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Introducing our Spring 2022 New York Young Advocates!

In late February, the Young Invincibles’ New York office launched its fifth cohort of the Young Advocates program, our semester-long paid policy, and advocacy fellowship, where young New Yorkers learn how to build campaigns for change on their campuses and across New York.

To learn more about our 2022 Spring New York Young Advocates, scroll below. For more information about our Young Advocates program, including information about applications for our Fall 2022 program, please fill out this Google Form.

Tajria Afrin
Junior, The City College of New York, CUNY

Tajria Afrin attends The City College of New York, where she is majoring in mechanical engineering. She worked as a bridge coach for College and Career Bridge For All, where she mentored high school seniors and helped them through the college matriculation process. In her time there, she assisted first-generation college students where she came to learn that the education system is flawed and does not afford students of all backgrounds the same opportunities and resources. She joined the Young Advocates program to learn more about the policies that would address the issues in higher education.

Tajria plans to become a professional engineer specializing in the development of sustainable types of machinery in the transportation industry. She is passionate about learning how to improve mechanisms to make tasks simpler. She would like to tie her interests in engineering with her interest in advocacy to amplify the voices of those from underrepresented communities.

Erica Alvarez
Junior, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY

Erica Alvarez is a junior at John Jay College Criminal Justice and currently majoring in Human Services and Community Justice with a minor in Counseling. She has an Associates degree in Human Services and recently transferred to John Jay to continue her studies and pursue a Bachelor’s Degree. Erica is a first-generation college student, a mother and daughter of an immigrant family. She is passionate about issues relating to immigrant children and hopes to make a change in their lives. Erica understands that not many immigrants or immigrant families have the opportunity to gain help and for the children, many are rejected such opportunities.

She joined the Young Advocates Program because she feels that the program would help her to gain more knowledge and skills on advocating and how she can support young students, like herself, manage through situations they are experiencing. Ever since middle school, Erica always struggled to find someone to help and guide her because she had done everything herself. She looked for and chose highschools on her own and then during high school, she completed the college application process alone. Although workshops were available to guide through filling out college applications, there was no help or explanations to her questions. Erica, therefore, believes that if she can be of assistance to other young students, then they can know what to do next and help their peers.

Serat Bhuiyan
Sophomore, University of Buffalo, SUNY

Serat Bhuiyan is a sophomore at the University of Buffalo, where he is studying Computer Science. He goes by the name Sam in his neighborhood and almost everyone knows him as the local clown. Serat always wants to bring a smile to people’s faces and share good laughter as it was not easy for him and certainly for his friends in where they spent most of their childhoods. It was not long ago when he had moved to New York City from Bangladesh at the age of nine.

In his teenage years, during a high school computer science class, Serat found a new passion: Programming. He became hooked after seeing the ins and outs of computers, but it was this particular project, where he had to design vaccine graphs. The project was so well put, that his teacher had asked him if he could do a presentation on the project. From there, Serat developed a passion for programming and started coding in his own free time. Throughout his late high school years and first year of college, he has been working at stores ranging from customer service specialist to retail associate for the past 2 years.

Serat hopes to expand his experiences across different companies and gain new experiences. Particularly challenging problems that require critical thinking is what drives him to programming.

Sharlene Daba-ay
Senior, Hunter College, CUNY

Sharlene Daba-ay is a college student at Hunter College, majoring in Human Biology and is minoring in Asian American Studies. She participated in several leadership and research projects within HCAP (Hunter College AANAPISI Program), where she explored her identity as an Asian American. Through these experiences, she piqued interest in social justice and developed a passion for research. She then joined NAPAWF (National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum) to advocate for reproductive rights, immigrant rights, and economic justice. At NAPAWF, she also developed a passion in advocating to invoke systemic changes to achieve racial justice and equity and the expansion and improvement of healthcare access.

Through the Young Advocates Program, she hopes to advocate for the improvement in mental health access and work towards racial justice by advocating for cultural competence in higher education. She hopes to use the knowledge gained from the program to continue uplifting voices in her future career.

Maryam Feknous
Freshman, University of Rochester

Maryam Feknous is a freshman at the University of Rochester, where she double majors in Political Science and American Sign Language. She was born and raised in Washington Heights in Manhattan, New York. As a part of her scholarship in the Education
Opportunity (EOP) program, she took college courses during the summer. During high school, she enrolled in Baruch College and received college credits from the College Now program.

