"It was Pace’s motto of “Opportunitas” that attracted me to the University. I wanted to attend a college that would cater to me as an immigrant and a first-generation student, and would provide me with the full college experience..."
– Lisdy Contreras Giron​, Class of 2019

Dyson DREAMer Lisdy Contreras Giron​ ’19, Criminal Justice, lends her impassioned voice at Senator Gillibrand rally as part of her Pace Path to success.

You are a DREAMer and first-generation college student. What is your background, and how you have transformed your struggles into success, achieving the American Dream in the process?

I came to the United States from Guatemala at the age of five with my parents, who brought me here in search of a better life and education, with their selfless act of love to sacrifice everything and inspire and motivate me. The American Dream, although individual, is an overarching pursuit of passion and hard work, which are essentially the same values instilled in me by my parents. I believe it is vivid and attainable because I see my parent’s aspirations, desires and dreams lived through me in each milestone I accomplish. My American Dream is to complete my education and give back to my community and country through my public service, as I aspire to help advocate for others and make a career of this rewarding life work.

You recently spoke at a presidential campaign kickoff rally for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. What was your journey to this moment like, and as an immigration advocate, what do you wish to achieve through your voice?

I interned for Senator Gillibrand about two years ago, and was also selected during that time to attend a Joint Congressional Address as her guest. In addition, I had participated in a previous press conference with her and New York Congressman Espaillat on the topic of the DREAM Act when it was in limbo in late 2017. More recently, I was asked to speak at the presidential campaign rally about my story and how imperative immigration reform is as one of Senator Gillibrand’s campaign values. As an immigration advocate, I use my personal narrative to voice to, and fight for, those who resonate and relate with my story and struggles, but I also want to use my platform to advocate for all types of defenseless and marginalized groups. I want to work towards changing the system and leveling the playing field for all.

What attracted you to Pace and the study of Criminal Justice?

It was Pace’s motto of “Opportunitas” that attracted me to the University. I wanted to attend a college that would cater to me as an immigrant and a first-generation student, and would provide me with the full college experience, as well as equip me professionally and socially for the next step in my life. The reason why I chose Criminal Justice as my major is because I believe that it is a system that needs reform and I believe in being the change that you want to see in the world.

What have your experiences with the Criminal Justice Department been like?

I have been able to learn so much throughout my four-year degree program through class lectures, but most importantly, hands-on experience in internships in my field. For example, I had the opportunity to work on faculty-led research on the topic of terrorism which I presented at the Academy of Criminal Justice Science’s conference in New Orleans last year.  I have also been guided by Professor Werner, who retired, and Professor Martirano, who have watched me grow as a student and even wrote my letters of recommendations for other opportunities.

Have you been involved in on-campus activities that were meaningful to you?

My most meaningful on-campus involvement relates to positions in which I served as a mentor. I was a mentor in the African American, Latino, Asian, and Native American (AALANA) mentorship program, the Setter's Leadership program, and as a second year Resident Assistant. Through these roles, I have had the opportunity to work one-on-one with my mentees and residents and help guide them towards achieving their full potential, allowing me to fulfill my passion and commitment to serve and give back to others. There is nothing more rewarding than being able to impact another person's life and to be a part of their journey to success. To bring out the greatness in others is the most victorious thing that a good leader can do.

You are graduating in May 2019. What are the next steps for you?

I just took the LSAT a couple of weeks ago, but I actually decided to take a year off to work, perhaps in a law firm, while I continue preparing for the LSAT and law school applications. My ultimate career goal is to become a prosecutor. My internship at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office this past summer as a casework intern reinforced my passion to go into public service.

What is the most important advice you can provide to current students?

Embrace your background, embrace your struggle, embrace your story. It is the resilience you have built from your fight against adversity that allows you to be here at this moment.  Don’t let any of your titles limit you, don’t let anyone tell you no, dream big and work hard.

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