Member Spotlight on Nate Phillips, LALDEF Adult Education Programs Coordinator

We spoke to Nate Philips, Adult Education Programs Coordinator at member organization LALDEFa grassroots nonprofit organization formed to defend the civil rights of Latin Americans and facilitate their access to health care and education, as well as to advance cross-cultural understanding in the Mercer County area.

We asked Nate what he loves about his work. Here is what he shared,

“Independence day makes me think of the promise of the United States: liberty and justice for all. We have this ideal that the country has been chasing for hundreds of years… If the United States celebrates this aspiration, but people are fighting everyday for their basic rights, how can this make any sense?” — Nate Philips, Adult Education Programs Coordinator, LALDEF - The Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.

 

Nate on why it is important for LALDEF to support achieving policies in New Jersey that welcome and support immigrants...

The Alliance’s mission is very similar to LALDEF’s, which is to promote the rights of all immigrants. LALDEF focuses on the Latin American community in the Mercer County area facilitating access to health care, education and legal representation; advocate for the integration of immigrants; and foster intercultural communication to strengthen our communities). Just as the Alliance, LALDEF wishes to see immigrant communities thrive - not just be integrated, but really thrive, which can happen if policies promote economic, political and social prosperity for immigrants.

Nate on what initiatives LALDEF is leading… 

LALDEF is leading on many initiatives! In the Education department, we provide: English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), ESOL Tutoring, High School Equivalency Exam Prep in Spanish (HSE), Citizenship Preparation, Digital Literacy Workshops, and Drivers Education Workshops. We are currently looking for tutors, signing up students, and preparing for when classes start. 

 

LALDEF is also providing COVID19 resources and helping to get the community vaccinated through our vaccination outreach program. LALDEF offers all three vaccines: Pfzier, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Our next community vaccination event is August 4th!

 

We also lead on counseling and community advocacy efforts to assist community members in navigating the system, like healthcare, municipal IDs, etc. Support LALDEF on Facebook!

 

Nate on the meaning of Independence Day as an advocate...

The system is not perfect. In a true democracy, everyone should be heard and represented, and I don’t think we currently have that. Independence day makes me think of the promise of the United States: liberty and justice for all. We have this ideal that the country has been chasing for hundreds of years. We can celebrate it as much as we want, but when will we actually reach this ideal? What would it look like to live this ideal? If the United States celebrates this aspiration, but people are fighting everyday for their basic rights, how can this make any sense? It is difficult to celebrate such an ideal when injustice persists in this country. Movements, like Black Lives Matters, highlight the contradictions of this country. When will this ideal that Independence Day celebrates, be lived and enjoyed by all?

 

Nate on how he came into this work...

I went to college interested in pursuing a career in music. Once I graduated in 2017, I started working as an ESL instructor and enjoyed it. Through that experience, I saw the impact that learning had on people in a positive way. The learning process and learning outcomes were meaningful to community members who attended the classes. 

 

Nate on what social justice means to him...

What I’ve learned from my experience is that I have to learn more; learn where there is injustice and discrimination and understand why. For example, I come from a privileged background where from a young age I knew how to work a computer. I took this for granted. When I started teaching, I began to see the discrepancies. Some students didn’t know how to use a computer and they were older than I was. It is important to become aware of the disparities and fight for access and opportunities, which shouldn’t be limited to the privileged few.

 

Nate on a quote he appreciates...

“The adult education system plays a critical role in building the human capital of immigrants who have limited host-country language proficiency, as well as for those who lack a high school diploma or equivalent. Adult education also has the potential to serve as an on-ramp to postsecondary education and jobs paying a family-sustaining wage”

 

This quote resonates with me and the work that the education programs at LALDEF aims to do. Adult education, like the ones we provide, can help immigrant communities find employment, continue their education, navigate doctors appointments, talk to their children’s teachers, or just get around using public transportation. It’s incredible to be a part of this work. The education programs that LALDEF leads on really help people. It makes their lives a bit easier. Seeing how it all impacts the community, and having a small part in it, is rewarding. 

 

Nate on what he is currently reading...

I am currently reading One-Hundred Years of Solitude, in Spanish, by Gabriel García Márquez! I am taking it slow and reading on the weekends when I have time.

 

Nate on what brings him joy during these turbulent times...

I started a YouTube channel last year during the pandemic. I play the piano, which I have been playing since I was 7, and started recording myself doing covers of songs. It has been an unexpected joy of mine. Check out Nate’s Youtube Channel here!

 

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