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2020-2021 CHCI-Walton Family Foundation Education Graduate Fellow

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
School: Relay Graduate School of Education
Degree: Master of Arts in Teaching, Elementary Education
Placement One: UnidosUS
Placement Two: Office of Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez

Jessica Pedroza (she/her) was born in Phoenix, AZ, and raised by Mexican immigrant parents whose sacrifices provided her access to an education never afforded to them. She is driven to fight for equity in the K-12 educational system, after experiencing firsthand the formidable obstacles faced by students of color in underserved communities and the differences in educational quality and economic resources between public and private institutions, both as a student and as a teacher.

Jessica began her education at a local “underperforming” public school in South Phoenix, where she was mentored closely by one of her teachers, Mr. Nguyen, who later advocated on her behalf to attend a prestigious tuition-based private high school. She went off to graduate with a 4.0 and a full Anbryce Program Scholarship to the University of Notre Dame. At Notre Dame, Jessica led as the Vice President of the Student Coalition for Immigration Advocacy and co-founded 1stG ND, Notre Dame’s first student organization dedicated to advocating for first generation college students. Recognizing her own bilingualism as an asset, she researched implementing a two-way Spanish immersion program in a local community school in South Bend as a research assistant with the Institute of Latino Studies and the Alliance for Catholic Education. Upon graduation, in recognition of her leadership and service, she received the Irish Clover Award and the Rev. A Leonard Collins Award. She continues to serve her alma mater as the youngest member of the Advisory Council for the Institute for Latino Studies. To honor Mr. Nguyen, who played a transformative role in her life, Jessica joined Teach for America in 2017 and taught 5th Grade Science and Social Studies in Chicago, while also earning her Master’s in Teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education. As a teacher, she did her best to ensure that, in her classroom, her Black and Brown students were heard, challenged, and empowered.

As the CHCI-Walton Family Foundation Graduate Education Fellow, she will continue to advocate for equitable K-12 educational policy, working to combat systemic inequities so that schools across the nation are fully funded, rich in opportunity, and benefit from a relay of culturally competent, diverse teachers.