Shining Shero

When Karla Rosario, CLA ’18, arrived in North Philadelphia from her hometown of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, at the age of 16, she didn’t know how to read, write or speak English. Once she learned, she often acted as an interpreter for her father—whether at the bank, or at her brother’s grade school, for example. Now she works at the U.S.-Mexican border, assisting asylum-seekers with their cases.

Photo credit: Joseph V. Labolito

Living her dream

Rosario recalls her father encouraging her family’s move to the U.S. so that she and her younger brother “could have a better education and a better future.” And that’s just what Rosario set out to do.  

Soon enough, she had taught herself English, navigated the college application process, earned her associate’s degree from the Community College of Philadelphia, secured a full-time job as a paralegal at an immigration law firm near the city and enrolled at her dream school—Temple University—for a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. 

“At Temple, I learned not to be afraid of complexity and to stand up for what I believe in, and to be confident in my own skin,” Rosario said. “The professors at Temple are the best because they are down-to-earth and always willing to help and encourage their students.”

Because of her exemplary academic achievement, Rosario was inducted into The National Society of Leadership and Success at Temple, which she says helped her set goals and overcome specific challenges while in school. As the first in her family to attend college, she found the guidance she received from the staff in the Office of Student Financial Services extremely helpful.

“I didn’t understand FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid] or the student loans and stuff,” she said. “I always remember at the beginning of every semester I would go to the office to help get everything situated.”

Lighting the way

Just before the pandemic, Rosario moved to Brownsville, Texas, about 15 minutes from the Mexican border, to work full time as a coordinator for Project Corazon, where she helped hundreds of people seeking asylum in the U.S., overseeing the training of volunteers and adapting processes to improve productivity and enhance workflow. 

After her commitment to Project Corazon ended in 2021, she has remained in the Lone Star State as a volunteer to continue aiding those immigrating to the U.S. Whether she is assisting families with their paperwork at Lawyers for Good Government, or teaching women English at Solidarity Engineering, her passion for justice runs true to her core.

“I always try to place myself in their shoes ,” Rosario said. “And treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

While balancing her volunteer efforts, Rosario works remotely as paralegal for Blue Bell, Pennsylvania-based Bennett, Bricklin & Saltzburg LLC. She’s preparing to take the LSAT and apply to law school, with her fingers crossed to end up back in Philadelphia for her graduate studies. 

“Philadelphia is just an amazing city,” she says. “It’s so diverse and you can find a little bit of everything. It just helps you be comfortable with everyone.”

Karla at a Glance

Out of the shadows

Aside from immigration rights, Rosario is also a strong advocate for racial justice, gender equality and youth empowerment.

Her goal as an attorney is to “make a difference and bring a new perspective” as a woman of color. She also vows to continue her work in the immigrant community “to make something positive of everything that’s happened.”