Evergreen student Priscila Desiderio received the Governor’s Civic Leadership Award at the Students Serving Washington Awards on Friday, March 16 at the Museum of Flight.
Desiderio was one of just three recipients of the award, an honor given to one student from a two-year, four-year public, and four-year private higher education institution each year.
The award recognizes top civic leaders at Washington Campus Compact member institutions, and is given to individuals who have demonstrated exemplary leadership and commitment in addressing important issues in their communities.
A senior at Evergreen, Desiderio is a founder and campus coordinator of a student group, Familia, that raised $2500 in 2017 to support the retention of undocumented students at Evergreen.
Desiderio is currently in the process of establishing a partnership with Upward Bound’s afterschool program at Shelton High School. As part of that partnership, members of Familia—many of which are first-generation Latinx college students—will facilitate learning and support for undocumented Latinx high school students
“Being an immigrant and growing up in Washington, I know what it feels like to be in a new place,” said Desiderio. “Schools are not doing a very good job of providing the resources and guidance that immigrant students need. There are amazing people already doing this work in my community. I want to join them to really provide these resources.”
Last summer, Desiderio served as a Presidential Equity Advisor, providing input on student conduct policies and the plans for a new campus equity center.
As a member of the Underserved Student Task Force (USTF), Desiderio acts as an important student voice, developing and presenting trainings about how the college can better serve undocumented students.
“Priscila has been instrumental in developing, customizing and presenting staff and faculty training on how to increase support for undocumented students,” said Evergreen Internship Coordinator Ami Magisos. “She has brought student experiences and perspectives to each training through her own story and by organizing other student leaders to present.”
Desiderio has also been involved in peer learning through Gateways for Incarcerated Youth at Evergreen’s Center for Community Based Learning and Action. She spent a year in an academic program focused on that program, and continues to serve as a mentor at a local group home community facility.
Last year, Desiderio worked with First People’s Multicultural Advising Services to develop a retention program proposal that would expand services provided by federal TRIO models to more students in need of support. The proposal included the need to train campus staff and faculty to better understand the needs and situation of undocumented students.
“Growing up in Tacoma, the challenges that I faced in schools opened up my eyes to the needs of students, and the need to push the school system to really help undocumented and underserved students,” explained Desiderio.
After she graduates, Desiderio plans to attend graduate school, and to eventually become a social worker. “I want to work at schools, in foster care, and with incarcerated youth,” she said.
Faculty member Alice Nelson has witnessed Desiderio’s work firsthand in the USTF, in campus trainings, and with Familia.
“Priscila is a community-builder in every sense, and her courage and strength have brought many of us to deeper levels of commitment and collaboration,” said Nelson. “I am grateful for the light she has shone and her vision for a better future.”
Desiderio also received a President’s Civic Leadership Award, given to two student civic leaders from each Washington Campus Compact member institution for their leadership and service to their community.
The other President’s Civic Leadership Award winner from Evergreen was Jaden Solias, a senior from Vancouver, Washington studying public administration and disabilities studies. Solias has interned for the past three years with Kokua, an Olympia area nonprofit that provides opportunities for individuals with disabilities. She is also very involved with the Center for Community Based Learning and Action.
Top Photo: Evergreen student and 2018 Governor’s Civic Leadership Award Priscila Desiderio '18. Photos courtesy of Marc Oommen/Western Washington University