As a woman of color, Maryam understood early on the need to become more of an informed citizen to help contribute positively to her community. She seeks opportunities to use her voice and speak her truth. Her interest in the Young Invincibles program came after working with DANY’s Young Adult program with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. Maryam seeks opportunities that align with her passions in civil policy, mental health resources, and higher education availability. In the future, she would like to become a paralegal and then attend law school, in hopes of becoming an attorney.

Abhinandan Gaba
Freshman at CUNY Queens College

Abhinandan is a freshman at Queens College, majoring in Math. He is currently involved in his college’s newspaper as a reporter where he writes articles focused on local and national politics. Abhi plans on obtaining a Masters degree in Public Administration (MPA) and attending law school. After graduating law school, he aspires to be a civil rights attorney for the Department of Justice and move up the ranks to help all Americans.

As a member of the Young Advocates Program, Abhi plans on learning policy to help students and expand the opportunities of higher education to all New Yorkers. In addition, he hopes to work with other advocates to benefit our own communities by pushing the city to help fund local schools and programs focused on the youth. Abhi wants to learn policy because he believes the only way to bring change in any level of government from local to federal is by influencing politicians to pass legislation which will benefit the common American.

Brian Garrett
Freshman, Medgar Evers College, CUNY

Brian Garrett Jr. is currently a student at Medgar Evers College, studying Public Administration. He is the Evening Vice President of Medgar Evers’ Student Government Association, which provides him a platform to utilize my voice to speak on behalf of his peers in order to enact change both inside and out of the classroom. Student government has also given Brian access to the community and its constituents, participating in events such as census drives and voter registrations which have provided another level of fulfillment regarding the position.

Through the Young Advocates Program, he would like to further assert his voice and stances on policy as well as organizing individuals behind a set initiative. Brian aspires to become a civil rights attorney to impact marginalized communities, much like the ones in which he resides from and to uplift individuals within a profession that historically individuals like himself are excluded from. He feels that the laws can be a passport toward tangible change.

Amanda Hailey
Senior, Buffalo State College, SUNY

Amanda Hailey is a senior at Buffalo State College, majoring in Social Work for her undergraduate studies. She is involved on her campus and is the president of an organization called Black Active Minds as well as a peer mentor. Amanda is passionate about moving back to her home state, California, to start her dual degree in Masters of Social Work (MSW) and Juris Doctorate (JD), focusing on her interests in public relations and international law. Amanda finds her purpose to use her life experiences and education to help less fortunate communities around the world.

By joining Young Invincibles, she wants to further her knowledge in advocacy and legislation. Amanda believes that the program will teach her great skills to advocate for the students on campus with issues concerning financial instability or aid, health, and student engagement. She hopes to make a difference within her community and build strong connections throughout the program.

Aisha Kamara
Junior, Lehman College, CUNY

Aisha Kamara is a student at Lehman College, majoring in Health Services Administration. Aisha was born and raised in Guinea and moved to the United States at the age of 15. Her struggle to adapt to the American culture and the education system as a new immigrant allowed her to experience firsthand the struggles faced by many immigrant youth. She was motivated to apply to Young Invincibles because she is passionate about the core issues of health care, higher education and civic engagement.

In the future, Aisha plans to pursue a career as a Physician’s Assistant, and aspires to use the experience and knowledge she gains from the Young Advocates Program later to further her passion for advocacy, especially in health care access.

Geneve King
Freshman, Stony Brook, SUNY

Geneve King is a freshman at Stony Brook University. She is currently a first-year student in the Master of Social Work program with a concentration in integrated health. Geneve is passionate about mental health and how it affects thinking, feeling, and actions. She is currently pursuing a career in Social Work to become a clinical social worker. The skills she has attained from her work experiences have helped to advocate for change in policies.

Geneve hopes to gain knowledge and experience from the Young Advocates Program towards a future goal. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in public policy along with a Master of Social Work to advocate for mental health issues.

Isabella LaFreniere
Sophomore, University of Buffalo, SUNY

Bella is a current sophomore at the University of Buffalo, where she is double majoring in Criminology and Law, and is part of her campus’s Mock Trial team. She is currently working at a human trafficking center as a legal research intern, fighting for those experiencing double victimization.

From a small rural community, Bella understands how issues like poverty and lack of affordable healthcare can make higher education an unreachable dream. She joined Young Invincibles to support her generation in achieving higher education and economic opportunities. She has never been afraid of speaking her mind, and wants to use her privilege and voice to uplift the community around her. Bella has experience fighting for mental health services in schools, and wants to continue advocating for affordable services.

