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Small Organization. Big Goals. Kalisa's Experience with the NHLA

Kalisa Mora spent her summer with the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda.

“It’s possible for a small army to make a big impact,” said Kalisa Mora about what she’s learned at her summer fellowship with the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA).

Mora, a second-generation Mexican-American immigrant, grew up in a small town in Oklahoma’s panhandle, surrounded by a Hispanic community. A first-hand witness of various hardships - financial or otherwise -, Mora said she became accustomed to individual struggling. Her decision to pursue law school was borne from her passion to help others, and a desire to become a credible resource for those in need.

While looking for summer experiences that would align with her future goals, Mora focused on policy work in the Washington, D.C. area. She stumbled into the NHLA, an organization she had never heard of, along the way.

“I started looking at their mission and I realized it was kind of perfect for what I want to do, because I want to work with immigration policy and their agenda is to look at all policy areas,” said Mora, who describes the NHLA as a big community.

NHLA’s mission “calls for unity among Latinos across the country to provide the Hispanic community with greater visibility and a clearer, stronger influence in our country’s affairs.” NHLA also works to bring Hispanic leaders together to help establish policies regarding major issues affecting the Latino community and the nation.

Mora’s responsibilities as a fellow were wide-ranging, and she learned a lot about time management and flexibility while on the job. She conducted interviews for an initiative that addresses the lack of Latinos in public service;wrote press releases and blog entries about recent Supreme Court case rulings, and how they specifically impact Latinos.

Because NHLA is a non-partisan organization, the writing that Mora did must be non-partisan as well, something she had to work at.

“I’m definitely not 'non-partisan' myself, so learning how to write press releases and blogs staying neutral has been challenging,” she said.

Separating personal views from professional ones can be hard at any time, but particularly so during a charged election year. Although the political fighting has not been as bad in D.C. as Mora expected - she suspects that’s because candidates don’t go to D.C. while campaigning - it has given her a unique perspective, and the chance to learn things she doesn’t believe she would have if it were not an election year.

Mora spent time at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. At both conventions, the NHLA hosted several events and partnered with several other organizations as well.

Their presidential engagement campaign allows the NHLA to sit down with both candidates and highlight what is important to the Latino community. This information benefits both parties; Latino communities can have their voices heard, and candidates learn what policies they need to implement to gain Hispanic voters.

Working at a non-partisan organization has reinforced the importance of working across the table for Mora. Having attended the conventions, and seeing the divisiveness that some people thrive off of, has been an eye-opening experience.

“I’ve learned how to look at a situation from any and all sides, and evaluate any possibility, which will help me when I return to school,” said Mora. Outside of the classroom, this fellowship has given her a clearer idea of what she wants to do. Working at the intersection between policy and law, Mora hopes to evaluate the impact on everyday Americans and their communities, and advocate for policy change to benefit citizens.

Mora credits her parents with first setting her on this determined path; growing up watching them work diligently in the community, and going above and beyond on the call of service, made her aspire to work that hard as well.

“A quote from Nelson Mandela states, ‘There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living’  has been a guiding path for my career,” said Mora. “It’s important to me to use my life and knowledge of policy and law to speak for those who don’t have a voice at the table.”

Author: Michelle Flanagan, ‘18, Communication Intern