Where are you from?

Dominican Republic

What was your childhood like?

Very happy childhood, but one full of challenges. My father had immigrated to the States before I was born and didn’t meet him in person until he was able to go back to DR 4 years later.

What brought you to Cleveland?

New opportunities, received an offer from National City at the time while looking to relocate. I had also met some extraordinary people that were from Cleveland, who offered my children and I more than a house- a community of support and love.

What were your first thoughts about coming to the United States? Did those change?

The fear of the unknown, having to adapt without losing my identity, my culture was very important, but confident that it was the right thing to do, for my family, for my future. Moving forward with no regrets.- Life is a constant change and you overcome your fears with preparation and taking a leap of faith.

What challenges did you face transitioning here?

Enrolling the kids in a good school, but most of my friends lived in areas I was not too impressed with, so had to bite the bullet until I was able to know my way around.

What is your occupation? Are you a member of a sorority, fraternity, or any other civic or social organization?

I am currently the Interim Executive Director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, which is a social justice statewide coalition that oversees sexual assault victims rights, advocate for justice, trains, educates and help shape laws that will impact our State and our survivors.

How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

Clevelanders have made me fall in love with the Midwest. I find beauty, character, history, survivorship in Clevelanders.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

I still eat Dominican food, all the time; celebrate Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings Day), Speak my language- not as a career advancement, but with all the people that surround me away from work and being able to fellowship and go to church with my community.

What do you love about Cleveland?

Home away from home, able to find a bodega (corner store), that carries all we need for our traditional meals, the investment in the revitalization of this City, but most of all its people. City of Champions (much more than winning an NBA)- Cleveland has overcome financial hardships, housing scandals, being on the news for the worst crimes committed in history, police brutality, etc.- but we have THRIVED. Cleveland is home, family, laughter, tribute of persistence, proud ownership, friendly people, We are the Ellis Island of the Midwest.

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

GCIR defines immigrant integration as “a dynamic, two-way process in which newcomers and the receiving society work together to build secure, vibrant, and cohesive communities.” With immigrant integration, there is an “emphasis on the two-way process of change by both immigrants and members of a receiving society.” It’s about adapting and receptivity. It’s important to understand how vital immigrants and refugees are for society, economy and social justice- but the key word is “welcome”; it’s already hard enough having to learn a new language, other customs, leaving so much behind, even those that are in terrible conditions and situations in their homeland, you still have love and pride from where you were born, you don’t need hateful comments, or people looking down at you, or judgment on your choices- You need to be celebrated, ensured, loved, respected for all you are, where you have been, what you have endured to come, you need to be accepted and welcome.

Why is it important to travel abroad?

When you travel abroad it allows you to get out of your comfort zone. You learn the most about yourself and others in uncomfortable, unfamiliar situations. You learn to connect with people despite your differences. When you are able to navigate foreign environments with grace and maturity, you become a smarter, stronger, well-rounded and competent individual.