Name: Cyndi Jimenez
Organization: Workers Defense Project
Hometown: Austin, Texas
As a youth member of a social justice advocacy organization Workers Defense Project (WDP), Cyndi has taken on a leadership role that rivals many of the adult members. She has run employment rights trainings in front of construction workers twice her age, and in addition to being able to hold her own and deliver the information, she is able to convince trainees to act out scenarios in front of the class. She has completed the leadership training course WDP offers and participates in monthly member meetings. Above and beyond her involvement as a member, Cyndi volunteers her time providing childcare, calling supporters about upcoming events, and contributing her ideas and energy to further the organization’s objectives. This is not simply volunteering: it is living as an energetic, active member of a dynamic community. At the root of Cyndi’s passion is her awareness that the issues she tackles with WDP are a matter of life and death, particularly in Texas, where every 2.5 days a construction worker dies on the job. Construction workers are subjected to unsafe working conditions that have cost many their lives and continue to jeopardize the safety of other construction workers, including Cyndi’s father.
What challenges has she overcome?:
As immigrants in the U.S., Cyndi and her family face challenges that most U.S. citizens do not think twice about. From workplace abuse to navigating the educational system to interacting with people and institutions that are unwelcoming and/or alienating to immigrants, Cyndi’s firsthand knowledge of injustice afforded her a unique perspective regarding inequality and the active role she can play in addressing and overcoming those injustices. Her high level of involvement with WDP connected her to others outside of school from which she could seek guidance in order to graduate from high school and prepare for college. As the oldest child in her family she uses her bilingualism to serve as the bridge connecting her parents to several institutions and to advocate for her parents and for her family’s well-being. Despite her young age, Cyndi has assumed responsibilities that one typically associates with adults/parents and displayed an exceptional degree of courage. Cyndi’s willingness to be so vocal and visible is even more remarkable given the anti-immigrant sentiment prevalent in Texas that has caused many immigrants and their families to remain silent when they are being taken advantage of and/or discriminated against.
What makes her a leader?:
She is a daughter, sister, friend, ally, and community leader. Working alongside her is confirmation that you’re on the right team. Through the hard work, time, and effort she contributes every day to building a strong community, she has made – and will continue to make – tangible, important differences in the world. The members, staff, and volunteers of WDP, Cyndi’s family and friends, and community members in Austin who fight for social justice have a lot to learn from such a vibrant, outspoken, inspiring, and fearless young Latina.
What extra-curricular activities is she involved in?:
Given all of her involvement in her family and community, it is almost surprising that Cyndi has energy to commit to other activities, but she does, and she approaches her interests with the same fervor as she approaches all other aspects of her life. Cyndi recently graduated from high school. She will be taking her passion and talent for art and self-expression to Austin Community College to study graphic design and photography. Cyndi’s love of music, anime, and experimenting with make-up and fashion are also all a testament of her creative and unique spirit. In general, Cyndi is not afraid to push and expand boundaries not only for her sake, but also for the sake of others.
How is she a good example and positive role model to other girls?:
Cyndi has changed the lives of the people around her both through her commitment to advocacy and activism and through her compassionate, winning personality. The work she does changes the lives of people in her community, and the attitude she brings to it changes whomever she meets. Cyndi provides an amazing example of empowerment to her younger sister, who at age seven knows a good classroom rule is, “que respetamos a las mujeres!” She encourages the younger girls who participate in WDP to stand up for themselves and take care of one and other, and their adoration for her is proof that she has made a positive impact on their lives.