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It Takes a Cadre

catherine-eusebioShe’s a 2013 White House Champion for Change, but Catherine
Eusebio
stretches her nonprofit salary by living with her parents. An undaunted
Dreamer, she’s building a career with the help of the immigrant rights
community and a community service stipend from the Bertha Wolf-Rosenthal
Foundation Fund.

Catherine Eusebio still can’t confidently make plans for her future beyond February 2015.

Catherine is  a graduate of UC Berkeley with a BA in Political Science, and she is an employee at  Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP), where, as Social Justice Fellow, she leads the Dream Summer internship program. Like any entry-level worker at a nonprofit, she is grateful for a little extra cash to supplement her earnings, but the Bertha Wolf-Rosenthal stipend is especially meaningful to Catherine because as an undocumented immigrant brought to the U.S. from the Philipinnes at age four, life doesn't offer her much slack. Every step of her path to educate herself and thrive has meant learning about and fighting for opportunities that other young people can take for granted. She cherishes the chance to help other Dream students move forward in their lives, so the financial support that allows her to work as an organizer seems doubly valuable.

Catherine qualified in February of this year for “deferred action for childhood arrivals” (DACA) status from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. DACA shields her from deportation for two years, with the possibility of renewal. It doesn’t change her status, but it’s a step forward. And at this stage of her life, with her degree, a California ID and a job—not to mention White House honors—Catherine draws hope from the chance to stay on at AAPIP and work withing the community of young activists and supporters who’ve made the Dream movement a reality. 

“It’s not enough,” says Catherine of DACA, “There are other people who don’t qualify and it’s a temporary stopgap measure. However this designation allows me to feel normal in so many ways. Being allowed to work, I have a steady release for my energy and effort. Even though I know it’s temporary, I feel like I can have a purpose in life and not just stay at home not doing anything.”

In her young life, Catherine experienced times when she didn’t see a way forward and she did stay at home, wondering what was next. After learning when in high school that she was undocumented, she became afraid to go out with friends at night in case someone complained about teenagers hanging out and police showed up to ask for IDs. She qualified for a four-year college, but “for undocumented people it’s hard to finance education without access to financial aid and working legally,” she notes, and so she went to community college.

Then, transferring to UC Berkeley, she applied for and received a Cal Dream Scholarship, a donor advised program at Liberty Hill which was designed to assist students like her at Berkeley.  “I became connected to the immigrant rights movement in the Bay Area,” she says, “and began to participate with student and other groups who were passionate about immigrant rights and who were good people to be around.

“I chose my major when immigration reform became an impossibility in 2007. I wanted to take an active role in seeing that legislation pass. I chose political science to learn as much as possible about that process; my focus was on American politics. But after I graduated I was confronted with another roadblock. It was prior to deferred action. I hit the wall and couldn’t explore the options I wanted to. I didn’t have a Social Security number. I couldn’t work. I felt like I wasn’t making progress. I just stopped. I took a break.”

But she’d already planted the seeds of change. During her last semester at Berkeley, she was asked to speak at the Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy national convening. The presentation by undocumented Asian American and Pacific Islander students including Catherine  “was tremendously influential with the audience” and AAPIP decided to host an internship through UCLA Labor Center’s “Dream Summer,” the first national internship program for immigrant rights leaders. Catherine applied, and was accepted.

As an AAPIP intern, she worked to build leadership and increase opportunities for immigrant youth. Today, at the Dream Summer program at AAPIP,  she writes on the White House blog, “Not only are we raising the visibility and uplifting the voices of Asian American and Pacific Islanders within this movement; we are also intentional about the inclusion and visibility of LGBTQ and women leaders.”

The Bertha Wolf-Rosenthal Foundation Fund for Community Service Stipend, a program of the Liberty Hill Foundation, provides up to five young people (ages 18-25) with a stipend of $5,000 each, to help cover basic living costs (e.g., rent, food, utilities, transportation and childcare), while they work or volunteer 30+ hours/week at a nonprofit organization anywhere in California for the year.

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