Gilda Temaj is from Guatemala, a country where education is not a priority, and where women and men are not treated equally. She grew up hearing that women were not meant to go to school, and by the 6th grade, Temaj’s dad took her out of school. She immigrated to the United States alone at age 16. Temaj walked for six days across the border and was caught in Arizona. She was placed in a detention center waiting for lawyers to determine her situation. After a month, Temaj was allowed to join her brother in San Francisco. She currently lives in Berkeley, California.

Attending school was Temaj’s initial goal; she thought it was too late to pursue higher education because she had spent six years out of school. The fact that she was the first person in her family and community in Guatemala to gain an education kept her motivated. In 2016, Temaj was accepted into the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) summer institute in Washington. In this program, she learned about activists’ work to preserve people’s right. After her academic success, she has changed her father’s perception that women are not meant to go to school, and her younger sisters have the opportunity she did not have. Temaj is inspired and determined to influence others to advocate against injustices in under-served communities. She believes that everyone can succeed if they have the right mindset and support. Temaj’s greatest hope is that all youth seek and seize opportunities to grow and be better people to be able to help their families and communities succeed, too.

Temaj is a sophomore at UC Berkeley studying ethnic studies and hopes to become an immigration lawyer. As a lawyer, Temaj wants to work towards lifting women, immigrants, and other minorities.