CHCI-Altria Public Policy Fellow
Hometown: Oakland, California
School: Wesleyan University
Degree: B.A. in Anthropology
Placement: House Committee on Education and Labor
Sharit Cardenas Lopez was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. She moved to Oakland, California with her family at six years old. As an immigrant and daughter of a resilient single mother, she strove to become the first person in her family to graduate from college and help others with a similar background. Through the support of Students Rising Above, a five-year scholarship granted to low-income first-generation students in the Bay Area, she moved to Middletown, Connecticut to attend Wesleyan University. In May 2019, she received her bachelor’s degree with a dual major in anthropology and science in society.
Her arrival to Wesleyan brought an unfathomable culture shock and difficult transition. She quickly became passionate about making the education and culture Wesleyan has to offer more accessible to its first-generation, low-income students. As a result, for three years Sharit worked closely with Wesleyan’s Office of Residential Life to improve residential programs’ support for low-income, first-generation students. Her work focused on students’ transition to Wesleyan not just educationally, but also emotionally and culturally.
Growing up, Sharit witnessed her mother endure abuse, discrimination, and neglect in her workplace, to the point of causing detrimental injuries to her mother’s hands and shoulders. Her mother’s experience with workplace neglect and the lack of work safety programs drove Sharit to become passionate about immigrant workers’ rights and making work safety programs accessible to all. As a summer intern at Cypress Mandela Training Center Inc. (CMTC) through the Occupational Health Internship Program, she learned about workplace safety training programs, Occupational Safety and Health Administration training, and worked closely with Labor Unions to analyze the effectiveness of the three labor training programs offered by CMTC to the Oakland community.
As a CHCI Public Policy Fellow, Sharit hopes to gain an understanding of the ways in which labor policies and laws are written, with an emphasis on government accountability of labor safety. After the fellowship, she will continue to enhance her understanding and skills to better support disadvantaged workers and students in her community along with other communities like hers.