Name: Kenia Perea 

University: University of California, Irvine 

Major: Sociology and Social Policy & Public Service 

Expected Graduation Date: June 2021

Hometown: Chula Vista, CA

Why did you choose your major?

As a first-generation Latina immigrant and college student, I have firsthand experience with systems of oppression in both the justice and education systems. In college, I wanted to examine and understand how these institutional systems came to be and how they impact the lives of marginalized communities, which is why I chose to major in Sociology. As I began to learn about theories and societal structures, I wanted to find a way in which I could apply my theoretical understanding of issues that impact immigrant and Latino communities, which is why I decided to add social policy and public service as my other major. 

Why is the issue of Latina representation in politics (and beyond) important to you?

Greater Latina representation in politics creates a vehicle for our voices to be heard and leads to political change via the creation of laws and policies that have the wellbeing of our communities in mind. In addition, I believe that greater Latina representation will encourage more Latinas from all walks of life to become more politically active, whether that be running for office, organizing politically, creating non-profit organizations, or encouraging their community to go and vote. 

Have you learned something during your internship with LatinasRepresent that you didn’t know before?

Coming into my internship with LatinasRepresent, I was under the impression that all state legislators earned similar base salaries for their roles in their respective state legislatures. I was shocked to learn about the significant degree of variance in legislator salaries among the 50 states, ranging from $100,000 a year to $100 a year or simply no salary at all, which is the case in New Mexico. I realized that this lack of a steady income discourages working-class people of color from running for state legislatures, as they do not have the privilege to do this kind of work for free. In addition, low salaries also force legislators to maintain other jobs and manage multiple responsibilities at a time. Latinas who want to run for office are held back due to the financial stress they may face, lack of access to child care, and additional responsibilities they may have to manage. 

As a recent college graduate, what advice do you have for other Latinas navigating college and internships?

Join as many clubs as you can! You will meet people that share similar interests as you and begin to build a community of people who help you feel comfortable, safe, and supported. This also gives you the opportunity to network and learn about possible opportunities that can further your career, whether that be learning about jobs, internships or programs that serve students like you. Basically, connections and networks are going to be your best friends in college.

What are some of your interests and hobbies?

I love to watercolor, paint, or draw while listening to music (Bad Bunny) in my free time! It’s a great way to destress and take time to myself. I like that I can focus on creating something I love without having to turn it in or have it be reviewed by someone else. 

What’s next? What are your career aspirations? 

I will be moving to Denver, Colorado, as a Teach For America corps member this summer to teach second grade bilingual students! I am so excited about this big move as I begin my career by serving students who come from similar backgrounds as me. Being in the classroom everyday and interacting with students and their families on a daily basis is going to give me insight as to how I can advocate for them inside the school as well as in the community.

Graduating from college is a big deal, who deserves a shoutout for helping you get through college?

HUUUUGE shoutout to my mom! She is my source of inspiration and motivation. Despite all of the challenges and obstacles she has faced in her life, she continues to be resilient and approach all circumstances with a positive attitude.

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