Sergio Orozco, 2021 SAF Program Assistant
Student Action with Farmworkers
In summer 2019 I was selected as one of 25 interns to participate in SAF's Into The Fields internship. I was placed with the Migrant Education Program in Sampson county where I conducted outreach and worked as a teaching assistant for migrant children for a three-week summer program. It was my first time being given such an important role, let alone one on the other side of the country since I’m from Idaho. When I arrived in NC that summer, I was very insecure and lacked confidence in myself as a person and as a professional. I often covered up my fears with laughter and jokes to make those around me think I was more confident than I was. In a way, I was struggling with imposter syndrome to be around such talented and hard-working individuals.
For most of my life, I’ve been used to people thinking less of me or not thinking I can amount to anything. So when SAF gave me the chance to do this internship and grow, it truly struck at my heartstrings. While my purpose for coming was to advocate and fight for farmworkers' rights, particularly in the education system, I also wanted to use this time to find myself and create self-love that at that point in time was non-existent. I was scared to be on my own and to take up such an important role within such an important movement. My parents migrated here from Michoacán to give me a better life and I often felt as if I wasn’t doing enough to repay their sacrifices.
On my initial arrival in NC, I feared the unknown. But throughout the 10 week program, I grew and discovered parts of myself I had never found. I found a voice that advocated for farmworkers' rights and the rights of their children within the education system. I simultaneously found a voice for myself to stand up and take up space where I once believed I shouldn't be. By the end of the summer, I radiated in a way that I didn’t recognize; the shy, insecure boy who had arrived was non-existent now. I used my solitude as a driving force to grow and create self-love because there is beauty in solitude because that’s where you truly get to know who YOU are.
Taking everything I learned, I went back home and applied that into my everyday life. I began taking up leadership positions on campus and working to advocate for marginalized groups within my community with a special emphasis on farmworker rights. I came out to my family and embraced my identities because those are the most beautiful things about us. All of this was a result of the work and confidence I gained within the ITF program.
This summer I'm coming back as an ITF Program Assistant to continue the work I left off in 2019. I want to take everything I’ve learned and apply it to keep building on SAF’s mission to advocate with farmworkers for their rights. My job now is to keep pushing and to be supportive of my fellow staff and interns and show other gay, first-generation, migrant students that fear is fuel for growth and that there is beauty in solitude. I was once afraid to face life and take on new opportunities and now I crave it more than ever. In a way, SAF saved me from me and now I stand here stronger than ever before, so to anyone who this resonates with, know that you are strong and you are valid. I grew so I could keep fighting for farmworkers, first-generation students, LGBTQ folks, my family, your family, my people. My journey and job are nowhere near done because I’m just getting started. And neither is yours, so keep pushing and keep taking up space where we need representation.
Lastly, take a moment to congratulate yourself for being you because somewhere there is someone who looks up to you and your journey.