Edgar Najera is a 2013 Illuminated youth-fellow and currently serves on the youth advisory board. He was born in Morales Izabal, Guatemala in 1994. Due to the high unemployment rate of Guatemala, his parents left him when he was 11 years old to immigrate to the United States to pursue a better economic status. Edgar immigrated to the U.S when he was 16 years old. He found American classrooms to be much more challenging than those in Guatemala. He thinks it is one of the experiences that helped him grow intellectually. Edgar has known poverty and hunger and believes that knowing the feeling of scarcity is the main reason why he appreciates all the opportunities that he has in the United States. He also believes that being a bi-cultural immigrant from Guatemala is what has opened his mind, giving him the capacity to access difficult and complex ideas as well as to cope with stressful situations. When he came to the Bronx he realized that his community was in desperate need to be revitalized and hopes that by offering his mind and strength to help his community he’ll be able to have an impact in the place where he lives as well as the place where he came from.
Alina Raza is a 2012 Illuminated youth-fellow and currently serves on the youth advisory board. She is a Psychology student at Wayne State University in Detroit. When the Illuminated Cities Project was still in it’s initial stages and preparing to launch its pilot project, Alina was a youth fellow for Detroit Minds and Hearts (DMH). It was this fellowship that forced Alina to look at the world through the perspective of privilege and ultimately sparked her interest in educational reform and social justice. She was chosen to take part in the ICP’s pilot project to Mexico City, making her one of the original ICP fellows. In 2013, Alina was a panelist for ICP’s first event in New York City titled Educated in America: Voices from a Broken System.” In 2014, the youth-fellows were hosted by Alina and her family in metro-Detroit during which she facilitated a workshops and coordinated programming. Alina continues to work closely with the other team members as well as youth-fellows within ICP, providing support and helping to create future projects from which other young people can benefit.
Yaquelin Rodriguez is a 2012 Illuminated youth-fellow and currently serves on the youth advisory board. She is one of the original Illuminated youth-fellows who was a part of the Mexico City pilot project trip. Yaquelin was born and raised on Chicago’s southwest side. She is a Gage Park High School graduate who has been involved with several organizations in her community including Mujeres Latinas en Action, Voices of Youth in Chicago’s Education (VOYCE), the Southwest Organizing Project, and All Starts. She believes in diversity and equality for all, and was a guest panelist for ICP’s South Bronx community event in the school where we first implemented our (s)heroism curriculum. Yaquelin continues to meet with current fellows and advise ICP with developing its vision, mission, focus.