F&M Stories

Connecting the Dots in Immigration and Refugee Reform

Born in Guatemala and raised in Boston, Franklin & Marshall College senior Leora Sammett grew up around diverse immigrant communities. But it wasn't until she arrived on campus that she fully realized her passion for working with immigrants and refugees.

"Coming to college, I didn't know this, but Lancaster is essentially a sanctuary city. There are so many refugees and immigrants here," Sammett said. "So it's been an interest of mine since coming to F&M—working with immigrants and refugees. I wasn't born in this country, so I feel that pull."

Sammett compared F&M's home city to her own of Boston, which she described as one of the most segregated cities in the country.

"Making that connection with Boston—it's something that I'm now conscious of here, the breakdown of communities. This is something that exists all over the country, and these are amazing communities that are underserved that I want to support," she said.

This serendipitous connection encouraged Sammett to take advantage of her space at F&M and nourish her interests. She became vice president of Define American, an F&M student organization that supports immigrant students and undocumented students on campus, and declared a major in sociology and a minor in Spanish—disciplines she feels are crucial to her intended career path.

"Sociology provides me with that basic understanding of 'What is a society?'" she said. "We can't tackle social justice issues in ways we're going to better ourselves without that fundamental knowledge."

Sammett also added two internships to her resume, both of which not only opened her eyes to the different avenues her desired career can take, but also took place in the two cities that sparked her passion in the first place. In Boston, she spent this past summer interning with Jewish Vocational Services, an organization her synagogue introduced her to. Sammett, who received donor funding for this internship through the Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development (OSPGD)'s summer experience funds, described this experience as "micro-level." She worked directly with the city's refugee population, assisting with translation work, wellness check-in calls and career services such as resume building, job searches, practice interviews and more. In Lancaster, Sammett is using the fall to explore the "macro-level" by diving into immigration policy through an internship with CASA, the largest grassroots immigrant advocacy organization in the mid-Atlantic region.

When she was a first-year at F&M, Sammett felt she was limited in her knowledge of what it means to migrate and be an immigrant. Now, as a senior, she believes her internships, courses and campus experiences have given her a more focused lens through which she can view the United States and understand how to improve the quality of life for people not born in the U.S.

"Being at a liberal arts school means that I'm interacting with people from all over, that I'm exposed to different ideas. I think that has made me more empathetic than I already am," Sammett said. "I don't know what form my degree is going to take, but there's so much within immigration reform and policy I can work with that I'm excited to explore."

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