Aliento Features: Deya Garcia
Student Organizer at Aliento
Here is a feature on one of our valued team members, Deya Garcia! We asked Deya all kinds of questions to get to know her as an individual and as a contributor to Aliento. Here, Deya shares a little bit of her story and her role within our organization.
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What school did you go to? What do you do for fun? What kind of family do you come from? What are important parts of your identity that you want people to hear about?
“My first name is Deyanira but throughout my 20 years of life I've had many nicknames including Yani, DeeDee, D, Big Dee, Yanitor, Mahoni, Deyita, and cabeza de piedra (very endearing term from my mom) but the one that has prevailed is Deya. Just Deya. I was born in Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua about 3 hours south of the New Mexico border. The town is located very close to the large Mennonite community in northern Chihuahua. This is where the best cheese in the entire world, queso menonita, is made. If it were up to me, I’d eat queso menonita quesadillas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner year round.
Our family moved to Mesa, Arizona in the year 2000 when I was a little over a year old. I learned how to speak English in Kindergarten at Longfellow Elementary, transferred to Franklin Elementary in the 3rd grade, moved on to Poston Jr High, and graduated from Mesa High School in 2017.
Nothing brings me more joy than spending time with my family outdoors. We love to go camping and camping season for us lasts from May to October. We explore different parts of the state including Payson, Sedona, and Flagstaff. On these trips, my family packs food as if we’ll be going in to the apocalypse. Although instead of bland canned food, a typical afternoon meal can be classic carne asada taquitos, a discada, fried tilapia, or menudo. The taste jumps out every time. We’re a small family of 4 but we like to share these experiences with friends, family, and our camping neighbors.
I’m the oldest of 12 grandkids on my dad’s side of the family. I have been the first in the family for many things and although that may be a scary thought for most including myself, I often think about the way my dad paved the way for me. Moving to a different country, learning a new language, and leaving family behind in the face of constant uncertainty is no easy task. This has allowed me to put the tasks that I find challenging into perspective and to face them with a fearless mindset.”
How did you hear about Aliento, why did you apply to be part of the team?
“In the summer of 2016, my family and I had a serious talk about college. I was unsure of the future beyond high school but it was then that my family committed to support me in my pursuit of a college education. The first year of high school had been a tough one because while everyone talked about GPAs and the college application process come senior year, I felt as if my efforts would be all for nothing.
I was wrong. I wish someone had made me aware of the different routes available to me. During my senior year of high school when I was determined to go to college, I was made aware that instate tuition for DACA recipients was in the process of going through the courts in Arizona. Meaning there was a possibility that my family would have to pay out of state tuition (something we did not expect) although we had lived here for more than 15 years. I was crushed. I didn’t know what would happen but my decision to get involved changed my life forever.
I showed up to an event regarding support for instate tuition at the Maricopa County Community College District board meeting. There were many organizations gathered and I did not know who to approach for information. I noticed a man surrounded by many people that seemed to know what was going on and I decided to introduce myself. That man turned out to be Aliento’s very own Director of Education and Advocacy. After that event, I continued to be involved whenever I wasn't at school, working, or with family.
When Aliento opened their position for a student organizer, I felt incompetent and scrolled past the announcement. It was then that Reyna, the founder of Aliento, reached out to me and encouraged me to apply. Still, I felt like an imposter but my passion for this issue was what drove me through the intimidating 3 step interview process. That’s the story about how I ended up working for an organization that believes in my ability to lead and allows me to be the person that I needed as a high school student to current high school students.”
What do you do at Aliento? What is one of your proudest moments while working in your position?
“I would need a 30 min podcast episode and more to do this justice but I will attempt to do so in a few sentences. As Student Organizer for the EducatedAF campaign, I work closely with high school and college students to raise awareness about the hardships that undocumented and DACA students like me face in pursuing higher ed. Every day is a new adventure at Aliento. There’s never a feeling of repetition because we’re constantly preparing for the next step. There are plenty of proud moments I can think of immediately including our big Education Day at the capitol but a more intimate one that I’ve been leading is the formation of an Aliento Club at Mesa High School. It makes me really excited and happy just to think about it being a resource to students at MHS. I think it’s really important that schools are able to provide the right resources to students that may not conform to the typical preparations for college and more so that they can build relationships with people that have already been through similar situations. I'm really happy and grateful to Aliento to be working alongside my sister, an incoming senior at Mesa High, on this.”
What are some of the things you’ve learned as a part of the team? Why have these lessons been important?
“Healthy tension. I deeply appreciate being able to engage in uncomfortable conversations that, granted, may never reach closure, but can be productive nonetheless. That was not always the case. At one of the first strategizing meetings I attended, the debate and disagreement got heated. Growing up, any amount of tension at home was a red flag and uncomfortable. I’ve become comfortable with this tension because I now see it as a way to become closer as a team and make effective decisions.
Another equally important thing I’ve come to appreciate in working as a team is the distribution of responsibility and independence. In many situations throughout life I've experienced this but nothing comes close to the intricate distribution of work that is needed in organizing as a team. I clearly witnessed this on the days we’d go to the capitol during this past legislative session.”
Besides Aliento, what else have you been involved with in the past? Did you connect these experiences to your work at Aliento?
“Before Aliento, I was not very invested in any social justice movement or community organization. My level of involvement was down to slight online engagement and I’m glad that my introduction to the organizing community was through Aliento. I was, however, involved in my high school’s business and marketing club. I remember after school one day my friend asked me why I was apart of the club if business was not something of interest to me. Well, public speaking is something that has always terrified me. I knew that if I wanted to stand up for myself and people like me, I would have to be involved in public speaking some way or another. The club was a way for me to hone this skill and although I’m not exactly where I’d like to be in terms of progress, I’m way ahead of where I used to be. Shout out to Mrs. Wright!! The best DECA advisor out there.”
How would you describe Aliento to others?
“I would describe Aliento as a place where you don't need to look far to find a helping hand. This is where you can find people that have the knowledge to guide you through monumental life events while being cognizant of your situation. This is where you can find people whose compassion is what drives them to do what they do. This is Aliento.”
What are your goals for the future/ What projects are in the works for you next?
“At the moment, my main focus is the Arizona’s Future campaign. I would like to make college a possibility for all high school graduates in AZ regardless of immigration status. I’m really excited to get to work directly with high school students to get this done and so far my experience has been incredibly rewarding. As corny as it may sound, we ARE the future and it’s time we got rid of these outdated laws that only hinder the growth of our communities.”
If you believe in the work that Aliento is doing and have been inspired to donate, I strongly encourage you to do so! We are an organization that is run by impacted students, and individuals. My growth has been exponential thanks to the generosity of people like you.