‘It’s a passion, something of giving back to my community in Guatemala and being able to also connect here with the opportunities that I received in the U.S.’
“I was born in Guatemala, and I was there until I was 9. I moved to the U.S. in 2001. There was a bunch more opportunities for us here in the U.S., so that’s why we migrated. It was extremely hard to leave what I knew, the culture, my grandparents, friends and family.
“When I moved to the U.S., things were difficult because of the language barrier. I knew that I wanted to learn English and be able to communicate and pursue my goals.
“I was the first in my family to graduate from high school and attend a university: SUNY Oneonta. I pursued a computer science degree and a minor in mathematics.
“One of the most memorable things that occurred during my time in college was the internships that I obtained. In 2012, under the Obama administration, I had the opportunity to work for the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics. After I graduated, I started working, and a couple years later, the school had an opening. Now, I’m a lead programmer analyst at SUNY Oneonta.
“Throughout my time while working and pursuing my career, I kept thinking about how I got here and how I achieved my goals. I had a lot of mentorships, coaches, people giving me help and being there for me.
“That was one of the things that sparked the idea to continue with a nonprofit organization: Yuntos. This is something that I do after — and sometimes before — work hours. It’s a 501(c)(3) recognized by the IRS.
“What we do is bring new and gently worn shoes to those in need in Guatemala. It’s like giving back to that community where I grew up and being able to connect both worlds: Guatemala and the opportunities that I’ve had here in the U.S. It’s all grassroots.
“The warehouse is in my parents’ basement in Long Island. My sibling, Rosario, helps me collect shoes along Long Island. Then my grandparents in Guatemala, they’re the ones that receive the shoes and boxes when they arrive. They hold them for me, and then when I’m there, we distribute.
“In 2023, I am looking at achieving the goal of 800 pairs of shoes. It’s a passion, something of giving back to my community in Guatemala and being able to also connect here with the opportunities that I received in the U.S.”
Interviewed by Victoria Bell