By Heather Fiore
Joshabel De La Cruz, a senior global and multinational studies major, has a lot on her agenda. She is a nominee for Rider’s prestigious President’s Award, a resident advisor in Wright, and she is currently building her newly self-created student initiative, Manos Unidas (United Hands).
Despite juggling all of these hectic commitments, De La Cruz’s hard work paid off when she received an invitation to the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U). CGI U was held from Feb. 13-15 in Austin, Texas, at The University of Texas this year.
The CGI U is meant to bring students together from around the world who are committed to action. According to the official CGI U Web site, it “hosts a meeting for students, national youth organizations and university officials to discuss solutions to pressing global issues.”
During the conference, De La Cruz was presented with many different activities to learn from, including case studies, hands-on community service and interaction with committed global citizens.
The Commitments to Action, which are proposals to create and implement global change, included five main focus areas: education, energy and climate change, global health, peace and human rights, and poverty alleviation. De La Cruz’s two main focus areas were peace and human rights and poverty alleviation.
“You know you can make a difference in the world,” De La Cruz said. “There really are people out there willing to make that difference with you.”
De La Cruz was invited to the conference for her exemplary performance as a student and for her ambition in the creation of Manos Unidas. Manos Unidas is an organization focused on the integration of Rider’s UNICCO workers into American society.
“Our UNICCO workers’ primary language is Spanish,” De La Cruz said. “Some of these workers have been here for 15 years and don’t know how to speak English. This impedes them from progressing in society, understanding their rights [and] opportunities and gaining important career skills.”
Because she speaks Spanish fluently, De La Cruz isn’t a stranger to the UNICCO workers in the morning. Quite frequently, she’s in the hallways speaking with them. She is intrigued by the number of immigrants working in this country who are unable to adequately speak or understand English and some aspects of American society.
“I learned one of my UNICCO worker’s stories and wanted to put it into action,” De La Cruz said. “We’re college students. We should want to impact someone’s life. We acquire all of this knowledge for a reason.”
Manos Unidas is an outlet for people to learn more. It gives Rider students insight, and it connects them to the reality of UNICCO workers who immigrated here. The group also provides students with the opportunity to connect these local changes with overall domestic issues.
“Students who join have to have a passion for change in our community,” De La Cruz said.
There are currently five members, including De La Cruz. There is one graduate student, who is helping her run it, and three undergraduates.
“The girls I work with are such leaders,” De La Cruz said. “We’re instituting change. We’re making a local impact on an international issue.”
Although Manos Unidas has not officially begun as an organization yet, all of the preliminary preparations were conducted before spring break. The group has committed to action and held all initial preparatory meetings.
Manos Unidas is a pilot program and, although De La Cruz is graduating this year, she’d like to continue the organization. She is currently looking to recruit anyone interested in joining. The group is not strictly for Latin Americans; anyone is encouraged to join. De La Cruz wants to “plant the seeds,” leaving a legacy and allowing others the chance to discover what is needed to make it better.