First-generation college students face barriers from start to finish. Amanda Manjarrez has a history of working cross-culturally to address and alleviate some of those barriers. Originally from New Mexico, Amanda arrived in Oregon to pursue a law degree at Lewis and Clark College. Since graduation she has stayed to continue her advocacy work as the Director of Advocacy with Latino Network. Prior to her role at Latino Network, she was the Advocacy Director at the Coalition of Communities of Color (CCC).
Amanda grew up in rural New Mexico, where one street made its way through the entire town. Growing up, she recalls “[seeing] a lot of need in her community” but being so young she did not quite know what to make of it. Going to college to pursue an undergraduate degree was the “light bulb moment,” shares Amanda. “[W]hen I came across things like universal health care…I was really inspired to start to engage more in public policy.” Given a chance to work in advocacy by a firm engaging in New Mexican politics, she received the mentorship and knowledge which brought her to the director role she has today.
Amanda brings a fresh perspective to Portland. Her home state of New Mexico is a majority minority state, meaning Latinos, Native Americans, and other communities of color constitute more than half of the state’s population. Currently, the State of Oregon is edging towards a composition of ethnic and racial minorities who are not yet a demographic majority but whose influence grows daily.
While at CCC, Amanda met with a representative of the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) to discuss creating a cross-cultural narrative development project with their support. That representative was Roberto Franco, OCF’s Latino Partnership Program (LPP) Director. “I was really excited actually” says Amanda, and remembers Mr. Franco sharing details concerning the Latino community, its progress and potential, along with “what types of programs they were funding.”
Now, a few months into her role with Latino Network, Amanda has continuously thought about the ongoing partnership with OCF and the importance of funding new leadership. She shares, “continuing to fund leadership is where we are [going] to have the most impact.” In addition, when asked if the LPP has made a difference, she states: “what’s been beneficial…is [LPP has] these trusted relationships with Community Based Organizations and partners in the community.”
By Edward Gutiérrez