By Leona Amosah
From the green tobacco fields of North Carolina to the halls of the North Carolina General Assembly, José Cisneros ’17, a history and economics major from Snow Hill, North Carolina, has worked hard to not only understand the plight of rural farm workers but also to diligently advocate on behalf of North Carolina’s undocumented students. This summer, Cisneros worked with Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) as an APPLES Service-Learning intern through the Carolina Center for Public Service (CCPS).
Cisneros’ interest in SAF grew from a personal connection he had with the organization’s line of work. “My mother grew up on a farm in rural Mexico, where she worked every day the first 16 years of her life. When we moved to the U.S., she continued to do farm work in North Carolina’s tobacco and sweet potato fields for seven years, and I also worked in tobacco during the summer when I was in high school,” said Cisneros. “From the fields, I learned so much about life, family and perseverance. I wanted to get involved in the farmworker movement in order to learn more about social justice and be able to do something positive for the Hispanic community.”
Cisneros was introduced to public service at Carolina through the First-Year Service Corps, also offered through CCPS. As an APPLES intern with SAF, Cisneros coordinated lobbying events and meetings with North Carolina senators and representatives. He also advocated for farmworkers and the Hispanic community in North Carolina and participated in the SAF Into the Fields Theater Group, which performed a play about alcoholism and alternate ways to deal with depression and isolation.
“The best thing about my internship is the growth that I’ve experienced as a leader and advocate,” Cisneros said. ”At first, I was very intimidated and even scared to be in a place with so many powerful and influential men and women. However, I have learned to not be afraid and to have a voice in order to have a bigger impact and advocate more effectively. The lessons I’ve learned and the people I’ve [met] have certainly left a mark on me, and I want to continue to work for a better, more equal society.”