Serving her community

Carolina junior Fiorela Villegas extended her SECU Public Fellows summer internship to continue serving her community this semester.

Fiorela Villegas standing outside and leaning against a column
Fiorela Villegas (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Carolina junior Fiorela Villegas is on a mission to give back to her community by bringing resources and opportunities to the Latinx population of North Carolina.

As she worked with nonprofit AMEXCAN this summer through the SECU Public Fellows Intern Program, she knew she didn’t want to leave her work behind at the start of the fall semester. AMEXCAN informs members of the Latino community about programs and services that are available and encourages them to participate in the community.

Launched at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2020, the SECU Public Fellows Intern Program pairs students with local leadership for paid internships so the students can gain professional experience and assist rural communities in our state.

Villegas extended her summer internship to continue into the fall semester, and she’s leveraging her experience with the nonprofit and her studies in political science to give back to her community.

Continue reading to learn how Villegas and the Carolina Center for Public Service program are helping to serve our state.

What is AMEXCAN’s mission?

The mission of AMEXCAN is to promote the participation of Mexican and Latino people in North Carolina in their communities and encourage the Mexican and Latino community through culture, education, leadership, health, advocacy and binational programs.

What type of work are you doing as an intern with AMEXCAN?

I’m mainly doing advocacy work and public policy work, so bringing attention to Latino issues and concerns via forums, workshops and in-person events. My main role as the Advocacy and Civic Engagement Coordinator is to ensure Latinos in North Carolina have equal access to opportunities and representation in the areas of civics, law and government. One event was “Latino Votes in North Carolina,” which addressed the low Latino-voter turnout during the 2020 elections.

Villegas handing a man an orange draw string bag

Villegas working at a AMEXCAN booth at a community event. (Image courtesy of AMEXCAN)

How is your time with AMEXCAN benefitting your education and future goals?

I’m studying political science and medical anthropology with the goal of going to law school. I want to work in the nonprofit sector as an attorney and serve communities that don’t have access to legal services. Closing that gap of legal equity is really important to me for my future career goals.

Why did you decide to continue your work with AMEXCAN this semester?

The staff at AMEXCAN are really supportive and engaging, and they’re always willing to work with you and guide you. My parents, Obdulia and Jorge Villegas were born in Mexico and have always been a true motivation for me. Despite all the barriers they faced, they managed to overcome any issues they encountered. I’m very proud to say I’m their daughter. They have always stood by me and pushed me toward achieving my lifelong goals. As a Mexican-American, my culture and family are very important to me. I also know there are other students at Carolina who also have mixed-status families and face unique legal and economic barriers. For these reasons, I decided to continue my work with AMEXCAN to serve and give back to Latino communities.

Why is the work you do with AMEXCAN so important?

I think if my parents had access to these resources when I was young, it really would have been helpful. Oftentimes, people in my community can be shy or too proud to accept resources. Part of our work is breaking that stigma and making it clear that if anyone needs help, we’re available, and we’re willing to help anybody in the community.