In 2010, Marlio Herrera Lira was a refugee claimant living in limbo in the Lower Mainland, struggling with English and a sense of isolation. Six years later, Herrera Lira had the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Herrera Lira met Prince William, Kate and the prime minister when they visited the Welcome Centre of the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. on September 25, 2016, the organization that helped him find his footing in Canada.

A Maple Leaf and Capilano University pin adorned the 19-year-old’s lapel when he shook the prime minister’s and the Royals’ hands. He wishes he had a pin from his high school, L.A. Matheson secondary in Surrey, to wear. That’s where an English language learner teacher introduced him to volunteering opportunities that Herrera Lira maximized, leading him to gain a four-year scholarship to Capilano University and the honour of meeting the Duke and Duchess.

Growing pains

Making friends in high school wasn’t easy with limited English skills.

“No one in high school has time, no one has the patience and the will of trying to understand this Mexican guy who has broken English and can barely make up a sentence,” Herrera Lira says. “Everyone is busy with their friends and whatever they do.”

Instead, he found community among his peers when he participated in the Immigrant Services Society’s Latin Diversity group for Spanish speakers in 2011. He then facilitated four Multicultural Youth Circle groups in 2014 – where refugee youth transform from timid teens to “feeling better with themselves and with their own culture and religion and empowered of being a refugee.”

Herrera Lira grew from a boy who lived in fear for his safety in a central Mexican town ruled by violence between drug cartels and corrupt police, into an alienated teen and now a young man who’s flourished by helping others.

Volunteering for organizations that include the Vancouver Foundation, Leave Out Violence and MOSAIC helped Herrera Lira land a Capilano Excellence Scholarship. As long as he maintains a 3.5 grade point average, the four years of tuition it will take him to complete his degree in Motion Picture Arts will be covered.

A vision for the future

Hererra Lira chose Cap U’s film school for its balance of practical experience, theory, price, and it’s initiation into both independent and big-industry filmmaking.

“Word of mouth was very powerful,” he says.

Herrera Lira enrolled with dreams of becoming a film director, but he’s since recognized that with his well-honed facilitation, conflict resolution, organizational and time management skills, he’s well suited to producing.

“The thing that inspired me over the work I’ve done is that idea that we can do things by working together,” he says.

Herrera Lira anticipates working on movies that expose the “harsh truth and the real beauty of the world” through fiction and documentary films that tell stories that aren’t typically seen.

“It’s all about inclusivity, honestly,” he says. “If I can share as many perspectives as possible, it can help us understand our society better.”

Submitted by Communications & Marketing