Finding Her Voice – Arleth Angeles Mendoza

"SDA helps students like me feel like they're a part of something, feel like they're being supported throughout their path."
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As part of the Hispanic Alliance’s ongoing efforts to support our alumni of the Student DREAMers Alliance, we recently sat down to talk with Arleth Angeles Mendoza. Arleth was a member of SDA Class 1 (2016 – 2017) and is a Senior at Clemson University.
If you want someone to use their voice, you need to make space for them in the conversation. Arleth Angeles Mendoza found her voice while in conversation with her Student DREAMers Alliance peers. “In high school, I was definitely more reserved,” Arleth says. She describes the Student DREAMers Alliance as an inclusive space, kind of like a family, where everyone connected with each other. “It did help push me to grow as a person – to find my voice,” she continues, “because if not for this program, I wouldn’t have been able to connect with my peers the way I did.” Arleth quickly learned that the Student DREAMers Alliance seminars were safe spaces for her to step out of her comfort zone.

By the end of the program, she participated in an end-of-the-year project where she and other Student DREAMer Alliance participants spoke to the Greenville County School Board about DACA and the challenges undocumented students face, especially with regard to affording and attending college. Arleth says this experience alone taught her a lot about the power of sharing her experience. “Just talking to people does help,” she explains, “because sharing your story leads others to understand your point of view. Then, hopefully, they can come to an understanding of how different an experience can be for other people.” As a result of Arleth’s SDA class project, the Greenville County School Board took action, engaging legislators for meaningful change regarding in-school secondary education for DACA and undocumented Hispanic students.

Now, Arleth uses her voice to make sure others have opportunities to be included and heard. She’s a senior Psychology major at Clemson University, and she aspires to attend graduate school and become a school psychologist. She hopes that one day our society will view the immigrant community for what it is—a vital, growing demographic that helps our larger community to grow as a whole. She hopes for acceptance. In the meantime, she is focused on her studies and mentoring other students. She is part of an organization called Peer Dialogue Facilitators where she facilitates campus discussions between first-year students. These discussions often include topics on social identities, social issues, inclusivity, and building community.
She also interns for Interpersonal Violence Prevention through the Title IX office. Arleth names her own mentorship by Julio Hernandez through the Hispanic Alliance as a key factor that led her to these leadership roles, saying “If it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be doing this.” Through Arleth’s story, one can see the ripple effect mentorship and programs like Student DREAMers Alliance have. Now that Arleth better knows her power and potential, she is helping others discover theirs.

“A program like SDA is very important,” Arleth says, “because it helps students like me feel like they're a part of something, feel like they're being supported throughout their path.”

She knew for a long time that her path to college would be unfair and unlike that of many of her high school peers, but she now knows she has support along the way. Student DREAMers Alliance specifically supports her by checking in on her and helping financially with critical things like textbooks. There is power in knowing that your community values your voice enough to make space for it and to nurture your growth. Through Student DREAMers Alliance, Arleth has harnessed this power to work towards a better world.

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