By Karla Fonseca
Samantha Ramirez-Herrera is a Mexican-born entrepreneur, content creator and director based in Atlanta. She spoke at the College on March 30 about her life as an immigrant and her rise to success despite a mountain of obstacles.
She is most known for founding “Off the Record,” a creative agency that aims to support disruptors, innovators, artists, activists and influencers with radical perspectives.
Ramirez-Herrera spoke about her experience immigrating to the United States as a child.
“People come [to the U.S.] for their chance at opportunity,” she said. “Opportunity is not set in stone, it doesn't mean it's easily accessible, it's a privilege.”
The successes of her father as a Mexican business owner greatly inspires her today.
“My dad is a visionary, because he has vision, and sees the potential in something that others see as dismissed, that others see as unusable,” she said. “I remember being so embarrassed back then, but now I value this so much because now in my entrepreneurship, I know it's important to try and fail sometimes.”
Throughout her life, Ramirez-Herrera experienced firsthand how her parents were treated.
“I remember seeing how people would strip them of their dignity just for being people who didn't speak the language, just for being people who work in the service industry, just for being immigrants,” she said. “I remember thinking to myself that I would grow up and I would never treat anyone like that, that I would grow up and I would be an advocate for people who are overlooked, for people who are treated less than, just because they're different than everybody else.”
In her adult years, Herrera-Ramirez qualified for the then-newly instituted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allowed her the chance to do “normal” things.
“When you spend your whole life in the shadows, it's hard to come forward into the light,” Herrera-Ramirez said. “It's something that you’ve always dreamed of, but it's different when the light actually turns on you.”
She now employs more than 150 people at her company, “Off the Record” and does commercials and documentaries, among other things, across the country and soon internationally, to support the creative community of Georgia. She continually advocates for DACA and undocumented youth brought to the US as children, otherwise known as Dreamers.
“It’s important to take up space in places that are spewing negativity about us and are putting out dishonest information about our communities, to bring facts about who we are and what we’re really doing in this country,” she said.
Junior psychology major Marissa Peña, who currently serves as the Latinx Awareness Chair on Union Latina, resonated with Ramirez-Herrera’s speech.
“I was really interested in having her talk because she’s talking about the immigraation experience as an immigrant,” she said. “Rather than looking from the outside in, it's her telling her own story.”
Peña hopes to have more events in the future that can leave an impact on those who attend.
“At first, we were going to get someone from the entertainment industry, but I feel that this was a much more impactful and meaningful experience,” Peña said. “We definitely want to have more guest speakers, but this was our first one in a couple years.”
Peña further acknowledged the importance of bringing multicultural representation to the College’s campus.
“With [the College] being a PWI (Predominantly White Institution), it's necessary to address immigration for Latinx immigrants especially,” she said. “Latinx immigrants in the US are looked down upon. I think it’s important to note that the news will look at Latinx imigrants, especially undocumented ones, and base their whole picture on one narrative out of a million.”