Angie Cazares’s journey to social work began at a young age. As a child, her grandmother told stories of growing up disadvantaged in Mexico and immigrating to the United States as a young mother. Through these stories, her grandmother taught Cazares to “remain humble, remember where you come from, and give back to the community.”
Explained Cazares, “My own family background led me to social justice work.” A family history of immigration, her mother becoming a young parent, and the incarceration of a close family member reinforced Cazares’s dedication to improve social conditions for members of her community.
During college and after graduation, Cazares worked at the campus LGBT center where she witnessed the struggles of LGBT students of color. Cazares initially considered counseling as a career, but liked the flexibility of a social work degree. She could be involved in community organizing, work in various fields of practice, and serve a client’s needs holistically by examining that person’s entire life. A social work degree would allow Cazares to continue the social justice work she had already been doing.
Moving from her native California to New York to attend the NYU Silver School of Social Work, Cazares hoped to step outside of her comfort zone. However, in her first semester she felt isolated and found it was difficult to find community in a new city. “Along with the MSW program’s busy schedule, I found it challenging to figure out where I belonged,” she said.
Over time Cazares met other students of color with a similar longing for a common community at NYU. To create a support system, she started the student group, Students of Color Collective.
Cazares’s primary career interest is working with queer people of color. She believes members of this community have been stigmatized by mental health services, and she hopes to make these services more accessible. Because these communities are underserved and underrepresented, a therapy approach is not enough. These communities also need access to basic daily needs like housing, employment, and health care.
Cazares plans to continue working with this population after graduation, even if it is not in at an LGBT-specific agency. She feels working in other, broader social justice-minded organizations will help bring this often-invisible population to that agency’s work.