It is with heavy hearts that we share with you that on December 31st, a longtime OneAmerica leader and our dear friend Lisette Llerena passed away after a long battle with cancer. She passed surrounded by her family and friends, including members of the OneAmerica family of leaders and community members.
Lisette’s contribution to OneAmerica cannot be overstated. She leaves behind a lasting legacy for all who knew her, including many who won’t have the chance to meet her, but whose lives have been touched by her advocacy. Lisette was an immigrant from Peru, who bravely started a new life for her family in both North Carolina and then Washington state. She came to Washington specifically because of our more welcoming policies and laws.
In her time with OneAmerica, Lisette bravely ‘came out’ as an undocumented mother back in 2014, the same day that President Obama announced his executive order for relief of undocumented parents of U.S. citizens (DAPA). She was deeply involved in our parent organizing in Federal Way, campaigning for translated materials so parents could be fully involved in their child’s education, no matter what language they speak. Lisette played an important role in winning the Seal of Biliteracy in the state legislature, a model program that celebrates bilingual speakers in our schools.
Lisette responded to the hard times in her life, like a period of economic struggle due to her status, with resilience, resourcefulness and often humor. She successfully studied Early Childhood Education and made a new career for herself as Assistant Principal at a bilingual daycare center. Most of all, she was so proud of her children, Alessandra, Steffano, Nattalie and Vallerie, who made her believe anything was possible.
Lisette is such a powerful embodiment of what our movement can be that she spoke at our 2017 Celebration, inspiring the crowd. Here’s how our Deputy Director Roxana Norouzi introduced Lisette that night:
“In the moments when things feel really hard, I think of Lisette. I am reminded of all the battles she fights each day in her life and yet never gives up hope. Even in the most challenging of circumstances, she sees every single opportunity as one to make change for her community. She’s what motivates me to believe that there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome and that our future has to be bright.”
And here are a few of Lisette’s powerful words:
“What I have learned is that citizenship is more than just a paper, we are citizens with our actions every single day. We are members of our communities at our jobs, schools, and churches. We have so much value, we learn from each other and we are definitely more powerful when we stand together.”
Lisette leaves behind a family that includes young children, and we are heartbroken for them. We are working to support Lisette’s family financially and emotionally at this time. The last thing her children should have to worry about right now is money, and we’d like to make sure that her memorial and funeral expenses are covered.
If Lisette or other leaders like her have touched your life, inspired you to take action, or made you think about immigrants and refugee power in a new way, I invite you to support her children with a donation today. Fighting for justice like Lisette did every day typically won’t make you rich, but it will create a strong community who stands together in power. Please stand with Lisette today by making a gift in her honor – all proceeds will directly support her family in their time of need.