We had the good fortune of connecting with Danney Salvatierra and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Danney, how do you think about risk?
Risk is an interesting concept. I think people are afraid to take risks because they are innately fearful of failure. Our society glamorizes success, but often glosses over the inevitable trials, tribulations, and setbacks that so often precede such success. Due to this fear, many do not reach their full potential. People become afraid to start a business, to take that certificate test, to move to another city, and the list goes on. My propensity for risk taking is fueled by my curiosity. I no longer see taking a risk as something I’m afraid of because I have failed many times before. After each failure, I have learned so much about myself and have been able to start again with a stronger mentality. I now know that in order for one to reach their true potential, one must expect to succeed when taking a risk, while at the same time understanding that failure is always a possibility. 

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I moved to New York City from Miami four years ago to study law. But let’s start from the beginning, shall we? My journey was not easy. When I arrived to this country as a teenager from my native country, Peru, I was upset. I didn’t understand why we had to change our entire lives to be here. As a result, I acted out in high school. My way to cope was to journal. I started writing a lot because it gave me a way to escape and express my deepest emotions. This is when I started writing poetry. Right after graduating high school, I had the opportunity to go back to Peru to visit family and something just clicked. I reconnected with my roots and myself. I realized my parents had made huge sacrifices for us to have a better future. That is when I decided to attend college.

At 19, I attended Miami Dade College (MDC) and eventually graduated with a paralegal certificate. I was able to attend MDC thanks to college grants and scholarships. Then I attended Florida International University (FIU), but I was forced to pay for much of my expenses out of pocket. My paralegal certificate allowed me to work as a paralegal while attending FIU. However, there was one semester where my family was struggling financially and working part time was not enough to help out and cover all of my expenses. I remember vividly that one day, I cried inside of my parked car outside of a CVS because I didn’t know if I would have enough money to pay for one semester at FIU. Thankfully, FIU was nice enough to work out a payment plan with me. I was able to take the classes and buy the books I needed to graduate on time. During my time at FIU, I focused my studies on political repression and human rights, international relations, Latin American foreign policy, and global economic and social affairs.

This inspired me to travel as a volunteer to rural areas in Latin America to work on sanitation and education projects for underdeveloped communities. After graduating FIU with a Political Science degree and Global Media Communication minor, I decided to go to law school in New York City. During my law school career, I quickly realized how difficult it was to navigate a field that was not meant for people like me. I didn’t let that stop me, and worked very hard. I also was actively involved with the Latin American Law Students Association (LALSA) and the Immigration Law Students Association (ILSA) which provided me with a strong support system. Before graduating, I landed internships for human rights organizations such as Church World Service and Human Rights First where I advocated for immigrant children, families, and refugee communities.

In May 2019, I received my law degree from New York Law School. Today, I work as a lawyer for a human rights agency called African Services Committee. We mainly help people from African countries, but we also help people from all over the world with different services such as resettlement, housing, health, and legal services. I am also an ambassador and mentor in another organization called The Brave House. I enjoy mentoring younger immigrants, primarily students, who are still finding their place in this country. In addition to all of this, I’m starting my own business to help pre-law students with their law school applications. I like to help people and mentor students who want to go to law school, because I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for the mentorship and support others provided me. When I applied to law school, I didn’t know where to start. The application process can be difficult to navigate if one does it alone. I definitely want to give back and help students in whichever way I can.

My family’s story and the story of many people I have met throughout my work as a law student and lawyer inspired me to start a project called @immigrantpoetry which is an Instagram account where I post poetry inspired by immigrant stories. I collaborate with my friend, Katt Naz, who is an immigrant herself and an amazing artist. She executes the illustrations for each poem. We hope to turn this project into a book in the near future and give immigrants like myself a voice in the form of art. I am humbled to be where I am today and sometimes I feel lucky. Then I have to remember that my journey didn’t require much luck, it required a lot of hard work. I am grateful to continue doing what I love which is to advocate for the immigrant community, whether it is in the legal field or in the form of writing. When I look back at everything I have gone through, everything I do now makes so much sense. I want to help that teenager, that pre-law student, that law student, that immigrant, because I will always be all of those things.”

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Every time I visit Miami, I always find myself going back to Wynwood. During my first year studying at FIU, I worked as a public relations specialist for an art company located in Wynwood, Miami. After spending months working with artists and curators, I found a true passion for visual arts. I like to take my friends there because of the ambiance and to appreciate the art. I also like to visit the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens as it is such a beautiful place to enjoy some wine and appreciate the scenery.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
As mentioned, I arrived to the United States when I was only thirteen years old from my native country, Peru. Arriving to a new country without understanding the language and the system was very difficult for me. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the mentorship of the friends and professors who guided me through so many different times. Most importantly, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the unconditional love and support from my parents. My parents decided to pack their bags and travel to a new country to give me and my brothers a better life. I am constantly inspired by their tenacity and strength. I remember very clearly when my mother made the decision to travel to the United States alone to give us a better future. I stayed in Peru with my brothers and my dad, waiting to hear from her to see if she was okay. My mom fought to be able to bring all of us here to be with her. When I first arrived to this country to see my mother, my two older brothers still couldn’t come due to an unfair immigration system. This hurt me because I witnessed how my family was separated. My mom and I in Miami, and my dad and my brothers in Peru. My dad always reminded me that I had to be strong for my mom. He reminded me that I was a fighter like my mom and that I had to fight like her to succeed. That always stayed with me. My parents, through their sacrifice and work, motivated me to dream big. Now my entire family is here, but I will never forget all the sacrifices we had to go through in order to be where we are today. Our history as immigrants has made us stronger and more united.

Website: My official website will be launched on February 3rd (my birthday). Check personal Instagram for announcement.
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danneygabriela/
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danneysalvatierra/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/danneygabriela?lang=en
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DanneySalvatierra/

Image Credits
Rolland Smith Photography BLUE Missions

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