Hope and Healing: Student Melani Cruz Stokes

In her first two years at Rutgers–Camden, Melani Cruz Stokes has pursued numerous opportunities to help others, including serving as president of the Rutgers–Camden chapter of Define American, a national organization that advocates for undocumented students, and volunteering for the Rutgers Immigrant Community Assistance Project, a Rutgers Law School program to provide immigration legal services to Rutgers students.

She said she developed her passion for working on immigration issues at Rutgers–Camden when she learned about the growing challenges facing undocumented immigrant students. “There is a lesson in recognizing privilege, and not just sitting on that privilege, but using your privilege to advance opportunities for others and advance equality for others. I always thought that being a double minority—being Black and Latina—and being a woman that I didn’t have privilege, but I now understand that I have privileges that other people don’t, such as U.S. citizenship. I want to be able to share the opportunity that I was born with.”

A criminal justice major from Stratford, New Jersey, she was one of 135 scholars around the world awarded a Humanity in Action Fellowship in 2020. “What has given me hope is seeing how many people are standing up and participating in protests and marches, not just in the U.S., but all over the world. It’s very, very inspiring to see how many people are uniting with the Black community and trying to finally bring an end to systemic racism.”

Visit “Hope and Healing” for more Rutgers–Camden voices on the challenges of 2020.

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