Agenda for a Just Future,Grantee Spotlight,Youth & Transformative Justice

Faces of the Movement: Esthefanie Solano

September 9, 2019
By Raymond Jimenez

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Esthefanie’s sister struggled in school, eventually dropping out. There was a time when Esthefanie wanted to give up, too. “I felt that no matter how much I tried, I would still be seen as not very likely to succeed because I was undocumented,” she remembers.

Esthefanie was born in Guadalajara and was brought to the U.S. when she was six years old. She’s now a community college student and a youth organizer at InnerCity Struggle, a community based education-focused organization that Liberty Hill has supported for many years. Esthefanie transformed her frustration and shame into a sense of pride and determination, standing up against injustices.

“My sister went through a lot of detentions and suspensions for ‘defiance,’” Esthefanie remembers. When Esthefanie got involved with InnerCity Struggle, she was eager work with other Roosevelt High students as a leader of the “College Prep, Not Prison Prep” campaign to win a new positive discipline policy that replaced discredited, punitive approaches with positive supports for struggling students.

Next, she joined in the fight to pass the California Dream Act, the 2011 bill that made it possible for qualifying undocumented students to apply for and receive financial aid for college, and a model for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.

Esthefanie’s career goal to become a therapist reflects her concern about mental health issues that affect youth in the immigrant community. She knows that the despair she’s felt and seen in other undocumented young people triggers depression and anger-fueled behavior problems.

Currently, as a youth organizer at Roosevelt, Esthefanie is thrilled to be part of the implementation of the positive school discipline policy known as Restorative Justice. And example of the policy at work would be having a student who tags restore a mural—and fix the damage they have done—instead of being suspended. “One of my friends did that,” she says. “He liked the experience of restoring the mural so much he actually joined the art club after school.”

“It’s really taking hold, really flourishing now,” she reports of the Positive Behavior Support approach. “It’s helping the students. Teachers and security staff are adapting, changing the way we speak with students, treating them with respect. There are fundamental practices we all use to build relationships, encourage respect, and take responsibility. I use it in my real life, too!”