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CHCI-Walton Family Foundation Education Graduate Fellow

Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
School: Boston College
Degree: Master of Arts in Higher Education
Placement: U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, Subcommittee on Education

Amaris Benavidez (she/her) was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, by her mother, who sacrificed so much to ensure Amaris’ education came before anything else. Growing up, Amaris witnessed firsthand the stark differences between her public and private school experience: from student diversity to access to resources. Throughout her schooling, she was motivated and uplifted by mentors and advocates in her life who encouraged her to dream big. While the roles of mentors are amazing, she knew systemic barriers to student success must also be addressed. Amaris’ experiences as a first-generation college student motivated her to focus her work on ensuring all students have equitable access to high-quality education, from preschool through college.

Amaris attended Columbia University as a QuestBridge Scholar, where she graduated in 2019 with a B.S. in Computer Science and a minor in sociology. In pursuit of supporting students from historically underserved communities, she then attended Boston College for her graduate degree in Higher Education. While in graduate school, Amaris worked as a Massachusetts Fellow with The Education Trust. In this role, she helped support the Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership, a coalition of civil rights, social justice, and education advocates who work together to promote educational equity within the state. Her work was centered on pandemic recovery planning for schools and communities, which included addressing issues such as educatory diversity, anti-racist curriculum, postsecondary pathways, and unfinished learning. Additionally, Amaris spent much of her graduate school experience examining the P-16 education pipeline at the state level. Through the RAND Corporation American Educator Panels Scholarship, she conducted research analyzing the relationships between student success, postsecondary preparation, and state education coordinating boards.

As a CHCI-Walton Family Foundation Education Graduate Fellow, Amaris is eager to apply her professional skills while reflecting on her personal experiences within the education system. Amaris hopes to develop a robust understanding of the federal P-16 education landscape. Specifically, she would like to see how advocacy, activism, and community engagement impact the legislative process. Amaris also hopes to learn more about how education intertwines with other areas of policy, such as workforce development, public health, and civil rights. At the conclusion of this program, Amaris would like to continue her work helping local advocates protect the sanctity of education and dismantle its current status as a system of oppression.