Mari Luna is actively working to help immigrants in the United States. She currently serves as a community organizer for Movimiento Cosecha, a movement that fights for the rights of all immigrants.
“Movimiento Cosecha has really allowed me to work directly with the people most impacted and center their voices when working with them to make a difference,” she explains.
The position is a perfect fit for Mari. She’s pursuing her degree in Civic Leadership at O’Neill while earning a Liberal Arts certificate in Social Justice Organizing. O’Neill is where she’s been able to learn the tools to pursue her passion for civic engagement.
She’s taken those classroom lessons and put them to use in real-life applications, advocating for bills that would provide tuition benefits to undocumented students and driver’s licenses to all Indiana residents. She also volunteers in programs addressing food insecurity, higher education, and basic needs access for historically excluded communities in Indianapolis.
“O’Neill has allowed me to see different perspectives and helped me realize there is a lot of theory within the curriculum that can change once you are doing the work out in the community,” she says.
Understanding those differences has strengthened some of her own perspectives while challenging others. She says that has allowed her to both seek out and create blended forms of engagement for herself and others.
“Civic engagement helps people see that they have a voice in our society,” Mari explains. “They have the right to say what needs to be improved in their communities and to hold people accountable when it’s not being done.”
Her work to amplify often unheard voices has earned her the William M. Plater Civic Engagement Medallion during her final days with O’Neill. The award honors graduates who deliver on their community commitment through projects such as service-learning, volunteerism, advocacy, and political engagement.
“I was excited to see that the work I am doing is being recognized,” she admits. “It’s also motivating to know that this work is impactful and setting an example of what civic engagement can look like. I hope this encourages others to be civically engaged and to center the voices of the communities they are engaging with.”
For Mari, it’s about being at the table for important conversations and helping others find a seat, even on campus. She serves as the president of the Undergraduate Student Government, the vice president of the All University Student Association, and the former president Alliance for Immigrant Justice. And she wants other students to know their voice has value at IUPUI and beyond.
“Students are the center of the IUPUI community but are also vital members of communities outside of campus,” Mari says. “Students need to know they are often the most impacted people at the table. Without their input, the overall wellness of their communities will not improve. The more they engage the more change they will see.”