A day as a youth organizer at CHIRLA

This story is part of our IRLE Engaged Learning Series. This series highlights the experiences of students connected to IRLE and their contributions within both our own units and local community organizations.

By Vanessa Codilla | July 29, 2021 

Micaela Aragon, a rising second year double majoring in labor studies and public affairs, is passionate about immigrants’ rights and civic engagement.

This summer, she is a Youth Organizer for the Coalition of Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) initiative WiseUp!, a program that brings together high school students to participate in activities and workshops that help them build leadership skills and that prepare them for college. 

As a former WiseUp! intern herself, Aragon’s participation at CHIRLA began in 2019 when she was in her junior year of high school. She learned about how students in the Los Angeles area advocated for better education, particularly for Latinx students, that challenged the school-to-prison pipeline. 

She credits the program for “completely changing the trajectory” of her life and continued volunteering as a core member of the program. She helped to organize a march with over a thousand protestors in support of DACA in 2019 and participated in media interviews through NBC and Telemundo to advocate for immigrant rights in 2020.

Given Aragon’s continued involvement at CHIRLA, her mentor and director of the WiseUp! initiative offered her a Youth Organizer position for this year’s summer program. 

“It has been a full circle trip back, and I am incredibly honored to be here,” said Aragon. “Being able to work directly with high school students has been so meaningful to me… especially because a lot of these students are first-gen, low income immigrant students. Being able to give them information that impacted me so much when I was their age has been something that’s incredibly rewarding for me.”

Aragon shared details about a typical work day as a youth organizer at CHIRLA below.

Job Title: Youth Organizer at The Coalition of Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) 

Department: Organizing 

Location: Los Angeles Office (CHIRLA also has offices in Sacramento and Washington D.C.) 

Employer Type: Non-Profit Community Organization 

Employer Size: 100 – 150 employees

What is your schedule like? 

My position is part-time so I work 5 hours a day for a total of 20 hours a week. I go into the office once a week and work remotely the rest of the days. For this week, for example, today we held a virtual class via Zoom and tomorrow we’re going to an in-person rally in downtown LA. 

What skills help you to be successful in this role? 

My lived experience and being able to connect with the community I am serving, as well as communication and teamwork.  

Typical Remote Day: 

11 a.m.: I clock in, catch up on emails, and begin filling in my daily organizing team log to keep track of results and priorities for the week. 

12 p.m.: I go into the virtual classroom on Zoom and facilitate a 1.5 hour workshop. Today, the workshop topic was about the school-to-prison pipeline. It involved a lot of discussion and students had space to share their personal experiences, particularly being from lower income schools, and learn about the actions they can take. We got to learn so much about our students and the population that we’re serving.  

1:30 p.m.: We ended class with the reminder that tomorrow there will be an in-person rally. I then checked in with my supervisor to discuss the logistics of the event and general housekeeping items.  

2:00 p.m.: I had my hour break and made a meal. That’s probably the best part of being remote – that I’m not spending money on lunch! I can just go to my kitchen and cook a meal. 

3:00 p.m.: For the remaining hour of my day, I prepared for tomorrow’s event. I created a facilitator outline and since I’ll be driving a few students, I reached out to them to coordinate pick-up and drop-off locations. Lastly, I began filling out reimbursement tabs for providing transportation for students. 

4:00 p.m.: I’m all prepared for tomorrow’s event and I clock out for the day! 

If you have any questions or are interested in getting involved with CHIRLA, connect with Micaela Aragon on LinkedIn.