January 23, 2022

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Honors Graduate, a Champion of Immigrants, Dedicated to Public Provider : Rutgers-Camden Campus News

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Melani Cruz Stokes with her mom and dad, Nelly Cruz and Melvin Stokes.

By Sam Starnes

Melani Cruz Stokes—who graduates this spring with many honors from Rutgers University–Camden—accomplished substantially in her abbreviated time on campus: She done her felony justice degree in only 3 many years though earning a excellent 4.00 quality place typical served as president of a campus firm supporting undocumented immigrant pupils and participated in a prestigious intercontinental fellowship devoted to human rights.

In her final 12 months at Rutgers–Camden, Cruz Stokes, a 2018 graduate of Cherry Hill West Significant Faculty who lives in Stratford, led an hard work to elevate $5,000 that supported undocumented and international Rutgers–Camden pupils who had been not eligible for federal COVID-19 aid. She also worked with the Chancellor’s Office environment to support establish a job pressure to support undocumented pupils, among other advocacy and local community efforts.

What inspired her to execute so a great deal in a short time as a university student in Rutgers–Camden’s Honors Faculty?

“It’s the emotion I get when I know that I’ve aided an individual or created a change in someone’s daily life,” Cruz Stokes suggests. “That’s why I’m so passionate about community support and offering again to my local community and taking part in advocacy work on campus and in my group. Just offering again means so substantially to me.”

Cruz Stokes suggests her want to aid some others started at residence. Her father, Melvin Stokes, is an administrator of substance abuse applications, and her mother, Nelly Cruz, is a behavioral therapist for youth. “I have usually been motivated by how they have been brokers of improve and their great of services earlier mentioned self,” claims Cruz Stokes, who added that a next motivating issue driving her is that she needs to be a superior position model for younger kinfolk.

Cruz Stokes suggests she cherishes the help she obtained from Rutgers–Camden faculty in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice and that conducting undergraduate investigate on COVID-19 responses in immigrant detention centers under the assistance of Sara Tosh, an assistant professor, was transformative. “She seriously opened my eyes to the unique possibilities of combining my academics with my desire in legislation and my enthusiasm for immigrants’ rights advocacy,” Cruz Stokes states.

As a student, Cruz Stokes served as president of the Rutgers–Camden chapter of Define American, a nationwide firm that advocates for undocumented college students she volunteered for the Rutgers Immigrant Group Aid Undertaking, a Rutgers Law University program to present immigration legal products and services to Rutgers students and she participated on the Camden County Juvenile Meeting Committee, an business that functions with the courts to assist very first-time juvenile offenders.

Cruz Stokes formulated her passion for doing the job on immigration difficulties at Rutgers–Camden when she learned about the increasing troubles struggling with undocumented immigrant students. “I often assumed that staying a double minority—being Black and Latina—and remaining a female that I didn’t have privilege, but I now fully grasp that I have privileges that other people really do not, these as U.S. citizenship,” she says. “I want to be ready to generate and share the opportunities that I was born with with other men and women.”

In 2020, she was a person of 135 students worldwide picked as a fellow by Humanity in Action, an intercontinental organization based mostly in New York that is committed to social justice causes. The yearlong fellowship will allow honorees to understand with and from world wide leaders and to analyze the historic and modern issues to human rights.

Her fellowship initiatives integrated generation of the fund to assist undocumented learners and a limited documentary checking out the phrase “Afro-Latinidad,” a phrase used by individuals in the Latinx group who accept their African ancestry. “The documentary brings consciousness that there is no just one definitive way to define Afro-Latinidad, and also not everyone in the Latinx local community is accepting of their African ancestry,” she claims.

Cruz Stokes strategies to get the job done full-time for a calendar year prior to attending legislation university. Due to the fact February 2019, she has labored at the Trimble & Register law firm in Turnersville, and she credits husband or wife Katrina Sign up as getting a supportive mentor. Another mentor who has served tutorial her because high faculty is legal professional Shelia Ellington.

In the long run, Cruz Stokes says she wishes to grow to be a prosecutor. “I experience as nevertheless the prosecutor has the most discretion in the prison justice procedure, and they have the potential to have an impact on change in the group,” Cruz Stokes states. “I aspire to use my privilege and electrical power as a prosecutor to work in the finest desire of the group and to give again.”

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