first-year because it was such a culture shock for me. I grew up in schools that were mainly black and brown, so, for me coming into this type of space it was like “oh my gosh, woah.” Mainly just seeing the privilege because the schools I went to before were mainly underfunded and under-resourced. They were completely different from UNC where we have so many resources. The issue was that I was not used to that type of space, and I didn’t really know where or how to use these resources. I would say that at the beginning UNC was tough and still is sometimes but because I found spaces like Mi Pueblo, it made it a lot easier to make friends and feel at home.”
4. What impact has UNC made on your life?
“UNC has made a huge impact on my life. It definitely has shown me a different side of the world. Coming into college I was kind of naive thinking college would be a wild experience, but it has put things into perspective for me and shown me that this is very different from what I expected. It made me realize this was setting me up for my future career and life. UNC has also been such a privilege because I am a first-generation student who has opportunities my parents never had. I get to follow my dreams and to be a successful Latina. My parents wanted to be a lawyer and accountant but due to economic reasons never could. UNC has given me that privilege to pull myself away and build something for the future generation and to show my younger sister that she can go to college.”
5. What does being Latinx mean to you?
“It’s our culture, our language, work ethic, music, food, and overall identity. Being Latinx in a predominantly white institution makes us stand out so much. We are so diverse, and I think sometimes people forget the beauty in that. I’m grateful to be born Latina.”
6. What are your plans after UNC?
“I hope to take a year off and hopefully work at a non-profit. Currently, at Poder NC I’m building out chapters to create a political home for Latinx youth and college-aged students. Again, I feel as though in Latinx communities politics aren’t really in the conversation as much as it should be. My parents can’t vote so I want to show the Latinx community how much power they have to actually make a difference. Especially at UNC, I’ve noticed the Latinx community isn’t really talked about and often forgotten. I want
individuals to realize that there is so much poder in them. As for long-term, I hope to eventually go to law school and then go into politics, maybe locally and eventually run for senator. Dreaming big would be to become president.”
7. What advice would you give to Latinx students at UNC?
“I would say to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself. Everyone here is learning and trying to figure things out. Don’t let your fears and doubts stop you from living the best life. As well as network! Go to events and stand out!”