In the future, Bella plans on pursuing law school and becoming an attorney. She hopes her career will allow her to fight for the rights of the incarcerated and others wronged by the criminal justice system. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies and making jewelry.

Bailey McCarty
Senior, Purchase, SUNY

Bailey McCarty is a senior at SUNY Purchase, where she is majoring in Political Science. Some of her passions in life are traveling, teaching, and community organizing. She lives out her passions by journeying all over the United States and the world as much as she can. Since the pandemic, Bailey has been to Asheville, NC, Myrtle Beach, SC, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania, but before then, has traveled to France, Spain, India, California, Georgia, Washington DC, Chicago, Detroit, and many more places.

The enrichment of her life comes from sharing with diverse communities of people and creating relationships wherever she goes through traveling. In addition, Bailey is a TESOL/English as a Second Language teacher and taught in community education classrooms across NY state for two years before returning to school for her bachelors degree in Political Science.

Her professional goals are to blend teaching, cultural diversity, and community aspects of being an ESL educator with the activism and advocacy aspects of politics, legislation, and organizing. Bailey is excited to meet everyone at the Young Invincibles team and is grateful for the opportunity to have her first experience in the political and advocacy field.

Lori Moses
Junior, City College of New York, CUNY

Lori Moses is a Jamaican third-year student studying Psychology and Communications at the City College of New York. She has an interest in mental health and student advocacy. She started off college as a business major but changed to psychology and communications after discovering her love for inspiring others to make positive changes in their lives, and her interest in public relations. In her freshman year, she partook in the Circle K club, an organization dedicated to serving local and global communities. Circle K has given her a wide outlook on life and continues to volunteer in her local communities to help serve those in need.

Lori joined the Young Advocates Program to advocate for change and help communities have more access to opportunities. Lori hopes to break barriers in the educational system and is excited to learn more about campaigning and public policy. During her free time, Lori likes to read, cook Caribbean cuisines, and practice public speaking. In the future, Lori hopes to attend graduate school, studying public health and social work, to help improve lives and communities.

Onyekachi Okeke
Senior, Hunter College, CUNY

Onyekachi Okeke is a 23-year old senior at Hunter College, majoring in Human Biology and minoring in Sociology. Currently, she is a Hunter Undergraduate Student Government official, Eva Kastan Grove Fellow, NYPIRG intern, and the Membership Chairperson of the Black Student Union of CUNY. Onyekachi is passionate about student activism, youth advocacy, and uplifting the voices of her peers and community. She is deeply concerned about racism, health equity, higher education, food insecurity, and homelessness. She started the Project-19 Initiative, to campaign and advocate for her fellow CUNY students during the pandemic to elevate their concerns and address key issues affecting them.

Onyekachi aspires to be a nurse in which she seeks to combine social justice and nursing, to deliver culturally responsive health services to communities of color and help transform the healthcare system for all. She joined the Young Invincibles to work alongside like-minded students on reforming issues that most impact youth and gain more experience in civic engagement, policymaking, and community organizing. In her spare time, she loves reading, meeting new people, and going on adventures.

Kate Ortigoza
Senior, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY

Kate Ortigoza is a 20-year-old college student attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice, majoring in Criminology with a minor in Public Administration. Graduating in the upcoming spring 2022 semester, she wants to continue advocating for more resources and assistance towards low income-individuals and minorities. Growing up in Harlem, Kate recognized the hardships people in her community faced, along with the negative perspectives on people of color. Seeing a plethora of people living in poverty and some committing crimes to live, had inspired Kate to advocate for resources regarding mental health, affordable housing, health care, and creating programs to help youth with college and job opportunities. Previously, Kate was in a program, Mayor’s Action Plan (MAP) Youth Leadership Council, where she advocated for social justice and discussed important topics, such as public safety and mental health to important leaders, including NY State Senators and NY Secretary of State. Also, Kate hosted three community events throughout the city for youth to gain valuable information and resources via focus groups and their community participated in order to create action plans.

Kate is excited to be part of the Young Invincibles as a Young Advocate because she believes young people are the voices of the future. She believes that every individual should be entitled to have basic human needs and the ability to have access to college, job, and housing opportunities, regardless of their race, class, gender, and status. In her free time, Kate continues to volunteer with the 2022 MAP Youth Leadership Program to help youth feel comfortable in their experiences and approaches towards advocacy.

