At the age of 15, LB student Lina Demorais immigrated to America with her parents and brother, leaving behind her home in Brazil.
Demorais began taking classes at LBCC in 2013 and is majoring in behavioral psychology communications, with a focus in science communications.
“The biggest issues that I had when I moved to the United States was culture shock — and then being white in appearance and having no accent, nobody really recognizes that’s what I was going through. It’s a huge shock for a 15-year-old because of the dynamics that people have in high school,” said Demorais.
After receiving a diagnosis of Type 1 Bipolar disorder, the 29-year-old made it her objective to be a voice for students in the community fighting mental health issues, and an advocate for LBCC’s Veterans’ Club.
As voice of the campus Veterans’ Club, Demorais says one of her biggest goals at the moment is pushing forward with the current momentum of student voices involved in the legislature. She is also partaking in helping to create community partnerships with students and coalition partners around issues that affect the student body.
Not only was she adjusting to a new environment and individualistic society, Demorais was incarcerated in an immigration detention center in Houston, Texas. Being detained led her into working with the women who also were behind bars.
“It was just heartbreaking to see what they had to go through and how we’re treated when we’re behind bars,” said Demorais. “It made me start to look more intently at the injustices around me and helped me identify with the population of immigrants, that to be perfectly frank, I never would have because of that whole ‘model immigrant.’”
A “model immigrant” is perceived to be someone who has immigrated to the U.S but doesn’t necessarily look like they are immigrants.
“We’re white in appearance, we’re from Brazil, and my parents literally got invited into this country by academia. So, I came from a very privileged perspective as an immigrant and this really was that stark awakening that as awful as the experience was,” said Demorais. “It was completely transformative for me… and gave me a cause because I think a lot of the time we kind of navigate life very lost…”
Having the privilege of being educated and raised by two professors, Demorais assisted the women in the immigration detention center with things such as navigating through resources and translating.
“I never really had a ‘well how can I make a difference, ya know I’m just one person,’ and when I was able to work and see the direct impact I was having on these women’s lives and the impact that they were having on mine,” said Demorais. “I was like this is what I want to do, I want to make a difference, even if I just change one person’s life, it’s worth it.”
Demorais’s experiences of injustice and mistreatment have not only inspired her to assist immigrant women behind bars and students in the community, but it has allowed her to become an active member of the LBCC Veterans’ Club; currently holding the title of Legislative Liaison.
Although having never served in the military, many of her close friends have been of great influence and are still currently active. Demorais has bore witness to some of the struggles and hardships that student veterans have had to deal with and decided that she too wanted to assist in their activism.
Her proactiveness is fueled by “how much, quite frankly, they[veterans] go through on a daily basis just like many other communities, like communities of color and LGBT[Q], where there’s a lot of disenfranchisement,” said Demorais.
After getting involved with the Veterans’ Club, Demorais assisted in spearheading more than one Oregon Senate Bill into effect.
With a mindset of taking things to the next level, Demorais feels “that it was very important to start making [student veterans] voice heard at the capital,” eventually leading her into taking an officer position with the LBCC club. One of the first things as an active club member Demorais assisted with was helping to monitor, helping to find folks to testify, and getting organizations to throw their weight behind Senate Bill 143 which is currently still being lobbied.
SB 143 states directly that, “The Department of Veterans’ Affairs shall develop and implement one or more programs statewide to establish or expand campus veteran resource centers and campus veteran resource coordinators on the campuses of community colleges and public universities. The purpose of the programs is to help veterans successfully transition from military service to college life, succeed in college, complete educational goals and transition from college to the workforce and the community.”
Story by Samantha Guy
Photo by Elliot Pond