Daniel Brioso chose NYU for the micro communities it fosters, but he never could have imagined his beloved communities that would be so blatantly threatened by the current president. But giving up has never been in Brioso’s vocabulary.
During Brioso’s early elementary school years, he was afflicted by selected mutism and put in special education classes. Since overcoming that challenge, he has tirelessly worked to reclaim his voice and make sure it’s heard.
“That experience made me realize quite literally my voice is something that I reclaimed,” Brioso said. “I knew I needed to work in an industry or a field that gave a voice to others and raised their voice. If I went through mutism and I exited it, it was for a reason.”
A Long Island native, Brioso grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. During high school, he learned of the difficulties students of color and low-income students faced in his community’s education system. For example, tutoring services provided by his high school’s National Honor Society came at the cost of $20 per hour.
Brioso knew these services should have been available to all students, regardless of their backgrounds. With the help of his guidance counselor, Brioso established the first free, district-wide tutoring service and has helped over 1,000 students of all ages.
Although he thrived while working for accessible education, his predominantly white surroundings made it hard for Brioso to truly come into his own as a Latino until recently. Now, prouder than ever, Brioso tirelessly works to advocate for and give back to the Hispanic community.
“It took me a while to realize that even if I lack the features that other people qualify as Latino only I can qualify myself and I am a Latino,” Brioso said. “We come in all shades and from all backgrounds. To be Latino is to harbor a multitude of identities.”
Although only a sophomore, Brioso has already made strides in working for both the communities he is a part of and the communities he is an ally to.
The summer after his freshman year, Brioso interned for Global Citizen, where his work focused on gathering research from the United Nations and the World Bank about discriminatory laws in foreign countries that disenfranchise women from owning property. Brioso and his colleagues used this research to encourage multinational corporations to fund women-owned business in these countries and in the United States. The research led the United Parcel Service, Walmart and Johnson and Johnson to commit $300 million at the fifth annual Global Citizen Festival in 2016.
Brioso also worked with Hillary for America starting in August 2016. He helped translate materials including voter registration forms, social media captions and video subtitles from English to Spanish. In addition, Brioso phoned Latino constituencies around the country and facilitated voter outreach. He also managed the Hillary en Espanol Twitter account, answering questions from Latino voters who wanted to be informed about the election.
Although the election results came as a shock to Brioso, they helped him realize that now more than ever his work is needed to support the communities he’s been fighting for since high school.
“Political engagement is crucial for youth and the millennial generation to advance the causes we are dedicated to and care deeply about,” Brioso said.
In January of 2017, Brioso began working with the American Civil Liberties Union as a community organizer to encourage college students in New York City to become more politically active.
In addition to Brioso’s internships, he is a Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government Public Policy and Leadership Fellow, through which professors and master’s students from the Harvard Kennedy School introduce the fellows — who are primarily minority students — to what a career in public policy would look like.
Brioso also serves as a People for the American Way Foundation Young People For Fellow. As a YP4 Fellow, Brioso channels his passion for educational accessibility into developing a year-long program to provide education to first generation students of color as well as undocumented students.
As an aspiring writer and civil rights lawyer, Brioso is well on his way and has already begun forming a circle of advocates and allies, as well as supportive friends. CGPH and CAS senior Ashley Holyfield is one of those friends.
“As a son of immigrants, as a first-generation college student, as someone who has openly discussed his struggle with his multi-faceted identity, Daniel’s life has certainly been far from smooth-sailing,” Holyfield said. “But he was somehow able to push through all of this while continually striving to be better and give back to his communities. And as Daniel is on this road to obvious achievement, he’s somehow still so oblivious to the immense impact he has on every person he meets.”
Brioso said it is imperative to stand for intersectional activism and to combine issues you are passionate about with other movements, because no issue is singular. While the fight for equality across the board is a difficult job, Brioso keeps a firm hold on his convictions and remembers what matters most.
“To be in a country that may not appreciate or love you, it is revolutionary to love yourself and love your community,” Brioso said.
Email Gabriella Bower at [email protected]