Class of 2023 Salutatorian

Lorena Modesto


Class of 2023 Salutatorian Lorena Modesto

Class of 2023 Salutatorian Lorena Modesto

Please share a little about your background — tell us your story?  
I moved to the US with my family when I was 5 and we settled in the Bronx. As the oldest sister, I had to take care of many things for my family, like making appointments and translating documents. When I was in high school, I didn't have a good college advisor to help me with opportunities and jobs, especially because of my immigration status. But when I started college, I applied for the New York State Dream Act, which helps undocumented students get grants and scholarships from the state.
Why did you choose CCNY? What brought you to the Colin Powell School?
I picked CCNY because I discovered they had a Dream Team, and I wanted to join. At Colin Powell School, I discovered ways to create inclusive spaces, collaborate with other clubs, host educational workshops, and support representation. I began to question why CCNY didn't have an Immigrant Student Resource Center to offer more help, mentorship, and networking for undocumented students.
What is your passion or purpose behind your studies at CCNY?
At the beginning of my studies, I began working at the intersection of immigration and education. By bringing in lived experiences, I am focusing on how to uplift undocumented youth, and support them in their college journey or create a plan after graduating. Many students I supported were primarily from first-generation and less advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. While on campus, I took interest in the fellowships and programs that CCNY offers, and eventually, I applied for the Honors Program in Legal Studies. I wish to see changes in immigration legislation, criminalization of marginalized low-income workers, and reform in the criminal justice system, so people can obtain all the services they need.
Where are you in your career development? How has the Colin Powell School helped you along the way?
Throughout my years at the Colin Powell School, I was driven by advocacy and activism work, learning about injustices in the immigration system and how to protect the rights of immigrant families, workers, and laborers. This pushed me to take several positions to advocate for immigrant youth, and street vendors and create safe spaces for undocumented immigrant students on campus. Through the Colin Powell School, I met students who became researchers, educators, and scientists. I built academic and professional relationships with people who shared with me their aspirations and goals in life. 
What are your plans post-graduation?
Post-graduation I will focus on law as a career path. I wish to do more networking building and skill development through fellowships and LSAT preparation programs to help me build a strong profile for when I apply to law schools. I believe in saying out loud positive affirmations for myself because I am deserving of opportunities and the ability to keep learning and showing up for my community. Undocumented immigrant students can be lawyers too. We need more access to professional licenses and certifications to be able to work. 
Can you share a few memories or accomplishments from your time at City College of which you are particularly proud? Maybe things that will inspire other students?
I hosted a workshop and clinic on campus to help undocumented students apply for state financial aid and find scholarships. This event became an annual tradition. As part of the CCNY Dream Team, we aim to support immigrant students on campus. During my time on the team, I learned how to organize and lead events for immigrant communities. I was also proud to celebrate our library display in the NAC library in December 2021, which symbolized that undocumented immigrant students exist on campus, immigrant groups are not a monolith, and migration is not always beautiful. The display had resources ranging from scholarships, entrepreneurship and grad-guide poems, art, books, laws/policies in New York for immigrant folks, 
What advice would you share with current or future students?
I wish to share to undocumented immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers that you deserve higher education. If there are no opportunities available, demand a position or title to open, and create funds to be exclusive for individuals without Social Security numbers. You have the power to take control of your own narrative, immigration journey, and immigration status. Through your own personal experiences, you have so much knowledge already. Always be curious and ask questions, because our livelihood depends on creative solutions and urgency.
How would you describe the Colin Powell School in three words?
Colin Powell School is a hub of networks, collaboration, and education.

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