Maria's Journey to Activism

By Wei Lee, ASPIRE Program Coordinator

You've met our clients Mr. Lau and Pedro. Today, we introduce you to Maria, a young womxn in our ASPIRE program for API undocumented youth. She inspires us and will inspire you, too.

Maria has traveled a long road. Ethnically Chinese, she grew up in Mexico. In high school, Maria and her sister came to the United States to join their mother. Soon after, however, Maria's mother had to return to Mexico, leaving Maria and her sister to navigate a new country by themselves as they approached adulthood. After she overstayed her visa, Maria became undocumented. As a result, she had difficulty accessing health care, housing, and a job. Determined to go to college, she began paying her way through San Francisco State University with side gigs and a whole lot of hustle.

Normally reserved, Maria walked into her first ASPIRE meeting hesitantly, seeking a safe space to further understand her identity as an undocumented Asian immigrant. She found much more, eventually becoming a leader with the goal of serving other vulnerable community members. Today, Maria is an ASPIRE Community Organizer, guiding young people and developing them as leaders. She leads Know Your Rights presentations for immigrants and is active in state and local campaigns to disentangle police from immigration enforcement.

Maria is also an artist. She launched an art workshop series called Flip the Script, which uses art as a tool to create dialogue about the range of immigrant experiences and to highlight the intersection between physical health, mental health, LGBTQ+ identities, and immigration.

Through ASPIRE, we have nurtured a new generation of advocates, arming youth with the skills, tools, and resources to fight on behalf of marginalized communities. Young leaders like Maria are how ASPIRE protects our immigrant communities from deportations, increases health care access, and creates a broader API voice in the immigrant justice movement. We're thrilled that she picked up her bullhorn and found her voice.