Define American Chapters

About Our
Chapters

Define American Chapters are student-led initiatives to bring the conversation on immigrants and identity home to their college communities. Students receive the tools to reach out to people who have different opinions and backgrounds, and create opportunities for mutual understanding.

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National Chapters Leadership

Itziri Adanely Gonzalez-Barcenas

National Co-Chair Davidson College

Itziri is a junior double majoring in Africana Studies and Political Science. She is passionate about human rights issues, and wants to lead Define American Chapters to advocate and catalyze change for marginalized people.

Joaida Tornes Cabrera

National Co-Chair St. Mary's University

Joaida Tornes Cabrera is a Mathematics major, with a minor in Chemistry.  On why she chooses to lead at Define American, Cabrera says, “The conversations I’ve had through my life, the stories I’ve listened to, and my experience being undocumented have shaped me into fighting not only for me, but for those who don’t have a voice or are too scared to speak out. I will always continue talking and listening to others because that’s how things get done.”

Vivian P. Alvarado

National Vice Chair University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Vivian is a first generation college student, originally from Coahuila, Mexico. An active member for the Nebraskan community, she leads citizenship classes and volunteers as a tutor for GED students at El Centro de Las Americas. Vivian wants to major in Political Science and minor in Arabic.

Fernando Jimenez

National Vice Chair Guilford College

Fernando Jimenez is a third year photojournalism student majoring in English and Media Studies and double minoring in Communications and Photography. You can see examples of his work on his Instagram account, @Polar_Vision.

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Chapter
Principles

Chapter
Principles

We Use the Power of Our Intersectional Stories to Create Change

The power of storytelling to create meaningful change is at the core of our movement. Define American was established in 2011, after our founder Jose Antonio Vargas came out as an undocumented immigrant in an essay published in The New York Times Magazine. Its publishing has inspired hundreds of people to share their immigrant and ally stories publicly and online. We commit to telling stories that fully represent our communities and our country.

We Elevate The Conversation About American Identity

At Define American we use stories, art and culture to encourage our audience to think critically about American identity, and in the process inspire new ideas and conversations about our nation’s current immigration system.

We Believe in Making The United States A More Welcoming Nation

Our ideals remind us that we are all created equal and that our strength lies in the forging of a nation based on shared values and common purpose. We support a vision in which all people, including immigrants, have the opportunity to reach their greatest potential, engage with their community and fully contribute their talents — expanding prosperity and wellbeing for all.

We Bring and Include Everyone in The Conversation

At Define American, we realize that to create meaningful change, we must engage beyond our core base of supporters. This means that we avoid polarizing language and actions, and instead focus on finding common ground and putting forth relatable stories and messages in an effort to create understanding outside our typical audience. It also means, that we are not solely storytellers, we are also listeners.

We Believe in Equity of Education for Everyone Regardless of Status

Together at the first ever Define American Chapters Summit in 2017, 13 of our chapters voted to add this to our chapters principle. We believe that education from kindergarten to university and everything in between should be available to everyone, regardless of immigration status. This means equal access to tuition rates, scholarships, and campus resources. We have the power and commitment to ensure that students don’t have a less fulfilling educational experience just because they weren’t born in this country.

We All Define American

“How do YOU define American?” — this one question opens up infinite possibilities to accomplish innovative systemic change. We believe through being proactive, and not reactive, we can shift conversations about immigrants in the United States. Through provocative and uncomfortable conversations we create teachable moments, and we also use them to learn more about the point of view of others. Using this approach we aim to be trailblazers, and create a one-of-a-kind student movement.