• PLAN

Gladis Molina Alt: Living Her Values to Pay it Forward

"Like any human being we are always looking for a way to survive and protect our loved ones, our newborns, our children."

Gladis Molina Alt is the Executive Director of the Young Center, a non-profit that advances the rights and best interests of immigrant children. Gladis grew up in Corinto Morazán, El Salvador during the Salvadoran civil war. The war deeply traumatized Gladis, and to this day she sees the impacts of living in a warzone, like the fear she feels when she hears helicopters hovering above.

To escape the war, her dad came to the U.S. in 1983 and her mom in 1985; Gladis was just five years old. Despite the ongoing civil war, Gladis’s parents were not able to enter the United States as refugees, so they entered undocumented. After five years, her dad became a permanent resident and tried to use the family unity program to reunite with his children, but he struggled to navigate the complicated immigration process. Desperate to be together again, Gladis and her brothers entered the U.S. without legal status. Gladis came on a plane using her dad’s goddaughter’s identity; she still remembers having to curl her straight hair to match the goddaughter’s picture.

"We did not come here to take anything away, in some way the universe has enough for all of us. And sometimes we come to give more than what we ask for."

PLAN: What would you say to those who are opposed to immigration?

Gladis: I would tell them, like any human being we are always looking for a way to survive . . . We did not come here to take anything away, in some way the universe has enough for all of us. And sometimes we come to give more than what we ask for.


Watch the clip to hear Gladis’s full response.

"What I try to do through my work and life as a fellow human being, is to make an effort to make people feel part of something, rather than excluded."

PLAN: How did being an immigrant affect your life choices?


Gladis: It affected the way I viewed life. To understand what if feels like to not belong . . . When you feel like an outcast in society. This can cause your spirit to be heavy and upset. What I try to do through my work and life as a fellow human being, is to make an effort to make people feel part of something, rather than excluded.


Watch the clip to hear Gladis’s full response.

After being undocumented for eleven years, Gladis became a permanent resident. Another five years later, just as she was starting her career as an immigration attorney for children, Gladis became a U.S. citizen. Coincidentally, her naturalization ceremony was in McAllen, Texas, the same border town her dad crossed through in 1983. Today, as Executive Director of the Young Center Gladis gives more, advocating for the next generation of immigrant children with needs and goals much like her own. Her life has come full circle in so many ways.



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