Lia Guzman
Lia Guzman '23 Is a Fierce Advocate for Food-Insecure College Students

After graduation, Lia Guzman ’23 knows exactly what she wants to accomplish. “I want to work in public service and uplift marginalized communities,” says the law and society major. Now, Guzman is well on her way to achieving that goal by becoming a New York Organizer with Swipe Out Hunger, a nonprofit organization specifically addressing hunger among college students. “Food insecurity on college campuses is a huge problem and impacts so many students trying to earn their degrees and better their lives. It disproportionately affects Latinx and Black students and creates profound obstacles in their lives. No student should have to choose between food and their education. I’m excited to work with Swipe Out Hunger and bring more attention to this problem.”

What was life like growing up?
I grew up in San Cristóbal, a province in the Dominican Republic. Life was simple there and I was constantly surrounded by family. My favorite memories growing up were going to el campo (the countryside) every Sunday, where I would get to spend time with all of my cousins, eat rice and beans, and watch my uncles play dominoes. These are the times in life that I’m so appreciative to have experienced and made me love my land and my people.

What made you want to come to John Jay College?
When I moved to the U.S. I was 13 and I lived in a predominantly white neighborhood. Feeling excluded and different took a toll on me. I had to handle immigrating to a new country, learning a new language, and navigating all the cultural shocks that came with it. Being in a school where no one could relate to me and my experience was really challenging. So when I was looking into colleges, I made it a priority to attend a school with people who came from a similar background. Being at John Jay has allowed me to embrace my culture more and be proud of where I come from. At John Jay, I feel welcomed and it has been a safe space for me to embrace who I am.

What are you most proud of in terms of your Latinx identity?
I’m proud of the family values, culture, food, and music I grew up enjoying. Our culture is vibrant and filled with history. Our people are joyful and resilient. I’m proud of how strong our community is. We’re hard-working, family-oriented people and through all the struggles we’ve faced, we’ve been able to rise above.

How do you embrace your Latinx heritage?
Lately, I’ve been learning how to cook some of my favorite Dominican dishes—like mangú and mofongo—and it brings me a lot of joy. It reminds me of when I was little; I would watch my grandmother cook and be so amazed by her abilities. While cooking, I like to play my favorite Latinx artists, like Bad Bunny and Marco Antonio Solís. Sharing parts of my Dominican culture with people who don’t come from my country has also helped me be comfortable and proud of my identity.

What are your biggest hopes for the future of Latinx communities?
I’ve seen how much progress the Latinx community has made over the years, and I hope we continue to grow and uplift each other. I also want us to challenge the way that we think. Our community is not perfect. We have some outdated, preconceived notions about other marginalized groups and that needs to change. I want our community to keep our minds open to new ideas and different perspectives as we progress together.