Holly Leon-Lierman ’04
Asylum Seeker Assistance Project
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a passionate humanitarian, mama, and yoga and reiki practitioner, dedicated to building an equitable world in which everyone feels welcome, that their voice is heard and that they are deeply loved.
Tell us about your Saint Michael’s College experience.
To say that my experience at St. Michael’s was formative would be a vast understatement. I was fortunate to cultivate relationships with brilliant and loving mentors Father Mike Cronogue, Ann Giombetti, Vincent Bolduc and Adrie Kusserow (to name a few), and to participate in service learning experiences in El Salvador (twice), Haiti and India, New York City, Immokalee, Florida and Hartford, Connecticut as well as participate in a service learning study abroad program in Quito, Ecuador. My parents used to joke that I was utilizing St. Michael’s as my travel agent. More than anything, I gained life changing experiences throughout these four years and I undoubtedly emerged a different woman than the one who entered four years prior.
What advice would you give to female students?
Trust your instincts and speak truth to power.
What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?
Know your boundaries and make requests accordingly. You cannot achieve what you do not pursue and you cannot receive what you do not request. There is no such thing as balance. There is only knowing where you need to be in every moment – trust yourself, you know where you need to be. Some weeks I need to devote the entire breadth and depth of my capacity to my work alongside asylum seekers, in solidarity as they rebuild their lives with meaning, dignity and purpose through seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some weeks, I need to live fully into my role as Mama Holly to my two little angels who are 7 and 9.
What keeps you motivated and driven on an daily basis?
My work with asylum seekers keeps me motivated on a daily basis. I am fortunate to work with individuals and families who have come to the United States seeking freedom and safety after being persecuted in their homeland for defending, advocating and organizing for human rights. The work is full of abundant challenges and graces. Asylum seekers are asked to be superhuman by an inhumane asylum system that forces folks to wait as long as 5-8 years while their cases are adjudicated, meanwhile some are separated from family and struggle to meet basic needs. We are fortunate to be neighbors and community members with asylum seekers and I am motivated on a daily basis by the opportunity to build connections and awareness among asylum seekers and the local community.
What woman most inspires you and why?
I am inspired by countless women. When being asked to choose one, I choose my mother. She is relentlessly positive and showers everyone she is in life with with endless love. She has taught me that love is indeed powerful. My mother perfectly embodies the quote I aim to live by: “Even after all this time, the Sun never says to the Earth, you owe me. Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” Hafiz