Born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Natanaelle Orisma immigrated to Boston, Massachusetts with her small family in 1997. She has since completed elementary school at the Thomas J. Kenny, a year of middle school at the William Barton Rogers and transitioned into the seventh grade at Boston Latin School in 2000.
During her six years at the Latin School, Natanaelle was very active with community service projects including tutoring homeless children at a shelter named Project Hope, volunteering at breast cancer research fundraisers and completing city-wide AIDS walks aimed at raising awareness about the disease. For two years, she also participated in Robert F. Kennedy’s Youth Leadership Program for Girls, a community service-oriented leadership group for teenage girls where she taught sexual education to middle-school aged children, served meals for people living with life-threatening illnesses such as AIDS and cancer, organized a talent show dedicated to Boston youth affected by violence and attended workshops with city organizations such as Healthy Girls, Healthy Women.
In the fall, Natanaelle will attend Boston College where she plans to pursue studies in political science while continuing her commitment to community service through the college’s renowned Emerging Leader Program. She also plans to explore her interests in theater, Irish step dancing and fashion design.
Upon hearing of the John William Ward Fellowship, Natanaelle Orisma was immediately ecstatic about the idea of having a “front row seat” in a government official’s office. As an intern for State Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, Natanaelle experienced firsthand the rewards, difficulties and responsibilities of a public servant. She quickly learned how important it is for an elected official to maintain a working relationship with his or her constituents as well as how crucial it is for a constituent to remain active in the affairs of his or her community. During the gay marriage debate around the public’s right to vote on rewording the definition of marriage to specify “between a man and a woman”, Natanaelle witnessed the chaos, public demonstrations and strong opinions from people on opposite sides of the issue. She also saw how Representative Forry handled the situation: when responding to letters and mailings urging her to vote to put the proposal on the ballot, she clearly stated her readiness to protect a minority group’s rights from a majority vote and addressed other constituent concerns. Although the House of Representatives had to postpone their voting on the gay marriage ballot proposal until November, Natanaelle learned another important lesson in government- things do not always go according to plan. The short time she spent in Representative Forry’s office has been a memorable and eye-opening adventure that has nourished her desire to be involved in public service and has clarified her views on the duties and activities of government.
Natanaelle Orisma, plans to use the skills that she acquired during the Fellowship to voice her concerns on the matters that affect her community and will always cherish her experience as it has laid out many future career possibilities.