Every dreamer has a story to tell. Lorella Praeli’s story centers on endurance and the belief that no challenge is too big or too daunting to overcome.
The 24-year-old shared her story this past weekend in front of 600 dreamers at the United We Dream National Congress, which was held in Kansas City, Missouri.
A defining moment in Lorella Praeli and her parent’s lives
Praeli’s story begins with an incident that shaped much of hers and her family’s lives. When she was two-years-old, a car pinned her against a wall, causing her to have her right leg amputated.
Her parents decided to bring her to the United States from Peru following her amputation so that she could receive medical treatment. Their decision to leave Peru was also driven by the belief that the U.S. would be a place where their daughter’s disability would not define what she could and could not do.
“The choices my parents made were driven by the desire to find a community where I could be ‘Lorella,’ not the ‘girl with a peg leg,’ not ‘the handicapped girl,’” she told dreamers at the United We Dream National Congress.
Praeli said growing up in Connecticut, her father taught her that she was no different than those around her. And whenever she fell or when her prosthetic leg gave out, he stood next to her and encouraged her to get up on her own.
“He asked others to leave me alone,” she said. “And with confidence, firmness and belief, he stared at me and said, ‘Tú puedes.’”
She also spoke about her mother and the courage she had to bring her daughter to the U.S. “to start anew, to leave what is comfortable” in order to fight for her daughter’s well-being.
Praeli called her mother on stage at the United We Dream National Congress and said that whenever she looks at her mother, she is reminded of kindness, love, commitment and humility.
Looking into her mother’s eyes, she said, “You woke up at 5:00 a.m. to wake me up, so I could succeed in school. You fought all odds, all pains to get up and go to work every day, so that I could make my dreams come true.”
Lorella Praeli asks dreamers to join her in a new fight
Praeli said it was her parent’s support that made it possible for her to graduate from Quinnipiac University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Now, as the director of advocacy and policy for the United We Dream Network, she is one of the dreamers leading the dreamers’ movement in a new direction. That direction includes advocating for a broad immigration reform that includes providing a pathway to citizenship for not just dreamers but also for their parents and other family members.
“We forget to share that we are not self-made,” she told dreamers at the United We Dream National Congress. “That we are who we are because of the people who raised us, because of their courage and their commitment to us.”
Praeli then told dreamers she is committed to standing alongside her parents and fight for “a life of dignity and respect” for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who still live in fear of deportation.
She invited dreamers to join her in the fight and said she refused to believe that dreamers “can’t bring it” and “accept the ‘it’s too hard, too challenging, too daunting’ excuse.”
“We have fought, we have defined all odds,” she told dreamers. “We, as dreamers, have the power to define our future and tell America a new story.”