Sometimes, when you're taking care of the community, you forget that you're also part of the community … And so I focus on ensuring that my group mates are well taken care of and making sure that we have each others’ backs.Amy Rivera President of PLUMAS, Class of 2023
The following segment highlights Amy Rivera. Amy is a junior government & politics and criminology & criminal justice double major. She currently serves as president of PLUMAS, a UMD club and fall 2019 Do Good Mini-Grant recipient.
Amy Rivera grew up deeply involved in her Prince George’s County community through service. She spent her free time volunteering at river cleanups, food distribution events, and with children.
“I was introduced to advocacy through my service,” she said. “And so when I came to UMD and saw that there was an organization specifically created for Latinx students who want to get involved in activism, I thought it was a great fit for me.”
The junior government & politics and criminology & criminal justice double major has been involved with the club PLUMAS, Political Latinxs United For Movement and Action in Society, since her freshman year. PLUMAS aims to raise awareness and encourage civic engagement on issues that affect the Latinx community.
Rivera ran for executive board of PLUMAS the second semester of her freshman year and was elected recruitment chairwoman. She then was elected president at the start of her sophomore year and was reelected this September. Rivera said that this year, she wants to focus more on giving back to the Prince George’s area by working with local mutual aid and activist organizations.
“I think we get trapped inside of this bubble of UMD,” Rivera said. “And we don't realize that we can use a lot of the privileges and the resources that we have as college students here and give back to the community that we're actually in.”
On campus, Rivera is looking to support Latinx students by promoting the new Latinx student involvement coordinator as a way to connect them to crucial resources. She said these resources include scholarships, job opportunities, tutoring, and study abroad. The new position was recently filled by Michelle Aguilar and runs through UMD’s Office of Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy. Rivera sees the coordinator as a way to help Latinx students overcome systemic barriers to success.
“A lot of Latinx students are commuters,” she said. “They may have to go from class to work or class to home. So they don't really have the ability to take time to look for these resources themselves. Universities weren’t created to educate Black and Brown students. And so having this resource available is going to be a really great change.”
During her time with PLUMAS, Rivera said the group has had a number of wins, but the accomplishment she is most proud of is the establishment of an informal coalition between their friends and allies in other campus groups. The alliance includes students from MaryPIRG, NAACP, Black Student Union, Latinx Student Union, Asian American Student Union, Students for Justice in Palestine, Prison Resistance Project, Migrating Shells, and Young Democratic Socialists of America.
“The coalition brings all these amazing organizations and students from diverse backgrounds together, making connections,” she said. “That way, you’re kind of surviving or getting through the pandemic era and relating to each other knowing that we all had each other's backs.”
Additionally, PLUMAS raised $2,000 this past April during its annual DREAM Gala, which was entirely virtual. The money raised was added to the DREAM Fund, which helps DACA recipients pay their legal fees. PLUMAS received a Do Good Mini-Grant in 2019 to support the DREAM Fund.
PLUMAS successfully helped advocate for the university to terminate its contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which was finalized this past March. UMD previously offered counterterrorism training to homeland security investigators through its National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism under a five year contract that was set to end in March, 2022, according to Stamp Student Union’s website.
Rivera said that this contract left many Latinx and immigrant students feeling unsafe and unheard. So, she and PLUMAS took on a leadership role in the advocacy during the fall of 2020, creating the “RACE to end the ICE Contracts” coalition of organizations that supported the contract’s cancellation, drafting a petition, and attending administrative meetings on the issue.
“Not having the contract in place definitely helps people feel like they could come to campus without having to look over their shoulder,” Rivera said. “And also I think it helped students feel more at ease, going to the university, knowing that the university isn't as complicit in their oppression with UMD canceling these contracts.”
As a leader, Rivera focuses on practicing empathy and supporting her fellow PLUMAS members.
“A line that was told to me by the undocumented student coordinator at UMD, Rocío Fregoso-Mota, is that sometimes, when you're taking care of the community, you forget that you're also part of the community,” Rivera said. “And so I focus on ensuring that my group mates are well taken care of and making sure that we have each others’ backs.”
Rivera noted that one of the best ways the UMD professors and administration can support Latinx students is by being flexible when planning meetings with students and establishing deadlines. Since many Latinx students are commuters, she said, it can be difficult for them to work around faculty schedules.
“The best thing they can do is to work around students' needs and times rather than expecting students to meet them halfway,” she said. “As a school that is wealthy, they have the resources to work with students, instead of expecting students to work for them.”
As for UMD students, Rivera said that PLUMAS welcomes any student interested in joining, and membership is not limited to Latinx students. She also said that the broader UMD community should bear in mind that the Latinx community is not a monolith. The community is extensive and diverse, meaning there is no one size fits all solution to Latinx issues.
“Even though we’re the minority on campus, literally five minutes away from campus we’re in the majority,” Rivera said. “The Latinx community isn't just your one or two Latinx friends in your classes, but it's also the housekeepers at UMD. It's the maintenance workers at UMD, the people working in the diner, the people who are at the small family restaurant down the street. We’re everywhere, so be more conscious and respectful to those folks.”
Want to learn more? You can follow PLUMAS on Instagram and Twitter at @plumasatumd, or visit their website at plumasumd.wixsite.com/home, To find ways to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org.