Earlier this month, Young Invincibles’ New York office launched its first cohort of the Young Advocates program, our 15-week paid policy and advocacy fellowship, where young New Yorkers learn how to build campaigns for change on their campuses, across New York City, and the state.
To learn more about our 2020 Spring New York Young Advocates, scroll below. For more information about our Young Advocates program, including information about applications for our fall 2020 program, please fill out this Google Form.
Sophomore, New York City College of Technology, CUNY
Sierra Atkins is a college student currently attending New York City College of Technology. She grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and is the only daughter of four children in her family. Due to harsh circumstances, she left home at the age of 17 in order to take care of herself and attend college in order to reach her goal of becoming a social worker.
Throughout her college career, Sierra has lived in five different places and has often worked two jobs to support herself. Along the way of this journey, there have been many ups and downs, as well as a lot of learning and new faces. Sierra continues to encourage those that have gone through similar circumstances. As a social worker, Sierra hopes to continue to encourage and uplift children and young adults that face homelessness, abuse, and abandonment through her own practice.
Senior, City College, CUNY
Marcia Collier arose from the streets of South Jamaica, Queens in New York. She worked throughout high school to help provide for her family and volunteered in Nassau University Medical Center to be an asset to her community. This experience inspired a love for the medical field and addressing the issues presented in healthcare. Marcia successfully advocated for an increase in staff, with help from her volunteer organization, to persuade the district’s local officials to hire more employees in certain areas of the hospital. After high school, Marcia earned a place in the Sophie Davis Biomedical Program, at the City College of New York, with the goal of becoming an Emergency Room physician.
Marcia worked customer service jobs at establishments such as Bloomingdales and Blue Mercury to support her family while she went to school and acquired a Certified Nursing Assistant license to work night shifts. In addition, Marcia took up the responsibility of working at Get-Well MedCare clinic in Woodside, Queens, where she did a research project using data collected from her patients about Type 2 diabetes and genetic correlations. Her passion for advocacy came from joining the NAACP chapter at her college and assisting people on campus to register to vote. Since then, her ardor for human rights, animal advocacy through PETA, and other involvements created a desire to get more involved in advocacy.
Junior, Lehman College, CUNY
Zaret Cortorreal was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States with the vision of having a great education and future. After experiencing the gender disparities, gentrification, and lack of opportunities in New York, she strived to obtain more marketable skills through higher education. As a Latina, she acknowledged the challenges women and girls faced. As such, she has helped to provide young women with the academic skills necessary for successful educational attainment. Zaret has provided peer mentorship to boost diversity in marginalized communities and prepare students for college life, including advocating for more culturally diverse programs and activities.
Zaret participated in various organizations like the Association of Latino Professionals for America, an organization helping professional women and girls develop networking and interviewing skills. She focused on self-learning as well as financial literacy through a series of workshops. She was also able to assist the director in organizing and implementing workshops and events.
Zaret is currently pursuing a double major in Accounting and Computer System Information at Lehman College. In 2019, she earned the Herbert. A. Lehman College for Student Leadership Development Certificate.
Junior, Columbia University
Paola Cruz moved to New York from the Philippines seven years ago. She knew that moving to a whole new place and culture wouldn’t be easy, so she sought the services and programs that could help her settle and even prepare for college. She was an ASAP Scholar at LaGuardia Community College and was the school’s staff writer who advocated for the inclusiveness of students of color and students with disabilities on campus.
In 2018, Paola received a Program for Academic Leadership and Service Award Scholarship from Columbia University. She was aware of the challenges immigrants from low-income backgrounds face upon navigating higher education. While in Columbia, Paola continues to advocate for underprivileged communities by getting involved with the organizations that champion First-Generation Low-Income students. At Columbia, she works with Project Access, a tech-enabled mentorship that helps students from underprivileged backgrounds from around the world get into top universities.
Outside college, she works with Young Invincibles to help tackle inequalities in higher education, healthcare, and workforce.
First-year student, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY
James Hill III hails from Los Angeles, California and is pursuing his Associates Degree in Liberal Arts at CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College. Aside from being a full-time Dean’s List and work-study student, Hill is also a freelance photographer, dancer, and actor. Additionally, James serves as a representative for the Student Government Association, and is a member of CUNY BMI: Urban Male Leadership Academy, Crear Futuros, C3IM, and Toastmasters.
James grew up in a family that stressed the importance of civic engagement, and from the earliest years of his life was invested in having a positive impact on the community. He has a passion to confront issues surrounding homelessness, immigration, police brutality, and environmental sustainability. James’ goals within the Young Advocates program are to elevate the consciousness and awareness of the issues that plague many of his peers and generation and to lead by the example that we are our brother’s keepers.
Senior, John Jay College, CUNY
Lisa Nishimura was raised in Washington Heights, New York and later moved to Brooklyn where she currently resides. In Brooklyn, Lisa was fortunate enough to attend The Brooklyn Latin School, a specialized high school, which she felt adequately prepared her for the academic work at John Jay College of Criminal Justice as an Honors Program student majoring in Criminology. However, even while attending John Jay College, she was met with various challenges during her academic journey. During her first year, she felt lost as to how to navigate her college journey until she applied to be a Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women (JFEW) Summer Scholar. Having obtained the JFEW scholarship opened doors to further opportunities through the guidance of mentors and supporters both inside and outside of John Jay College. In her second year of college, Lisa attained a prestigious and highly competitive three-year fellowship, the Jeannette K. Watson fellowship, that allowed her to travel to different areas in the United States and abroad while gaining a range of internship experiences—she interned as a Culture and Inclusion intern at an advertising agency, worked with incarcerated youth in Los Angeles, and supported at-risk artists internationally at a non-governmental organization in Denmark.
Throughout her years at John Jay College, Lisa has understood the power and importance of mentorship especially for students of color and of other marginalized identities, being a queer, Japanese-Salvadorian womxn. Aside from the accomplishments and accolades attributed to the guidance she received, Lisa prides herself on finally being able to graduate in May 2020, despite facing numerous economic challenges, which could have potentially barred her from continuing and completing her education.
Lisa has myriad interests, ranging from criminal justice to education. Having had a recent experience with the criminal justice system, she aims to become a Teaching Artist within the prison system and utilize research to advocate for more arts correctional programs throughout the nation. She hopes to change the narrative of individuals who are or have been justice involved by opening up opportunities to express themselves and heal through the arts.
Romy Orillaza Robielos II
Junior, New York City College of Technology, CUNY
Romy Orillaza Robielos II, also known as Jerome, grew up in the Philippines and first came to the United States as an Immigrant in 2008. He is aware of the myriad challenges both a non-native and third-world national experiences, and ever since moving to New York City in October of 2015, he has since decided to change the status quo.
In May 2019, Romy received his associate’s degree in Health Information Technology (HIT) from Borough of Manhattan Community College at CUNY. At BMCC, he interned at NYC Health + Hospitals as a HIT specialist. Romy became one of the top student-leaders receiving an “Involved Student of the Year” recognition for his work as a senator with the Student Government Association, an executive chapter officer of both Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and National Society of Leadership and Success, a team member of the BMCC – Goldman Sachs Local College Collaborative, a Vice President of the HIT Club and an Each One, Reach One (EORO) peer mentor. In 2019, the City Council awarded Romy as a 2019 EORO Honoree. He has also excelled academically as a constant dean’s lister who graduated from BMCC with Honors. He was also a recipient of the BMCC Foundation Inc. scholarship and recognized as the New York Health Information Management Association Mary Zannis Student Awardee for 2018.
Besides being passionate for students and young adults’ empowerment as he is a product of it, Romy has this heart for healthcare reform and to ensure he can be an advocate for minimizing the oppression for the low-income and marginalized sectors of the society. He is currently finishing his bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Informatics at New York City College of Technology at CUNY with the hope of being a licensed Physician Assistant soon and a Chief Medical Information Officer in the future.
Junior, Baruch College, CUNY
As Yasmin Seweid embarked on her journey to Baruch College, she had absolutely no idea what career path she was intending to pursue. Her experiences as a Muslim Egyptian-American woman shaped the way she saw the world, and in turn drove her interest towards sociology and law. Her intentions to pursue a JD/PH.D in Sociology have resulted in her participation in various fellowships and scholarly programs. Yasmin spent this past summer completing the CUNY Pipeline Program, where she crafted a research project pertaining to the School-to-Prison Pipeline and the criminalization of youth of color, which she will be presenting at multiple conferences in 2020.
Yasmin holds the position of Senior Resident Advisor at a college residence hall, which has allowed her to intersect her interest in social advocacy with her events and programming at the dorms. Some of these events included creating care packages for homeless individuals, and volunteering at local composts and food banks. She is committed to social justice work and intends on working with underrepresented, low income youth entangled with the juvenile and/or criminal justice system.
Sophomore, Brooklyn College, CUNY
Neha Syeda is currently a sophomore at Brooklyn College pursuing a major in Communications and minor in Political Science. As a recent migrant to the United States, she was aware of her financial limitations and decided that public college was the most appropriate institution to pursue higher education. Her personal struggles with access to quality higher education sparked her interest in higher education reform and she began working with organizations such as Young Progressives of America, CUNY Rising and later NYPIRG that allowed her to gain greater insight into the crumbling public education. She helped register voters and began advocating for better funding by mobilizing her peers through organized events to help raise awareness on the issue.
In order to be an active participant in bringing change, she joined the Policy Council at her campus at Brooklyn College to voice out the student concerns directly to the President and faculty and engage in effective problem-solving tactics for better learning conditions and appropriate funding towards students.
Senior, Hunter College, CUNY
Tanisha is a film student finishing up her last year at Hunter College. As the recipient of multiple creative awards like the Sharon Lustbader Award and NYC NAACP ACT-SO, she prides herself as a writer. This Brooklynite uses the city as her inspiration and the lined paper as a canvas. She has done work for the NYC Mayor’s Office and the boutique creative company, RRR Creative.
She is now taking part in the Young Advocates program where she hopes she can learn how to be a more effective communicator and an advocate. Furthermore, she would like to be of service with Young Invincibles simply because she knows the disadvantage of being young and not heard.
Second-year student, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY
Duwayne Wright grew up in New York and decided that community college was the best option for an adequate and affordable education in order to begin his path in consulting. As a person of color, Duwayne quickly realized the disparities in higher education for minorities. After noticing the blatant inequalities in the opportunities for brown people, he decided he wanted to make an impact. After gaining the Urban Male Leadership Academy President position, Duwayne represented his fellow community college students as they worked on gaining their education at Borough of Manhattan Community College. Duwayne has also partnered with numerous organizations, including America Needs You, Inroads, and Young Invincibles, where he wants to make an impact on the community, his life and the lives of other students.
Senior, City College of New York
Lyric Young is a senior at City College of New York studying Psychology with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. With a passion for helping others, Lyric has been volunteering and working in non-profits since 2015. Her work and passion revolve around social work, higher education, and mental wellness. After college Lyric strives to continue working in non-profit and advocacy. During her time at City College, Lyric has been the vice president of the LGBTQIA+ Alliance and an educator with Peer Health Exchange as well as interning with Goddard Riverside where she had her first hands-on experience with advocating to make public higher education more accessible to students in New York City. Lyric enjoys traveling, coffee, and cats.