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Woman, activist, mother series wraps up with panel dedicated to activism balance

| Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Saint Mary’s invited Dalila Huerta, Lety Stanton-Verduzco and Ameenah Starks to speak at its final woman, activist, mother panel Tuesday night. Each woman plays a vital role in activism within the South Bend community.

Huerta currently works at La Casa de Amistad as the education and community programs coordinator and said her work is dedicated to cultural equity, decolonization and critical multicultural pedagogy.

Stanton-Verduzco serves as the recruiter trainer for the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program of St. Joseph County.

Starks is the assistant director of the Bowen Center in LaPorte County and works at the Islamic Society of Michiana, where she implements new programs to help reduce the stigma around Muslims in the Michiana community.

Each panelist explained how her professional life has heavily influenced her life as an activist.

“I have always been a museum arts educator,” Huerta said. “It was right after the [2016 Presidential] election and I was feeling motivated to do a little more within my job. I really wanted to build a relationship with students and at this time there was a job opening at La Casa de Amistad.”

Huerta said she felt this would be an opportunity to build deeper relationships with students.

“Another thing I really loved about this job opportunity was its commitment to community work and social justice,” she said. “So, bringing and building communities and advocating not just for South Bend but the greater Latinx population here in the United States.”

Huerta said it was a big adjustment to pursue a career that wasn’t what she had studied in graduate school.

“I do love that I get to do, through my job, a lot of things that I care about the most,” she said.

Starks said it is hard for her to separate her life as an activist from her professional life.

“Working in the community I began to see different types of people,” she said. “I would just become connected with rich people, poor people in various phases of their lives that were struggling in some situation. It always amazed me because I had just gone through that thing that they were struggling with.”

Starks said she turned to God to guide her through her life.

“I never planned this path for myself,” she said. “It’s kind of like I’ve been led to everything that I’ve done.”

Stanton-Verduzco said her focus was working with children who she believed to be most vulnerable, especially because they can’t advocate for themselves.

“I loved working with kids,” she said, “But I realized I only have them from 2:30 to 6:00. I can’t control anything before 2:30 and I can’t control anything after 6:00.”

She realized that no matter how she helped them during that time frame, if situations surrounding the children didn’t change she wasn’t helping them as much as she wanted to.

“Everything became ‘How do I incorporate what I’m doing to make it better for the families,’” Stanton-Verduzco said. “We started having things like family nights and encouraging parents to come and participate. I saw these little things impacting something greater than just those three hours I had with those kids.”

Stanton-Verduzco realized there was a great need in the community and began to bring other people in the community together to train other people in advocating for children.

The panelists closed with advice about balancing life, self care and activism.

“I think it’s important to be with someone that supports what you do,” Stanton-Verduzco said. “It’s not that we have the same focus or passion, but we have the same values. If I am doing something in the evening, I know it’s not a burden to my family.”

Huerta said being mindful helps her in balancing her life.

“Make sure you’re doing something valuable and contributing to something,” she said. “I also realize I can’t do everything and it’s okay to say no.”

Starks said keeping herself organized is the biggest contributor in a balanced life.

“It usually becomes color-coded to let me know what is my time, what is work time and what other times I need to fill in,” she said. “Every month I go and look at what I have done. I have made a commitment that I will work toward my goal.”

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