Meet the newest member of the Cal Walks Team: Alma Leyva Orozco
I didn’t think much of it when I was young, but very seldom did my family or I walk and bike in my neighborhood. My parents always felt that it was safer and more accessible to bike either inside the small common areas of our apartment complex and nearby empty lots or to go to a park in a “nicer” city. I didn’t understand it then, but my personal safety on multiple levels was a big concern for my parents. Not only did my parents fear for my physical safety walking and biking in an area where bicyclists and pedestrians were disregarded, but they were also constantly worried and anxious about our immigration status—how exercising the right to access and simply be in public spaces could have dire life-changing consequences. While growing up undocumented brought with it many challenges, my upbringing provided me with a deep understanding of inequity and ignited a passion for justice that has been the driving force of everything I’ve been involved in.
My community’s early investment in my leadership allowed me to gain the tools to advocate and understand both organizing and policy. I started advocating for the DREAM Act out of sheer necessity to find a solution to the issues I was facing as an undocumented young person in Orange County. I used my experiences as a queer woman of color to really put into practice intersectionality in my organizing and work. My community organizing led me to work on an innovative immigrant health research project called Healthy California. This project pushed me critically think about health, to put into words how my undocumented experience impacted my physical and mental health. Healthy California helped me develop my passion for policy, leadership development, and research justice. I had the opportunity to bring my resident leadership development programming skills back home to Orange County, where I worked on a program called the Leadership Institute in Santa Ana. In my role as Capacity Development Coordinator with Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities, I dove further into what it meant to improve community health where we live, work, and play and advanced an intersectional approach to health by tackling issues like affordable housing, community-driven economies, land use, mental health and education. All of this through a community-centered approach.
I am excited to join the Cal Walks team to continue to push for health equity and active transportation for the communities where I grew up and the many more just like mine across California. I look forward to continuing to expand community involvement in the work that Cal Walks does and to work on bridging the gap between policy advocacy at the local and state level.