UMass Boston

UMass Boston Launches New Civic Action Fellows Program for Students from Marginalized Communities

10/23/2020| Julia Hvoslef

Seven UMass Boston students have been selected as the inaugural cohort of the Civic Action Fellows Program. The fellows will build their civic agency and skills for collective action through bi-weekly workshops with community-engaged leaders and an internship with a community-based organization.

Civic Action Fellows met on October 21st as part of their bi-weekly program session.
Civic Action Fellows met on October 21 as part of their bi-weekly program session.

“ Representation matters if we are to address the long ignored racial inequity and injustice that is present in civic spaces. ”

This new initiative, led in partnership with the Office of Community Partnerships, Student Multicultural Affairs, and Student Leadership and Community Engagement, seeks to engage a diverse cohort of students in local civic life.

Community partners hosting internships include the Hyde Square Task Force, Mayor of Lawrence Dan Rivera, BAGLY Inc., Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, Boston City Councilor At Large Julia Mejia, Center for Teen Empowerment, and the City of Boston Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement. To support their internship, fellows will receive a $500 scholarship per semester in the program.

The initiative was developed acknowledging that the City of Boston has been majority People of Color based on data from the last two Censuses, and although there have been increases in representation in civic leadership, it still does not reflect this demographic shift.

“Representation matters if we are to address the long ignored racial inequity and injustice that is present in civic spaces,” says Rachel Winters, director of student leadership and community engagement. “The pandemics we are facing in the nation and the commonwealth have augmented the need to actively work toward equity and justice, especially for communities who have been marginalized.”

As the only public research institution with majority Students of Color in the region, UMass Boston is uniquely positioned to face these pandemics and contribute to social change. The goal is to support the next generation of civic leaders by increasing participation of Students of Color and other marginalized identities in the Greater Boston area.

The 2020-2021 inaugural cohort includes: Camila de la Vega ’21, a Latin American and Iberian Studies major with minors in Political Science and Native American and Indigenous Studies; Sara Ramram ‘22, a Political Science major and English minor; Geicy Pena ‘22, a Political Science major and Philosophy and Law minor; Cassandra Augustin ‘22, a Political Science major and Philosophy and Law minor; Amanda Lawrence ‘24, a Political Science major; Nabeera Shahzad ‘23, a Psychology major; and Pablo Suarez ‘20, a Political Science and International Relations major with a minor in Criminal Justice/Criminology.

The fellows enter the program with diverse lived experiences as well as motivations for social change. By working with the WLRP, Camila de la Vega hopes to “push the boundary of what we consider Civic Action work into decolonization work,” including advocating for the return of land back to indigenous communities. While Sara Ramram believes the fellowship will “enable [her] to empower young minority students and encourage them to explore politics. [She] would wish to be a representative for young Muslim women and learn how to better enable [the] future generation of Muslim women in America”.

A theme for all the fellows is a commitment to community and social justice. Nabeera Shahzad sees “how the pandemics we are facing today have increased the need to acknowledge social issues and work toward acquiring real justice for marginalized communities.” Further, Cassandra Augustin wants to enter public service “solely to make change not only in [her] community, but in society”.

“This is a time of extraordinary need for change and our partners are asking us to build the next generation of civic Leaders of Color who will fill the role that one day they will need to pass on. Our students are poised to be ‘the change we wish to see in the world’ and so we must create opportunities with communities that build up the resilience and capital of communities, of which our students are also a part of,” says Cynthia Orellana, director of the Office of Community Partnerships.

To learn more about this initiative visit: