“I want to provide for my community.”
by Sarah Binns
If you're worried about the future of the world, think about this month’s Volunteer Spotlight, Lizette Sayavedra Herrera. A senior at Reynolds High School, Lizette is a driven activist who educates and champions her community. This may be the first time you’ve heard her name, but it won’t be the last.
Lizette started as a search assistant at Troutdale: “At first I thought it’d be fun and I could get out of the house.” She pauses and her voice fills with delight: “It turns out I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.” Her volunteerism soon expanded as she became an assistant for La hora de aprender (The Learning Hour), an educational program for Spanish-speaking children. “I organize things, I read to the kids.” Another pause. “I blow up the balloons. The kids love the balloons.”
The program is close to Lizette’s heart, as she is a Mexican immigrant who came to the U.S. at age six. “When I moved here I didn’t have a lot of Spanish-speaking people around me.” She loves La hora de aprender because she can participate in Latino culture and because she gives kids the Spanish-speaking community she didn’t have.
Lizette is also a force for students of color at Reynolds, serving as co-president of the Latino Student Union and a member of the Black Student Union. “It’s a way for me to learn and grow. I’m Latina but I have a lighter complexion, which comes with privilege….” She addresses the complexities of racial identity and the need for awareness in communities of color: “You have to know when to step in and when to step back. Learning people’s stories, it’s what I have a passion for.”
Lizette will marry activism with academics when she attends Wellesley College this fall, pursuing biomedical engineering or pre-law. “My grandmother has diabetes. She takes up to ten medicines a day. If I can take her pills down from ten to five, that’s significant. Plus, groundbreaking medicines often aren’t available to people of color due to price gouging.” Lizette’s interest in law stems from the over-representation of Latinos and people of color in the U.S. prison system: “A lot of times people of color don’t have access to attorneys or the same legal opportunities.”
Bound for the east coast in the fall, Lizette is excited about Wellesley’s all-female campus: “I know I’ll learn from being surrounded by other women.” She’ll continue to be an advocate for communities of color. “I want to provide for my community,” she concludes. Look out world, Lizette Sayavedra Herrera is coming for you—and she is going to change it.
A few facts about Lizette
Home library: Troutdale
Currently reading: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Favorite book from childhood: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Most influential book: Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Book that made you cry: Esperanza Rising
Favorite browsing section: Young adult nonfiction
E-reader or paper? Paper!
Favorite place to read: "My bed."
Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! Read last month's Volunteer Spotlight.