For first-generation Guatemalan American Damaris Vail-Mencho, education is a stepping stone to a career in advocacy for the underrepresented people in her community. A graduate of Innovation Central High School and currently a junior at Western Michigan University, Vail-Mencho recognized early in life that people needed a strong voice. She learned first-hand while working high school summers in the fields, the challenges farm workers and their families face.

A Political Science and Public Administration degree candidate, Vail-Mencho was recently named a congressional intern for Rep. Rashida Tlaib through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI). This program gives her a first-hand look at how the U.S. legislature works as well as opportunities to sharpen her communications skills. Her long-term goal is the practice of immigration law, serving as an advocate for those who most need help.

Vail-Mencho has earned honors and support through programs beyond CHCI. She is the recipient of a YWCA Helen Claytor Achievement Scholarship, and another from the Hispanic Latino Commission of Michigan (HLCOM). She has also been recognized by the National Migrant Scholars Internship Initiative (NMSI) for her work with the Michigan Immigration Rights Center (MIRC). And she continues to work with a number of Latino Latino-based organizations such as the Latino Student Alliance, the College Migrant Program, and federal TRIO programs.

For Vail-Mencho it is more than setting an example—it is creating a path for those who follow.

Sources: Grand Rapids Business Journal, October 29, 2018; The National Migrant Scholars Internship Initiative, Second Quarter Program Report, July 2021; Michigan Immigration Rights Center, Michigan Business Network, October 13, 2022

Image: Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute