The life of Helen Keller is a widely known story in the United States, commonly referred to in conversations of resiliency, or on topics of overcoming difficult situations. Books such as The Miracle Worker by William Gibson, The World I Live In by Helen Keller, or Teacher: Anne Sullivan Macy by Helen Keller tell the story of a deaf and blind girl who, despite her disabilities, attended Radcliffe College of Harvard University in 1900 and became a lecturer. Her story of resiliency exceeds time and culture: in an eighth grade classroom in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the successes of Helen Keller touched a young Regina Montoya in a remarkable way.
If you are looking for an inspiring story spurred from within generation Z, enter Cassandra Hernandez. She is only a junior in high school yet she has already advocated for critical education policy, attended protests in her community, and stood as a voice against gentrification in her Oak Cliff neighborhood. As our youngest feature subject thus far, we hope you are as impressed as we are, here at Lone Star Parity Project. Meet our Gen Z hero: Cassandra.
Lillian Salerno, one of nine children, is an entrepreneur, lawyer, and former appointee of the Obama administration, has managed to leave her own mark on the Texas community. In the most recent stage of her long and successful career, Lillian ran for the United States House of Representatives for Texas District 32, which is mostly the northern and eastern part of Dallas county. After making it to the democratic primary runoff in May 2018, Lillian was defeated by Colin Allred. Her loss, though, didn’t stop her from continuing to fight for her fellow Texans. Lillian started Pod Bless Texas, an irreverent and conversational podcast showcasing the behind-the-scenes of Texas politics by giving voice to passionate Texas politicians. “I feel so strongly that Texas is sitting here being one of the reasons whether this country moves in the right direction or not,” she said. “I happen to be in this position where I know a few things that might help… [and] I want to do everything I can to help during this critical period.”
Susan Long is the founder of How She Got Here, a podcast of “conversations with everyday extraordinary women.” Through her podcast, Susan has uncovered a deep-seated interest in women’s empowerment and leadership, hoping to transform society’s vision of women for generations to come. She wants to help women in the United States, especially those who listen to her podcast, push past the simple opportunity to “be at the table” and instead recognize that women have a right to be at the table. It is through her podcast that Susan recognized the need to continue sharing the stories of women to bring equilibrium to the table of leadership – especially in politics.
The word “diaspora” is defined by Merriam- Webster Dictionary as “the movement, migration, or scattering of a people away from an established or ancestral homeland”. In the world of literature, diaspora often explains a nostalgia for the past and a longing for what once was. To be removed from what is familiar and transplanted into a new life can be terrifying, especially when the only friend you have is fear of the uncertain life ahead. It takes bravery and confidence to confront your individual diaspora, and Sana Syed’s story of leaving behind what is familiar to venture into a foreign life produces pure inspiration. Sana experienced what she calls a “unique life.” With immigrant parents from Pakistan, Sana often felt a tug between her parents’ heritage and the culture of the United States. Her extended family also frequently experienced these dilemmas because Sana’s father encouraged his family to move to the United States, support their financial burdens until accustomed to their new lives, and anchor their family to the American Dream. Unfortunately, Sana entered the cycle domestic violence at a young age that was later repeated in her adult life. The story of Sana’s journey through domestic violence is not meant as a plea for sympathy, but as a comfort to others: the diaspora that Sana has endured is the motivation for her work to prevent and end domestic violence.
Jennifer Gates, Dallas City Councilwoman and Registered Nurse, grew up in a family focused on civic engagement and participation. Growing up, Gates witnesses the participation in service and politics. Both her mother and father focused on giving back to the community through civic engagement and philanthropic opportunities. Gates worked as a pediatric nurse before she saw an opportunity and seized it to take a more active role in her community.
Aylin Segura, an entering freshman at Mountain View College and aspiring dentist, gained her first insight into politics during her freshman year at Skyline High School after campaigning for Wendy Davis in the 2014 Texas Gubernatorial Race. From there, she has testified on legislation affecting sex education in schools, received statewide news media attention for her work with gun violence prevention on campuses, and, now, chartered the first ever menstrual equity initiative in Texas. She is passionate vessel for student welfare and can’t be stopped. This is (HER)story.
Pamela Luther is currently seeking the Democratic nomination for Dallas County Court of Criminal Appeals #2. Though she hasn’t run for office before, she has led her way into a Primary runoff, making her one of the top two candidate picks for the Dallas County Democratic Party. Luther holds one of the most interesting and valuable experiences for her race: she has not only served as a Public Defender but also a Prosecutor for Dallas County – giving her insight on both sides of the courtroom. Now, Luther wants to use this incredible experience to serve her hometown county as a judge, where she will no longer persuade a decision but determine it.
Sasha Moreno is seeking the Democratic nomination for Dallas County Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4-2. She is currently taking part in a Primary runoff election, that will finally come to a close on election day, May 22nd. Even in the face of an additional election cycle, Moreno feels victorious knowing she battled the odds to land a spot in the primary run off. Though she wasn’t pegged as the original candidate favored to win the race, Moreno has dedicatedly served countless hours on the block walking trail, vowing to serve the community who has believed in her thus far. Moreno is the hardworking, self-proclaimed “underdog”, destined for greatness.
Lesli Gray is currently running her first campaign for a seat on the city council in Addison, TX, a 4.3 square-mile suburb outside of Dallas. However, this isn’t her first run-in with the political arena.She began her career working in and around the Capitol, spending time on Capitol Hill, working for a House Committee, a federal agency and NGOs. To summarize her work experience: Gray has spent most of her life in public service. Now, she hopes to utilize her experience while serving the community she calls home.