Spanish student recognized by Champaign-Urbana for leadership and service


Service isn’t about the recognition you might receive from others; it’s about the impact you could leave on your community.

That idea is top of mind for Flor Quiroz, who spends both her summers and her semesters using her language skills to give back.

It’s what made the junior’s receipt of the 2023 Student Leadership Award from the C-U Immigration Forum so special—and, she says, unbelievable.

“It was kind of a strange reaction,” said Quiroz, who is double majoring in clinical psychology and Spanish. “I was contacted about the award and, growing up in a Hispanic household, when a stranger says, ‘Call me,’ you normally don’t do that. I emailed my Spanish professor asking her about it, and that’s when she said, ‘Oh my gosh, congratulations,’ and told me about the nomination.”

That professor was Ann Abbott, who secretly nominated Quiroz for the award after having her in class and later as a teaching assistant.

“Flor is a model of the engaged humanities,” said Abbott. “Her critical thinking about immigrants and immigrant justice has been honed by her coursework and reading, and her hands-on approach to immigrant advocacy is evidenced in her volunteer work in Champaign-Urbana and in her hometown. She is a role model.”

Quiroz began that volunteer work the summer after her freshman year, when she received an internship at Corazón Community Services in her hometown of Cicero, Illinois.

The organization serves the Latinx community there, offering after-school youth programs, youth employment opportunities, safety and violence prevention, and health services.

“My main job was helping to create a curriculum for the youth, but I also joined various volunteer programs,” said Quiroz. “There was a baby formula shortage during my internship, so I joined a group that held a formula drive to help fill that gap. It was a lot of work, talking to people, calling around, and asking for donations, but when we did get a ‘yes’ or a donation, it was exciting. That advocacy work was one of my favorite parts of that experience.”

Once she was back on campus, she began working as a translator with the Immigration Project in Champaign-Urbana—which provides affordable and accessible legal services to immigrants—through Abbott’s class, SPAN 232: Spanish in the community.

“At first, I was mostly translating legal documents, things like eviction notices,” said Quiroz. “I saw first-hand just how valuable this work is. If you see that notice and you have no idea what it says, you might just disregard it and get evicted without realizing it.”

She later began to help with phone call interpreting sessions, such as screening calls to determine if someone can get a specific visa, or if they qualified for asylum.

Quiroz said that kind of work has a special place in her heart.

“Growing up, I had to do a lot of that with my parents, who primarily speak Spanish,” she said. “I didn’t quite get it when I was young, but now, I feel like I’m helping people in a key way.”

Flor Quiroz holds Student Leadership Award from C-U Immigration Forum
Photo provided by Flor Quiroz

Despite her acknowledgement of the importance of that work, Quiroz said accepting outside recognition still proved to be a bit of a challenge. She said even her friends didn’t know about her work until she received the Student Leadership Award at the 2023 Immigrant Welcome Awards.

“I remember telling them, ‘Yeah, that’s the point!’ It was all just very surreal,” Quiroz said. “When someone shines that light on you, it can be intimidating. Like, why is it being shined on me? I’m doing [this work] because I really care about it, not because I want credit. Are you sure you have the right person?”

Quiroz said that while it was hard to wrap her mind around the recognition initially, there was one sentiment that helped her put things into perspective.

“Someone told me, ‘You got the spotlight today. Someone else will get it tomorrow. For now, you’re accepting it on behalf of everyone else who does similar work,’” said Quiroz.

In the meantime, Quiroz said she plans to continue her service work, finish school, and apply to graduate schools. She’s also encouraging others to get involved in the community—but in their own way.

“When you’re volunteering your time, there’s no required number of hours you have to hit,” Quiroz said. “You just do it when you have the time and when you want to. Adding that aspect of ‘this is my choice’ makes the work so much more fulfilling. Find an opportunity that aligns with your values and beliefs—not necessarily tied to what you’re studying, either. That way, you can break into another aspect of your goals and skills. It’ll make you more well-rounded in the long run and help you better understand other people’s experiences.”