Miguel Rivera
Sophomore, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY

Miguel Rivera is a sophomore at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) at CUNY. He is a Multimedia Programming and Design major with goals to be a videogame designer and producer. He has lived among New York’s underprivileged for a good remainder of his life and was not granted the same opportunities as others have had. Despite this, he is an emerging graduate for the Spring 2022 semester and is the first in his family to earn an Associate in Science.

Miguel hopes for a world where everyone is granted equal opportunities in housing, employment, and a chance for those around him to live a life of their choosing, their own informed decisions. He aims to be the driving force for a new generation in the workforce to bring about positive, lasting change for the community. Miguel hopes his experience with the Young Advocates Program can help him achieve this goal.

Clara-Hannah Sobouti
Senior, Purchase, SUNY

Hannah Sobouti is a senior at SUNY Purchase, where she majors in Political Science and minors in Language and Culture with a concentration in Spanish. She has a passion for languages and language learning–she currently speaks five languages and learning three others. Hannah has also always been passionate about helping her peers academically ,therefore, was a frequent Teaching Assistant for her professors–an opportunity she found very instructional and rewarding. Last fall, Hannah partook in the SUNY-wide Washington DC internship program, and interned with NUFDI (National Union for Democracy in Iran). Thanks to this experience, she gained international advocacy skills and discovered the importance and efficacy of advocacy.

Wanting to use some of the advocacy skills she learned and her passion for both college affordability and accessible health care, Hannah joined the Young Invincibles (YI) team. Hannah hopes that her time with YI will allow her to learn more about the existing policies relating to the aforementioned issues, so that she can make more informed suggestions and contributions to the effort. As an aspiring international lawyer, she hopes that the fundamental knowledge of policy, advocacy skills, and public speaking will help her be more confident and empathetic in her future career.

Belaine Trinidad
Senior, Lehman College, CUNY

Belaine Trinidad is a senior at Lehman college, majoring in Psychology. Trinidad was born in New York City and is of Dominican descent. She has been working in the youth development field for over eight years as she is passionate about empowering young people with resources and knowledge. Her strong background in leadership, management, data analysis, curriculum planning, coaching, and education is what led her to pursue a career where helping others is the focus point.

As a young woman who was raised in Washington Heights, she could testify to all the struggles young people suffer in minority communities, which is why, perhaps, Belaine aims to be the change she wants to see and is continually striving to explore her passions in community service and the betterment of society. With the knowledge and skills obtained from the Young Advocates Program, Belaine aspires to offer available tools to the youth, while enhancing her skills, and gaining the necessary experience to better assist young adults.

Ximena Vargas
Sophomore, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY

Ximena Vargas is a 19 year old sophomore at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, majoring in Business Management, with an interest in minoring in Psychology. The way the psych works is something that interests her because the mind is such a powerful tool. Growing up, Ximena has experienced a lot of loss, especially after losing one of her closest friends to suicide. She is, therefore, passionate about raising awareness on mental health issues because she feels it is not spoken about a lot. Growing up a minority, talking about one’s mental health is usually not easy for parents to understand being immigrants. Her friend’s death has made her realize the importance of mental health.

Through this program, Ximena wants to make a difference for those who do not get the mental health support they need from those around them and raise awareness on suicide prevention. She understands that balancing school and one’s own life can get overwhelming and it is important to keep our mental health a priority. Ximena hopes to gain experience and knowledge from this program to use later on in her career.

Kaylah Williams
Sophomore, Charles and Stella Guttman Community College, CUNY

Kaylah Williams is a 23 year old sophomore, studying Liberal Arts and Sciences at Guttman Community College. Born with Cerebral Palsy, her goal in life is to make a difference in how the disabled community is perceived by society. Being the daughter of Jamaican immigrants to attend college first, along with her twin brother, Kaylah has had pressure that have allowed her to explore the options of different careers. She would like to become an educator once she finishes obtaining her degree.

Because Kaylah is passionate about letting little voices be heard, one of the hobbies she rather enjoys is debating and even dancing. While a physical disability can hold one back from so much in the world, if one is dedicated to their craft, she believe they can make a difference. Kaylah joined the Young Advocates Program because she wants to learn how to create change. She also wants to learn advocacy and how to use social platforms, networking, and her resources to make that change in a sea of voices of people who struggle with physical disabilities but are not heard at all.