PAC student featured in Conexión
Photo credit to Helen L. Montoya/Conexión
Albert Estrada, a current student at Palo Alto College, was featured in the April 11 issue of Conexión. The article, written by Marissa Villa, spotlights Albert as a Latino activist in our community. Click here
to read the story on mySA.com.
By Marissa Villa
Staff Writer, Conexión
Albert Estrada was in high school when he became his own activist.
Born with cerebral palsy, Estrada has limited mobility and uses a motorized wheelchair. When his high school didn't have wheelchair access buttons on doors, he started asking why and if they could be installed.
“They got them when I graduated ... but it was worth it because I feel like I made a difference in my high school,” he says.
Like many activists, Estrada, 31, started advocating for something he believed in when he was young, acting on behalf of himself and others.
“There are other people here that need those. I didn't do it just for me. I did it for everyone,” he says.
Conexión is featuring young Latinos who've worked in community activism as part of its 20 under 20 series, which celebrates the accomplishments of young Latinos and profiles programs and people who help educate them.
Now a liberal arts student at Palo Alto College, Estrada found himself in the same situation. Although the college was ADA compliant, there still weren't any wheelchair access buttons near doors.
“It just was very, very hard to do things without the buttons,” Estrada says. “I just started telling whoever would listen about my problem.”
After missing a class because he was stuck in the restroom, Estrada's professor Tony Villanueva wrote an email with Estrada's concerns that eventually reached PAC president Mike Flores, who approved the installation of the buttons.
“His willingness to open up ... has made us more attentive, more aware. He's raising our awareness,” says Villanueva, a psychology professor.
For other young activists, such persistence is a lesson learned early.
“Compassion is a huge part of (activism) but you have to have a spine, because people are going to try to knock you down left and right,” says Nansi Singh, 27, an environmental activist involved with Energía Mía and Students United for Socioeconomic Justice at UTSA.
For most, the passion to change what they see as an injustice starts when they learn something new — in high school or early on in college.
“The more we learned in school of all the things going on in the world, with labor rights violations, women's rights violations and how globalization hurts the have-nots to profit the people who are rich, both my husband and I felt that we needed to do something,” says Rachell M. Tucker, an anthropology major at UTSA also involved in SUSJ.
That organization was born out of the Occupy San Antonio movement, and although small — Tucker says there are about five active members at any given time — its members are persistent.
“People who are involved here are really involved,” says Singh.
Last fall the wheelchair access buttons were installed in buildings Estrada uses, but soon he learned a friend, who also uses a wheelchair, wasn't able to access the women's restroom because there wasn't a button there. He kept watch while she used the men's. The oversight, he says, wasn't malicious but because of a lack of knowledge or understanding. He spoke up again.
“I've been told 'no' for all my life so I'm used to it, but I keep going until I get what I need. I'm very persistent, I guess you could say,” Estrada says.