Growing up in Turkey, North Carolina, Daisy Almonte was surrounded by a tight-knit rural community that celebrated her every success. Her acceptance to Duke as a Benjamin N. Duke Scholar. Being named a Baldwin Scholar and elected Duke Student Government vice president for equity and outreach. Matriculating at Harvard this coming fall as a Truman Scholar, the prestigious honor awarded to young people who have demonstrated a commitment to public service.
“It’s a big deal to my community that I am graduating from Duke,” says Almonte, the daughter of Mexican immigrants and a first-generation college student. “Where I grew up has shaped who I am and what I’ve chosen to study.”
In high school, Almonte became involved with Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF), a nonprofit that works with young people to improve the lives of farmworkers. By the time she arrived at Duke in the fall of 2016, she knew that her life’s calling was to advocate on behalf of society’s most vulnerable members, particularly low-income immigrants.
Almonte continued to work with SAF at Duke and became one of the youngest members to join its board of directors. She joined Mi Gente, Duke’s undergraduate Latinx student association, and the university’s chapter of Define American, which uses the power of storytelling to raise awareness of immigrants, identity, and citizenship in America.
She also enrolled in Duke Immerse: Human Rights & Identities in the Americas, a semester-long experience that connected her with history professor Sarah Jane Deutsch. “She has been a rock for me at Duke,” says Almonte. “She believed in me when I didn’t always believe in myself and encouraged me to push and challenge myself in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
With the outbreak of COVID-19, Almonte headed home to Sampson County to finish her senior year, an experience that provided a sober yet galvanizing capstone to her Duke journey. “I understand the privilege of being able to quarantine at home. I grew up watching my family and people in my community going out into the fields day after day, and not being valued for the work they do. What we’re seeing now is what I’ve known to be true all along, that farmworkers are performing jobs that are considered essential to the economy.”
At Harvard, Almonte will further deepen her commitment to underrepresented and marginalized populations by exploring the intersections of law, sociology, and policy. While it’s too early to say where that may lead her—she’s imagined teaching law and introducing new generations of students to social justice issues—she knows that her deep roots in rural North Carolina will keep her grounded.
“I’ve never been one to say this is my path and I’m going to stick to it no matter what,” she says. “So after graduate school, if it looks as though I can have the biggest impact though public office or the political realm, I won’t hesitate to enter that space if that’s where I can do the most good. Whatever happens, I will always be committed to defending and advancing low-income immigrants and vulnerable in our society.”