December 11, 2019

Dina Paulson-McEwen Takes Reins As New Executive Director of LALDEF

By Donald Gilpin

Dina Paulson-McEwen

Dina Paulson-McEwen, a writer, educator, and editor, will be taking over this month as executive director of the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF), based in Trenton and serving 3,000 clients annually throughout Mercer County.

She succeeds Adriana Abizadeh, whose three-year tenure saw an unprecedented period of growth at LALDEF. With 15 paid staff and more than 40 volunteers, LALDEF provides English-as-a-Second Language classes, legal representation in immigration matters, tax preparation assistance, supports for victims of domestic violence, community identification cards, and education programs for youngsters in transition to college.   

A Queens, New York, native of Ecuadorean and Jewish descent, Paulson-McEwen is the founder of Aqua Editing LLC, a story developer for creative thinkers. She has worked as a communications leader, a fundraiser for nonprofits, and an LGBTQ staff liaison in a Detroit early education and day care center.

She organized and oversaw more than 1,000 volunteers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, mentored high school students in expository writing and the college essay at Write for the Future, and published monthly blog posts for Women’s Healthcare of Princeton.

She currently serves as a member of the Princeton Human Services Commission and holds a master’s degree in international educational development with a concentration in peace education from Columbia University.

“Being a writer, a words-and-content person, I think will guide me well to be a strong presence — a fierce, polished, put-together advocate — for LALDEF’s mission to keep providing an unparalleled number of services to the immigrant community in Mercer County,” said Paulson-McEwen.

Looking to the future of LALDEF, she continued, “Our main priorities are increasing our support and funding, thinking big and wide, and making new partnerships that will elevate us, allowing us to significantly increase our programming and thus be able to offer our services to more people, as well as offer more services to our current clients.”

She went on to express the need to expand LALDEF’s work in legal services, adult education, youth education, individual and policy-based advocacy, and the Community ID Program. She emphasized the importance of working to “support immigrants in getting themselves situated to have more mobility in order to be able to meet their basic needs and thus be able to grow
and eventually thrive.”

Paulson-McEwen described becoming involved with the Princeton Human Services Commission “by way of my activism around the child migrant detention center stories that broke last summer, beginning with Clint, Texas, in June.” Paulson-McEwen was one of the organizers of the Princeton Lights 4 Liberty rally last summer, and worked directly with one of the central lawyers in the Clint case.

Princeton Councilwoman Letitia Fraga introduced Paulson-McEwen to Human Services and its mission. “Human Services is focused on serving the underserved populations in Princeton,” Paulson-McEwen said. “Focused on helping and helping to lift up, we do awesome things like work on a Welcome to Princeton guide or advocate on behalf of undocumented children in our community who need better and quicker access to vaccinations to enable them to attend school.”

She added, “Human services, the work of LALDEF — helping people, loving people, believing in education — these are my passion areas.”