Even during powerful waves of self-doubt, Soerny Cruz ’12 found people in her corner. They were educators and social justice leaders who encouraged her toward a career in service.
“There were times when I didn’t believe in myself, but my community never gave up on me,” Ms. Cruz told students. “Because of that, I’ve been able to get to a place in my life where I can come back to Milton Academy and be proud of what I’m telling you about my work.”
Ms. Cruz returned to Milton as part of a panel discussion hosted by the student Latinx Association and the Community Engagement Board. She was joined by Celina Miranda, Kenia Alfaro and Abe Sierra, all leaders in Greater Boston’s robust Latinx and immigrant communities. Each spoke about their work toward equity in education and opportunities.
Ms. Cruz works at the Cambridge Health Alliance, where she teaches reproductive and sexual health to middle schoolers and provides LGBTQ technical assistance training to health care providers. As a student at Tufts University, she joined the Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/Lambda Pi Chi sorority, where she felt motivated by her older sorority sisters who were leading in their businesses and communities. Ms. Cruz also serves on the board of VISIONS Inc., where she is a consultant on a team that helps organizations address racism, sexism and other forms of oppression.
Celina Miranda is the executive director of the Hyde Square Task Force, an organization that exposes young people to Afro-Latin culture and heritage, and encourages them to become leaders. The mission, Dr. Miranda explained, is to combat poverty and violence, and improve educational outcomes in Boston’s Latin Quarter. The part of her work that gives her the most pride is seeing students who have come through the Task Force’s programs graduate from high school with plans for the future.
Kenia Alfaro is the development coordinator at The Welcome Project in Somerville, Massachusetts, where she oversees most fundraising efforts. The Welcome Project builds community among groups of immigrants, provides workforce development programs, and prepares young people and their families to navigate education systems. Ms. Alfaro draws inspiration from her mother, an immigrant from El Salvador, who committed to helping other immigrants succeed in the United States.
Abe Sierra is a college access and success coach at Sociedad Latina, a program that provides youth and family services to Latinx people in Boston, with the goal of ending the cycle of poverty, and improving access to health services, education and professional opportunities. After an adolescence where he was expelled from high school and worked low-skill jobs, Mr. Sierra encountered community leaders who encouraged him to continue his education. “My heart is with young men of color, who look like me and are facing the same challenges that I did,” he said.