Breakthrough’s Advocacy Fellows
Five Breakthrough college students now make up the pilot cohort of Breakthrough’s Advocacy Fellows.
Breakthrough’s policy and advocacy practice is driven by a core belief: youth and practitioners, the individuals who are navigating and are being personally impacted by inequitable educational policies, should be the leading voices in the construction and reform of those very policies. Advocacy Fellows will learn about state policy related to college access and success, build on and employ strategic communication and advocacy skills, and use their voices to advocate directly to state leaders during the 88th legislative session. As a result of this initiative, the Texas Higher Education Policy landscape will reflect more student voices and student perspectives throughout the policymaking process. This transformation will be measured through media opportunities, participation on panels/events, peer organizing and education, direct speaking engagements with legislators through comment or testimony, and increased overall interaction between students and decision makers.
Summary – Over the course of Texas’s 88th Regular Legislative Session, cohort members: (a) attended or participated on panels, events, or days of action 15 times, (b) submitted written/oral public testimony or comment on 9 occasions, and (c) met with over a dozen legislative offices to advocate on target bills and priorities
2.23.23 – IDRA Youth Summit: Fellows attended IDRA’s national virtual youth summit to learn about how to advocate for safer and more successful learning environments, especially in communities targeted by inequitable education policies.
3.1.23- TLEEC Day of Action: BT Fellows participated in TLEEC’s Day of Action (CBS Austin). Fellows attended a press conference, networked with fellow advocates, participated in a training session about legislative visits, and then visited several lawmaker’s offices to advocate for priorities shared by TLEEC and BT CTX: The protection and promotion of Ethnic Studies, increased access to rigorous coursework and high quality advising for Texas students in high schools serving low-income communities, and an increased basic allotment in our school finance system.
4.19.23 TX Rising Action Education Mini-Advocacy Day attended by Victoria along with students from other local universities to UT Dallas. She went on group visit to meet with target offices and speak on some of TXRA priority public and higher education bills.
5.25.23 – Trellis Basic Needs Summit attended by fellows in San Antonio. The summit engaged a Student Basic Needs Data Discussion using findings from the 2022 Trellis Student Financial Wellness Survey
In collaboration with the American Immigration Council Maria Ortega shared her story in this powerful Op-Ed in the Huffington Post that highlighted the critical need for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers like her
Testimony presented by Advocacy Fellows during the 88th legislative session:
- Letter of Support for HB 45 submitted by Victoria Uriostegui (March, 24, 2023).
- Letter of Support for HB 45 submitted by Helen Nguyen (March, 22, 2023).
- Testimony to Senate Higher Education Subcommittee Opposing SB 17 submitted by Victoria Uriostegui (April 6, 2023).
- Testimony to House State Affairs Opposing HB 1600 submitted by Maria Ortega (April 12, 2023).
- Testimony to House Higher Education Subcommittee Opposing SB 17 submitted by the BT CTX Advocacy Fellows (May 8, 2023)
- Comment to House Public Education Committee Opposing SB8 submitted by the Victoria Uriostegui (May 15, 2023)
- Testimony to Senate Border Security Committee Opposing HB7 and HB800 submitted by the Maria Ortega (May 18, 2023)
Meet OUR FELLOWS
Hi pals! My name is Alondra Silva-Martinez and I am a first-generation college student at Texas Tech University. I am majoring in mathematics with a minor in education and actuarial science. Thanks to Breakthroughs support, I have had the opportunity to break many barriers and attend college. This is one of the main reasons why I am so passionate to work as a Breakthrough Advocacy Fellow. Many college students face difficulties to get into college and they are then followed with more as they are working to get their degrees. I am very passionate about helping students through addressing a couple of education policy issues which are supporting the mental and physical health of postsecondary students, ensure fair funding for all schools and increase investment in the state’s community colleges and four year postsecondary institutions. We should all be working together to help college students and I hope to help Breakthrough make changes in schools.
Hello everyone! My name is Helen Nguyen and I’ve been a Breakthrough Student since 2012! I am a first-generation college student pursuing business and medicine at the University of Texas at Austin. Through this experience, I hope to advocate for policies that will support all first-generation students to succeed in higher education.
In my free time, I like to play volleyball and go on long hikes with my dog Rocky. I also love exploring Austin, so if you have any food/coffee shop recommendations, please send them my way!
JESUS URESTI MIRELES
Jesus Uresti Mireles is a senior chemistry student at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Jesus works as a materials science/nuclear engineering researcher at the Extreme Environments and Materials Lab at UTSA and plans to study public policy for nuclear nonproliferation in the future. Jesus is interested in participating as a fellow in education policy as a way to give his first-hand input on topics that plague thousands of Texas college students, such as receiving financial aid and helping those in need of mental health services.
My name is Maria Ortega, I was born in Mexico and raised in the US I have been a social justice advocate for 5 years and continue to do so. I am a first-generation college student. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with friends exploring and watching criminal case shows.I decided to join the BT Advocacy Fellows program because I want to create an equitable path for students of all ages and backgrounds. No student should sacrifice attending college because of the price or because of lack of resources. Equitable, accessible, and quality education should not be a privilege but an option. I hope to get the tools I need from this program in order to work for policies that will benefit and create a more accesible journey in education for the new generations to come.
My name is May Tun. I was born in Myanmar and immigrated to the US in 2012 with my family. I’m a first-generation college student and a senior attending UTSA majoring in Biology. I decided to join the BT Advocacy fellows because I would like to share my first-hand experiences of a college student’s obstacles. How those obstacles such as, financial difficulty, personal life, mental health, etc could affect positively and negatively to a student life. From this internship, I am hoping to make a difference by helping future students’ lives a little easier and gain more knowledge I could use later in my life. I love reading, spending time with loved ones, and taking pictures.
Advocacy Fellows Student Coordinator
Victoria was born and raised in Austin, TX. She is a first gen undergraduate at the University of Texas at Austin studying Communication and Leadership at the Moody College of Communications. She is also pursuing minors in Mexican American and Latina/o Studies and Government. She joined BTCTX to learn new skills in advocacy and policy. During her time she has worked in the Student Advisory Council program to help each Council member to reach their goals to advocate to fund and support community colleges in the state. In addition, she supporting Breakthrough’s pilot cohort, the BT Advocacy Fellows, to use their voice to advocate for higher-ed issues salient to them and other first gen students in the 88th legislative session. Through the process she listens actively and ensures we are best preparing students by cultivating a safe, purposeful, and visionary environment.