Luchadora Profile: Meet Julissa Arce, Nationally Best Selling Author, Formerly Undocumented Goldman Sachs VP, Turned Advocate for Social Justice

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, I’d like to introduce to all of our comadres the phenomenal luchadora, Julissa Arce. Julissa is a former Wall Street executive turned author, speaker, and social justice advocate. She uses her platform to shift the negative stereotypes held against immigrants in the United States and to support young scholars follow their dreams.

Julissa’s story begins in Taxco, Mexico where she was born. Until she was 11 years old, she spent most of her childhood being raised without her parents because they would travel to the United States to work. They had a jewelry business and would make their earnings at trade shows across the states. Julissa’s parents were gone for months at a time, the longest being almost a year as she writes in her new memoir, “Someone Like Me.” . What could compel parents to leave their children behind for so long? Well, they wanted Julissa and her sisters to get a quality education so that they could succeed in life, even if it meant sacrificing time to be together..

When Julissa’s older sisters left Taxco to attend high school and college and her parents traveled once again to the U.S., she felt abandoned. Young Julissa started acting up in school.. Her parents brought her to Texas to live with them, as they understood an 11-year-old girl needed her parents to stay on the right track. As they had done for vacation trips before, they brought Julissa to the U.S. on a plane with her tourist visa.

Although Julissa would finally be reunited with her parents, she was going to miss her life in Mexico. The small apartment they rented in this new environment did not compare to the big house in the familiar neighborhood of Taxco. In Texas, she had to attend a public school and after a couple of blows that the family’s jewelry business endured, her parents were struggling to make ends meet. Then, her tourist visa expired and she would no longer be able to leave the states — something that she had been unaware of. From the day that Julissa became undocumented, her parents told her she could not share her situation with anyone. She listened to her parents and maintained good behavior because she understood that any run-in with the law could lead to unfortunate and permanent consequences. For a teenage Julissa, this meant driving cautiously and foregoing parties that her other friends had the privilege to attend.

Julissa’s biggest hurdle came when she applied for college. She believed that college would be accessible to her because she had maintained her grades and was involved in several extracurricular activities. However, upon receiving rejection letters from several colleges because she did not have a social security number, Julissa started to feel hopeless, like all of her hard work was in vain. Luckily, Texas was the first state to enroll undocumented students in college. Julissa was accepted to the University of Texas where she covered her tuition costs selling funnel cakes every weekend. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance and was able to secure a job on Wall Street. She became Vice President at Goldman Sachs and then worked at Merrill Lynch as well. Although she made it to the finish line and was living in the glitz and glamour of sophisticated New York City, Julissa still had to endure her career life with a secret that could have ended it all. This meant creating excuses for employers when offered international opportunities, confiding in few people if none other than herself, and experiencing anxiety that manifested into physical ailments.

When Julissa decided that Wall Street was not for her, she finally shared her story with the world. Her narrative made national and international headlines, leading her to publish her memoir and first book My American (Underground) Dream. It is currently being developed as a television series at Twentieth Century Fox Television with producer and actor America Ferrera. Julissa then cofounded Ascend Educational Foundation (AEF), a scholarship and mentorship fund for immigrant students in New York City. She also turned her first book into a YA adaptation titled Someone Like Me: How One Undocumented Girl Fought for Her American Dream and is currently going on book tours across the country to share her story with young scholars.

Julissa is a sought out speaker for events such as the White House Latino Policy Summit, the Democratic National Convention, and the Forbes Reinventing America Summit, among others. You can often find her political commentary on networks such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Telemundo, and Univision to name a few. She is a contributor for Crooked Media and her writing has also been published on Huffington Post, CNN, and CNN En Español among others. In addition to being the chairwoman of AEF, she serves on the board of directors of the National Immigration Law Center. You can also find Julissa sharing content on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Let’s give it up for this luchadora who never stopped fighting for her dream and who does whatever she can in her power to help others do the same!

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Daisy Medina-Arreola

Daisy Medina-Arreola

Daisy Medina-Arreola is an alumna of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Compton Unified School District and lastly, Green Dot Public Schools coalition. She is a graduate from UCLA with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a minor in Film, Television, and Digital Media. During the time that she worked as a receptionist for the university’s writing department, she learned administrative assistance and refined her writing skills. She also spent her college years exploring volunteer interests by joining campus organizations at which she tutored students from underserved communities, and supported parents of children with terminal illnesses. She gained leadership knowledge through her involvement with the Student Activist Project (SAP) where she learned about social justice issues that affect marginalized communities in and outside of UCLA. From there she was introduced to Students for Education Reform (SFER), a non-profit organization ran by student leaders across state chapters. Education has been a powerful tool for Daisy, which is why she has remained with SFER after graduating from the university, pushing for quality education to be implemented everywhere. She is currently working as an assistant to a bestselling author and outspoken social justice advocate. Daisy aspires to work alongside filmmakers promoting diverse representation on the big screens. She is passionate about storytelling and the arts so in her free time she enjoys listening to music and attending concerts, or watching TV series and going to the movie theaters. She currently resides in the community of South Central, Los Angeles.

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