This past year in Public Allies has been inspiring, challenging, and formative. I moved to New York from Seattle two years ago, and joining the program gave me a sense of community I hadn’t felt since leaving home. I learned lessons about the nature of community, power, privilege, oppression, responsibility, and potential. Through my job placement at the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), I expanded my knowledge of the different realities people face as immigrants in this country, and although I moved from France and grew up within a Persian family in Seattle, I did not experience firsthand how broken our immigration system really is. The fact that millions of people are denied access to social services, live in fear of deportation, do not have the ability to reach their professional and economic potentials, are split up because of family members’ different immigration status – these are all human rights violations. Working at the NYIC gave me a deeper understanding of how a statewide coalition operates to bring these issues forward in collaboration with various stakeholders, and through this experience I realized my passion for humanizing social issues through photography, writing, and the arts. As this year comes to a close, I understand that the biggest fear I had was associated with realizing that in order to create change you have to create your life from your own truth, understanding of self, and vision for how you hope the world to become. This can be hard to do when the very systems created to help and serve are flawed themselves, and I believe it is imperative to pair critical thinking with an open and creative mind in order to understand how to do social justice work ethically. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have spent this year alongside such intelligent, passionate, creative, and badass individuals and I can’t wait to see what everyone continues to do and who we continue to become.