Paying It Forward at Penn

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Media Contact:Jeanne Leong | jleong@upenn.edu | 215-573-8151October 9, 2013

University of Pennsylvania senior Diana Estrada Alamo’s academic concentration is in infectious diseases, but her interest in good health extends to every aspect of her own life and the people she advocates for and mentors.

In high school in Seattle, Estrada Alamo interned at the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, working on tuberculosis research. And, as she puts it, she “fell in love with it.”

“I didn’t know anything about global health until I did that internship, and it completely changed my life,” Estrada Alamo says. “The idea of being a global citizen in a globalized world where your actions directly affect people in places such as India, Indonesia, Mexico and elsewhere really appealed to me.”

An anthropology major, Estrada Alamo is active in more than a dozen groups on campus. She is particularly drawn to organizations that do advocacy work and mentoring, including Lamda Alliance, La Casa Latina and PennCAP, the college achievement program that works with Penn students from the time they’re freshmen through graduation.

“Mentorship is the only way I got to Penn,” Estrada Alamo says.  “It’s incredibly important to continue those cycles of mentorship if we want to advance ourselves as a community.”

In high school, Estrada Alamo was involved in advocacy work for undocumented residents.

As a freshman, Estrada Alamo arrived on campus as an undocumented student. Her parents came to the United States from Mexico with her older brother when she was 2 years old. 

During the summer, she was granted status to obtain work permits under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, so, for the first time, she can feel confident that she can continue on to graduate school and find a job.

Estrada Alamo says, “Until now, I could only do volunteer work and extracurricular work on campus.”

Estrada Alamo is co-chair of the campus group Queer People of Color.

“Our community is very much invisible in the sense that for a lot of queer people of color, identity looks a lot different than what is portrayed in the mainstream LGBT political movement, as well as youth who are just finding out who they are, and whatever their sexual identity is.”

QPOC members participate in mentoring youth in Philadelphia.

“There are a lot of queer people of color in high school who don’t have any role models who are in college or who are in jobs that are outside of the blue collar jobs that their parents work in,” says Estrada Alamo. “They may not have anyone who says, ‘You can make it to a university and you can succeed there.’”

The next step for her academically is to apply to a master of public health program.  And, she’ll continue her advocacy work.

She’s had opportunities to grow personally and academically at Penn and she wants others to experience that as well.

“The idea of access has been the unifying theme,” Estrada Alamo says “This idea of access and who gets it and how do we evaluate those systems is what interests me the most.” 

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