In the United States there are two to three million farmworkers.
Welcome to the alumni profile page!
We heard that you wanted to stay connected to your fellow alums so we created this page just for you. Read on to see what other SAF alums have gone on to do after SAF.
We'd love to feature YOUR update! Send in your program year, placement site, current location, and what is happening in your life now: are you still working in social justice, do you have a family, did you join the circus? We want to know about you and so do other alumni! Contact Joanna with your info.
2013 Into the Fields Intern
College of Charleston
SC Migrant Education Program, Columbia SC
Joanna talked with Eric in June 2016:
What have you been up to since SAF?
Personally, I graduated college at the end of 2014 with a double major in International Relations and Spanish. A few months later I started working for a United Nations program in Santiago, Chile. After a year I got involved with the Maryland Senate. I was in the right place at the right time. I started as a legislative aide doing research for bills and clerical tasks and six months ago was promoted to Chief of Staff with Senator Cheryl C. Kagan. I oversee every aspect of the office from the long term legislative agenda to constituent work. There’s a social work aspect where we help people with issues of housing and homelessness to problems with state agencies, all across the board. It’s a combination of public relations, communications, and being in the community. We recently finished our 90 day legislative session in mid April. The Maryland legislature doesn’t allow for extensions so it’s a pretty high energy and high stress time.
What is your best memory of your SAF internship/program?
I really liked my placement in South Carolina; it was very independent work. I liked being able to take off on my own and teach classes, sign up families, distribute food and materials. It was very empowering and also a lot of responsibility.
How did SAF impact what you’ve done since?
In Maryland we have an extremely diverse population. From 2000-2010 the minority population has gone up 30%. The multilingual population has grown and will continue to grow. We found that 83% of state agencies offered no translation services and we wanted to change that by proposing Senate Bill 28, the language access bill. The bill requires the State Government to translate all publicly accessible resources into the top few languages spoken in Maryland—Spanish, Korean and Chinese (which are subject to change).
From my time at SAF working with migrant education, I got to understand the need for English fluency in the pursuit of finding work or any type of social service. So this was a bill that was close to home for me. Our legislature tackled an aspect of that for online services. It was a battle to push through; we had to frame it in a way that would appeal to everyone – with a business friendly message. We didn’t get everything we wanted. Some senators and delegates had some opposition to it since it had a high dollar attached to it. They asked, “Why should people get money to do this rather than learning English?” But we fought back saying, “On average, it takes someone 7 years to be fully proficient at a second language. We still need to reach those from year 1 to year 7 while they’re learning the language.” The bill passed on April 26!
My time with SAF gave me a perspective I wouldn’t have had in this work that I think helps. I realized my close interactions with farmworkers impacted me and helped me realize this bill would make a real impact to a lot of people. Politics was never something I necessarily wanted to get into but it’s where I ended up. Now we’re starting again and preparing the next legislative agenda. I’m excited to see what else I can do. It’s pretty interesting stuff.