Filipino Student Leader, White House DACA Champions of Change

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) – Rhustie Marcelo Valdizno of Clifton, New Jersey was 15 years old when he came to the United States and an openly gay.

Although undocumented, these challenges did not deter him from becoming an active member and core leader of RAISE, which stands for Revolutionizing Asian American Immigrant Stories on the East Coast.

RAISE advocates for human immigration policies thru sharing of experiences of being undocumented.

Valdizno is one of the 10 “Champions of Change” who was honored in the White House on Tuesday (June 17), who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients for their exemplary leadership in their communities.

According to the White House, these Champions distinguished themselves through their community involvement and the hard work they put into helping other members of their academic and professional communities succeed. This event will showcase these inspirational young leaders and highlight the importance of providing talented young people with the opportunity to realize their full potential.

The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. The event is closed to press but was live streamed on the White House website: on June 17th 2014 at 10:30AM. To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program, visit

These DACA recipients serve as success stories and role models in their academic and professional spheres.


Rhustie currently resides in New Jersey and attends Bergen Community College and is graduating this semester. He hopes to pursue a career in the medical field as a doctor.

Rhustie is also an active member of Gay Asian Pacific Islander Men of New York (GAPIMNY). He said “it took lot from me to embrace the reality of my life as gay and undocumented. It deterred me from achieving my full potential. I was a hopeless case. It took countless failed attempts, rejection and heartaches just to give myself a speck of normalcy.

“This fight is just not about having some paperwork to prove an existence in this country but it’s about fighting the stigma and having pride.”

The other recipients of the White House DACA Champions of Change are: Hector Salamanca Arroyo, Des Moines, IA; Steven Arteaga, Houston, TX; Sarahi Espinoza, East Palo Alto, CA; Kamal Essaheb, Washington D.C.; Pratishtha Khanna, Laurel, MD; Esther Yu Hsi Lee, Washington D.C.; Anahi Mendoza, Santa Maria, CA; Dayana Elvira Torres, Arlington, VA; and Ana Zaragoza, Pueblo, CO.




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