2019 Roddenberry Fellow
Vanessa Luna is the Co-Founder and Chief Program Officer of ImmSchools. She immigrated to the United States at the age of 10 from Lima, Peru. Growing up undocumented, she experienced various challenges but due to her parent’s resilience, she became the first one in her family to graduate from college. In 2014, she became a DACAmented teacher through Teach for America. As a teacher in Los Angeles and NYC, she witnessed the impact immigration continue to have on the students and parents she served, which inspired her to co-found ImmSchools. Vanessa holds a Bachelors in History from Binghamton University and a MA in Urban Education and Policy from Loyola Marymount University. She was awarded the Urban Education Student Researcher of the Year for her master thesis titled “The Fear of Deportation: The Effects of the Threat of Deportation and Mexican Youth ’s Views of their Community.” She has served as a founding member of Teach For America DACA Advisory board and was a 2018 Camelback Ventures Fellow. In 2019, she was selected as Forbes 30 under 30 in Education for her work at ImmSchools. She is inspired by the resilience of her parents and the immigrant and undocumented community to fight for educational equity and justice. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.
ImmSchools is an an immigrant led nonprofit organization that partners with K-12 schools districts and educators to support the unique needs of the undocumented and immigrant community. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 3.9 million K-12 students are undocumented or have at least one parent who is undocumented. Despite this large number and the fact that the K-12 system is one of the only public institutions that undocumented immigrants have access to due to Plyler v. Doe, less than 1% of school districts have publicly expressed their support, passed and are effectively implementing immigrant-friendly resolutions and practices to create safe learning spaces. We believe that our education system can become an effective source of communicating, educating and engaging the undocumented and immigrant community. ImmSchools’ project focuses on achieving long-term impact for undocumented and immigrant students and families by providing ongoing professional learning for educators, collaborating with local immigrant organization to provide workshops and resources for undocumented and immigrant students and families within schools and advocating for the passage of immigrant-friendly policies in K-12 school districts. This type of holistic approach will allow undocumented and immigrant students to feel safe in school and have greater access to opportunities, transforming their educational experience and empowering them to reach their full potential.