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CHCI-PepsiCo Foundation Pre-Law Public Policy Fellow
Hometown: Miami, Florida
School: University of Florida
Degree: B.A. in Political Science and Portuguese, minor in Latin American Studies
Placement 1: Mexican American Legal Defense Fund
Placement 2: U.S. Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell

Jessica Valdes Garcia was born and raised in Havana, Cuba. Growing up, Jessica’s mother instilled in her the importance of family, education and service – values that she still holds as the most important sources of inspiration and strength to this day. Jessica immigrated to the United States at the age of 12. She received a full scholarship to attend the University of Florida (UF), where she became the first in her family to graduate from college with honors. Jessica earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Portuguese, with a minor in Latin American Studies.

At UF, she served in various capacities, including as a Senator for Student Government, Senior Ambassador for the Hispanic-Latino Affairs Department and as Associate Coordinator for the Latino Educational Advancement Program (LEAP). In these roles, Jessica worked to create a more diverse and inclusive campus environment for all. In 2018, the Hispanic-Latino Affairs Department recognized Jessica’s leadership and commitment to service with the inaugural Jessica Valdes Garcia Exceptional Student Leadership Award.

Jessica is a passionate advocate of education equity and human rights. Her desire to serve led her to complete legislative fellowships at the Florida House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Executive Office of the Governor, where she worked alongside elected officials to create policies that would improve the lives of the most vulnerable citizens of the state of Florida. As a proud Smithsonian Latino Center Young Ambassador Alumna, Jessica also served as the Program Assistant, where she ensured the successful implementation of the summer program and worked to foster the next generation of Latino leaders in the arts, sciences and humanities.

As a CHCI Public Policy Fellow, Jessica hopes to better understand the legislative process at the federal level and to strengthen her skills to better advocate for the Hispanic-Latino community in the United States. Following her fellowship, she will pursue a Juris Doctorate to bridge her interests in the law, public policy, and education.