Stories of Change

Lauren at her CSU graduation

Becoming an Advocate for Unaccompanied Children

Lauren’s journey to becoming an advocate for unaccompanied children is a story of growth and discovery and reveals how we can all be a helping hand to our newest neighbors. Originally from New York, Lauren always valued the diverse groups she was a part of which piqued her interest to learn Spanish. This interest motivated her to move to California where her path would eventually lead her to CWS.

She first moved to California in 2018 to attend Santa Monica College. Uncertain about her future, she found herself drawn to the Spanish language and the complexities of immigration issues. “I started studying Spanish in Santa Monica College and I got an associate degree in Spanish,” she explained.

While at Santa Monica College, she encountered Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and began to delve deeper into immigration policies and their impacts. She also met individuals from Venezuela who were directly affected by these policies. “I started learning about the situation in Venezuela, the refugee situation and global migration,” she recalled. This personal connection fueled her desire to learn more, and she decided to transfer to California State University to pursue a degree in International Studies with a minor in Global Migration Studies.

At CSU, Lauren’s academic journey continued to intersect with her growing interest in refugee and immigration issues. She joined the BUILD program, an undergraduate research initiative, and worked with a faculty mentor on research focused on the experiences of asylum seekers and refugees in Costa Rica. “I had a very firm understanding of the reasons why these children were coming to the U.S.,” she noted. Following this deep educational experience, Lauren accepted an internship opportunity with CWS in Orange County.

Lauren’s internship at CWS allowed her to apply her knowledge and skills in a practical setting. One of her most significant achievements was creating the “Know Your Rights” presentation for unaccompanied children, which aimed to make complex legal information accessible to children. “This presentation was for my capstone course. I’m very happy with the way it came out because it’s going to be used to help the kids,” she said with pride.

The supportive and compassionate culture at CWS made a lasting impression on Lauren. “I feel like I had a really great experience, especially because of the culture at CWS. The Orange County office is extremely supportive, welcoming and very compassionate,” she reflected.

Lauren’s internship also provided her with a deeper understanding of the processes involved in supporting unaccompanied children. “I didn’t understand the process… but it was interesting to find out the processes that exist to reunify the kids,” she said. This newfound knowledge challenged many of the misconceptions she had encountered and revealed support systems in place to help unaccompanied children.

As Lauren looks to the future, her goals remain rooted in helping others. “I want to help people, I don’t know which group of people I’ll help, but that’s my main aim and my main goal,” she stated. With her drive and commitment to supporting our newest neighbors, CWS is sure that Lauren will achieve this goal.

To learn about internship opportunities with CWS click here. You can learn more about CWS Orange County here, and CWS’ HSPRS program on our website.