Venus Bermudez: May 2011
An interview with Venus Bermudez, Citizenship Now! Corps member since 2009.:
Q. Why did you choose to volunteer with CUNY Citizenship Now?
A. "During college, I worked as a legal assistant for an immigration attorney. It was a great experience, but there were heartbreaking moments when we had to turn people away because they could not afford the services of an attorney. CUNY Citizenship Now! provides me with a way to still be involved and help immigrants in my community. I went to the first event, had a wonderful time, and kept going back whenever I could."
Q. Which aspect(s) of our events do you find particularly enjoyable?
A. "The application assistance events are most enjoyable because of the people that take part in them. At every event, there is an atmosphere of solidarity and unity. I cannot imagine a better way to spend my time than working with strong, compassionate, positive people to strengthen our community. Being a volunteer with CUNY Citizenship Now! gave me a sense of efficacy, and played a major role in my decision to go into public interest law."
Q. Because of the Volunteer Corps, do you feel that your knowledge and relationship to the immigrant community and the challenges they face has improved? If so, in what way?
A. "Volunteering with CUNY Citizenship Now! gave the opportunity to meet people from all over the world with very interesting stories. I think the events reaffirm my own identification as being a part of the immigrant community. Even though I am American-born, I speak Spanish, am proud of my heritage, and try to keep some of my family’s culture. Because of this, I sometimes do not feel accepted as a “real” American. When I connect with the applicants, I see how similar we are, despite country of origin, and I know that the immigrant community is MY community."
Q. Tell us about yourself--do either you or a family member have a personal immigration story?
A. "I am a first generation Colombian-American. Both my parents were born in Bogota, Colombia. My mother immigrated to the United States when she was a pre-teen with my grandmother, and my father immigrated alone when he was about 20 years old, without a penny in his pocket. My mother went on to obtain her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, and is now a NYC public school ESL kindergarten teacher. My father became a very capable businessman."
Q. What did you study when you were in school?
A. "I attended the Bronx High School of Science, where I did well in all subjects. I studied Political Science at Columbia College, and am now working toward my JD at Brooklyn Law School."
Q. What does community mean for you?
A. "Community, to me, refers to a group of people that share an outcome. My decisions affect everyone in my community, and my hardships and successes will also be similarly distributed. For that reason, I believe it is important for people to strive to improve their own lives and to help others to do the same, so that the strength, prosperity, power, and health of the community is bolstered."
Q. What is your favorite hobby/interest outside of volunteering?
A. "I love going to museums, watching foreign films, and yoga. All three demonstrate my interest in learning about other cultures."