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Westfield State Hosts Immigrant Youth Expert Lauren Burke

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University will host lawyer Lauren Burke as part of its Guest Lecture Series on Thursday, Oct. 16 at 6:30 p.m. in Wilson Savignano Auditoriums A and B. Burke will present her lecture, “Disrupting the Status Quo: Creating a Youth Empowerment Model for Undocumented Immigrant Youth” as part of Latino Heritage Month.

Burke is the executive director of Atlas: DIY (Developing Immigrant Youth). Since graduating from New York University School of Law in 2009, she has focused her career on developing inclusive legal programs for immigrants and youth in various organizations throughout New York City. During a Skadden Fellowship, Burke developed the Immigrant Youth Peer Educator Program, and in 2010 she and three of her students worked together to create Atlas, an incubator of education, empowerment, and community for undocumented youth and their allies.

Fluent in Mandarin, Burke has an expertise in representing youth trafficked to the U.S. from China, though since founding Atlas she has become passionate about serving immigrants of all origins. Burke and Atlas have been profiled in Forbes, where she was also named among the “30 Under 30” in the law and policy category; one of “20 Millennials on a Mission” in the New York Times; and on NPR’s All Things Considered radio show. In 2013, Burke was named NYU’s Distinguished Young Alumna of the Year.

Katherine Walsh, professor of Social Work at WSU, said she organized the lecture in hopes of the Social Work department connecting with other disciplines on campus involved in discussions and work in the area of immigration and youth, and in promoting models of civic engagement that are bringing about system change.

“The issues related to documentation and immigration are of great concern to many people at Westfield State and surrounding communities, particularly this year,” Walsh said. “We were founded as an institution that is open to all, and understanding issues facing a segment of our population and searching for solutions will benefit both the students and the communities in which they reside.”

Walsh added that community members can learn from Burke as well. “Burke has tackled problem solving in a unique way and has an inspiring perspective on serving both children and families and the public interest. The cooperative empowerment model she has established at Atlas: DIY is an innovative approach to affecting change that all of us can learn from.”

The Guest Lecture Series is supported by funding from the Academic Affairs budget to enhance student learning and service to the larger community. An advisory committee with representation by faculty, librarians, staff, and students reviews proposals and recommends selections for the year. For more information on upcoming speakers, visit www.westfield.ma.edu/speakerseries.

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