Encouraged and supported by faculty and staff, Karla Hernandez Navarro ’20 was inspired to apply the skills she has gained in the classroom to bring a Census Awareness event to Dominican.
Through the research she conducted as an intern at Canal Alliance last summer, Karla, a 4 +1 major in the Barowsky School of Business, found that based on 2010 census data, approximately seven percent of Marin County residents – or 19,310 people – live in hard-to-count neighborhoods, defined by factors such as lack of English skills, housing instability, and poverty. The census count is crucial as it determines political representation and the allocation of more than $800 million in federal funding.
“This event is about getting resources and being able to distribute them. Although Marin is one of the wealthiest counties in California and the United States, there is a lot of disparity in terms of the equality,” says Karla, who in May 2019 will attend the AAUW’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders at the University of Maryland. “It’s not only about the funding. It’s about empowering our communities and restoring humanity by being counted through a constitutional right.
“The event is not only designed to raise awareness, but also engage, mobilize and partner with other organizations, those trusted messengers who have the language and cultural skills to interact with our diverse communities.”
Read Karla’s front page story in the Marin Independent Journal.
Karla’s goal is to one day inspire young women in her home town of Guanajuato, Mexico, to empower themselves. She was born and raised there in a small ranching community with limited opportunities for education. Because she came from a small ranch where most students were not assumed to be academically motivated, the district placed her in a continuation high school. Bullied by students there, she suffered a paralysis that left her in a wheelchair.
Seeking medical help, Karla immigrated to California in 2011, where she attended South San Francisco High School and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. A teacher convinced her to visit Dominican for her meeting with Undergraduate Admissions Director, Maria Upmeyer.
“Maria has been there for me since the first day I stepped a foot on the Dominican Campus. The day I got accepted she called and congratulated me,” Karla says. “It was that personal attention that drew me to Dominican. It wasn’t only the acceptance. It was the fact that someone believed in me.”
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The faith in Karla went beyond the Admissions Department, Dr. Lucy, founder and executive director of the Institute for Leadership Studies, became a mentor when Karla took her “Exploring the World” class. A year later, confident in Karla’s abilities, she recruited her to be a teaching assistant.
In the spring of 2018 in her sophomore year, Karla also took a class that focused on the concepts of “othering” and “belonging” with Julia van der Ryn, director of Dominican’s Service-Learning program, and Emily Wu, Assistant Director of Community Outreach and Project Development. For this class, Karla served at Canal Alliance’s food pantry. The hands-on experience combined with the concepts she gained in class gave Karla the analytical tools to better understand her own experience and the societal issues that impact immigrants in the U.S. Karla says that the concepts she learned opened her eyes to the systemic ways that people are marginalized. At the end of the semester, Julia helped her establish a full-time internship with Canal Alliance and an opportunity to work with its executive director, Omar Carrera.
“I am honored to work alongside Omar, a leader who is constantly championing the immigrant community,” Karla says. “With this internship and my education from Dominican, I am gaining the experience and skills to fulfill my career goal which is to one day to start a non-profit that helps women in rural communities, like the one I was raised, strive for higher education.”
With Dr. Lucy and Julia van der Ryn helping her with outreach, Kori Colburn, director of Events and Conferences for ILS, guiding her in event planning, and Giulia Welch, Assistant Director of Global Learning, serving as a mentor and assisting in presentations, Karla had a baseline of support to bring the Census Awareness Event for all to campus.
“Although the potential addition of a citizenship question, lack of resources from the Census Bureau, and the majority Census Questionnaire being conducted online, adds a challenge to an accurate count, we believe that by raising awareness and increasing our participation in the 2020 Census, together we can make Marin a place where everyone can work, live, and succeed,” Karla says. “I am just very excited for the event and I am beyond proud that Dominican offers such enriched programs for its students.”