A Door Opens

Felecia Russell '13

"Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?" Those words mean a lot to me because I have experienced powerful service and support in my own life, helping me to achieve my dreams and inspiring me to be of service to others as well. It takes real intention for me to focus on significance instead of success, meaning how do I think not less of myself, but think of myself less.

That point came for me two years ago. I call it my inflection point, that moment where I needed to figure out how I could make an impact on the world and not just focus on my own success. My mother immigrated to the United States when I was very young to provide a better life for me and my five siblings. I myself was brought to America at the age of 12. Without documentation, I found myself in a precarious position as a high school student, applying to colleges without access to the state and federal financial resources that were available to my peers. My only opportunity to receive funding for my education was from private scholarships.

To make matters worse, because I am a black immigrant from Jamaica, the scholarships intended for undocumented students were often closed to  me because I was not from one  a Hispanic country. My undocumented status was further pronounced in those moments.  But, even though those doors were closed to me, another one opened and I was awarded a sizable scholarship to California Lutheran University that made my transition to college possible.

It was with the support of Dr. Matt Ward, the Howie Family, my mother, a pastor and his family, church members that made it possible. Those people believed in my story and answered the call “what are you doing for others?” In 2013, I graduated from CLU with top honors. CLU was pivotal for me because of the kindness I was showed and I wanted to do more for others. So, I kept searching, praying, and seeking. And two years ago, God gave me my answer. I want to advocate and work for those just like myself, undocumented and resilient, which is why I created Embracing Undocumented, a platform to support undocumented students with scholarships and mentors and to provide educational institutions with transformative practices on how to work with undocumented people.

It has been a challenge to get Embracing Undocumented off the ground, but I know that it is the way I can give back to the community. I know that my deep sense of commitment to bring justice to the powerless, underserved and marginalized are being realized. I understand that we don’t all have the luxury to think about purpose because I didn’t for a while, but when you take the focus off yourself, you will find it. It will be your rent to God for taking up space on His earth.

Thank you, Cal Lutheran.

Felecia Russell '13

Inspired by the generosity of the Cal Lutheran community and in the spirit of pay it forward, Felecia Russell '13 established a scholarship to affirm and support Cal Lutheran DREAMers. You can also help support these students by clicking below. Thank you!

Support Cal Lutheran DREAMers