My name is Kaishla Figueroa and I am one of the new interns this semester at Long Island Wins. I am 22 years old and I’ve lived on Long Island most of my life. I attend SUNY Old Westbury where I am pursuing a degree in Media & Communications and am the Public Relations Director for Old Westbury Web Radio.
Prior to starting this internship with Long Island Wins, I knew nothing about the organization or its mission. I was told it does great work on Long Island and that my interests and skills would be useful there. Since then, I’ve learned more about the organization and it has intrigued me.
I had no idea that so much work was being done on Long Island to make it a friendlier place for all people, no matter their heritage. I recently learned that Long Island is the third most segregated suburb in the country – that is not the most inviting environment for new immigrants. Cultural diversity is something I’ve always admired and embraced. In high school, I won an award for cultural and race relations. I aspire to travel the world and teach English as a foreign language. Seeing that Long Island Wins is shedding light on today’s immigration issues and trying to promote solutions that include everyone is inspiring.
Being a media and communications major, I was looking for an editorial internship. My first thought was “this isn’t exactly what I had in mind.” I’m comfortable writing and practicing Public Relations for things like news or entertainment. But that’s just it: comfort. In order for me to really reach my potential, I have to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I’ve learned in PR that in order to best represent a brand, you have to be that brand. That’s exactly what I hope to do.
I want my experience at Long Island Wins to expose me to issues I’d never have encountered otherwise. Being more knowledgeable on immigration issues at a time where they’re at the crossroads of legislation and reform will help me be more well-rounded. It will allow me to enhance my skills and apply them to a greater cause.
Immigrants on Long Island contribute in many aspects of everyday life. They help our economy, working from low-skilled to white-collar jobs. According to the Wall Street Journal, as many as a quarter of all small businesses on Long Island are owned by immigrant families. Socially, immigrants add color to the communities in which they live, bringing with them language, food and culture. Although younger immigrants typically assimilate faster as they’re exposed to American culture in schools, their parents bring with them a sense of tradition.
In my Hicksville community, there are a large number of Indian immigrants. They’ve established businesses like grocery stores and restaurants where they maintain those traditions, while allowing others to experience it. They have shops and tailors where their traditional style of dress is proudly displayed in the windows. Seeing another cultural group thrive in a country rooted on personal liberties provides hope that we all can achieve our dreams, side by side.
I’m currently working on a welcoming committee on the campus of SUNY Old Westbury. My personal goal is to improve the visibility of Long Island Wins among students and raise awareness for the organization, as it is underrepresented among the rest of the campus community.