YA: I was doing a lot of on-the-ground work with different organizations in the United States while I was in undergrad and leading a lot of workshops on college access, meeting with parents, and developing curriculum for mentoring programs. I was seeing it a lot in terms of the lens of on-the-ground work and how important and crucial that is.
It wasn't until I studied abroad and was working with Belén Educa where I realized the bigger picture of government structure and policy and the impact that policy has on communities. I still remember, I think it was the first couple of weeks, I engaged with my host family on this, and then I realized, "Oh, this is education policy. How come I've never really been interested in this?" My life changed from there.
When I came back to the States, was awarded the Truman Scholarship, and I had access to opportunities in the policy space. I definitely was shaped from that experience. Moving forward, I realized my heart is in higher education policy, especially for students in higher education. I was able to do a fellowship, right when I graduated, for a year with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and I was able to work on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions under Senator Murray and working on higher education issues.
Now that I think about it, just within that year, there's so much learning that I did when I studied abroad, when I came back doing on-the-ground work, and when I was able to get my hands on actual policy. Now I'm finished the fellowship, and I'm currently working for the Postsecondary National Policy Institute. PNPI is a professional development organization that tries to set the foundation for current and prospective policymakers in the higher education space. We work with Democrats and Republicans to bring a lot of this fact-based information. I think that being in this space definitely has taught me a lot about the essence of fact and data.