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2020-2021 CHCI-New York Life Public Policy Fellow

Hometown: Lincoln, Nebraska
School: Cornell University
Degree: B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations
Placement: U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

Vanessa Lizeth Lobo-Gradiz is a first-generation, Honduran-American, raised in the Midwest’s center–Lincoln, Nebraska. From a young age, she dreamed of being the first in her family to attend university. This dream led her to apply to more than 30 colleges and universities during her senior year of high school, despite being dissuaded from applying and being told she was not “good enough to attend an out-of-state college.” However, she disregarded those comments and listened to her mother, her endless supporter, “Que si se Puede.” Vanessa went on and graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Labor Relations and a minor in Law and Society.

Having experienced the demoralizing effect of the lack of support provided by her school throughout the admissions process, one of her purposes in college was to make sure she became a source of encouragement for under-resourced students during this challenging chapter. When she got on campus, she joined an organization that visits local middle and high schools to teach students everything about the college application process. By her senior year, she became Co-President, and the majority of students went from not seeing college as an option to making it their number one goal. During her sophomore year, she became a Matriculate Virtual Advising Fellow, where all her mentees ended up at top universities. During her senior year, she was also chosen as one of six Inaugural Kessler Presidential Scholar Mentors, where she advised Class of 2023 first-generation students to navigate college successfully.

As a CHCI fellow, she hopes to learn new ways on how to help Latinos and other marginalized communities achieve higher education, navigate the legal system, and overall have a loud voice in politics. In the future, Vanessa aspires to go to law school and work in the public sector advocating for underserved and low-income communities.