Fellows (2015–2016)

Argentina

Rafael Saiz García

Rafael Saiz García

Rafa graduated from Princeton University (2015) with a B.A. in public and international affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School and certificates in Latin American studies and Portuguese language and cultures. He also was a residential college advisor and captain of the men’s club soccer team. Rafa has cultivated a strong interest in international relations and a passion for diplomacy and foreign service, a career path he will pursue after PiLA. He has a deep interest in Latin America, with experience in both the private and nonprofit sectors; he interned at Citigroup’s finance division in summer 2014, and was co-founder and president of an educational nonprofit (Ivy Spain). These entrepreneurial and private sector activities and his passion for and experience in Latin America will allow Rafa to make the most of joining Endeavor Buenos Aires. In his free time, he enjoys running, playing soccer, traveling, reading, and playing chess.

Partner Organization

Bolivia

Madison Goering

Madison Goering

Madison graduated from St. Olaf College (2015) with a B.A. in sociology and anthropology and concentrations in Latin American studies and management studies. A Colorado native, she had her first nonprofit experience as an intern at the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking (LCHT) in Denver. Madison wanted to continue raising awareness about human trafficking, so she co-founded a student organization that provides the St. Olaf community with opportunities to volunteer with and learn more about the anti-trafficking movement. These experiences cultivated her passion for human rights advocacy. In order to continue learning about a broad range social justice issues, Madison spent a semester abroad in Quito working at Asylum Access Ecuador, interned at Minnesota AIDS Project, and wrote grants for the national education nonprofit, Adopt-A-Classroom. She enjoys jazz and tap dancing, exploring the outdoors, and eating chocolate ice cream. Madison is thrilled to join Unidad Académica Campesina-Carmen Pampa as the Director of External Relations.

Sidney Madsen

Sidney Madsen

Sidney is a 2013 graduate of Cornell University, where she double-majored in international agriculture and rural development, and biology and society. At Cornell she pursued research and work opportunities in international development in Latin America and Africa. A Davis Projects for Peace grant and McKinley Family grant supported her research on food security with the NGO CEDICAM in Oaxaca, Mexico. After graduation, she continued to focus on smallholder food security and agro-ecology, performing research for Cornell in South Africa and Malawi, and undertook an internship with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Cuba. Through her education and experiences, she realized the potential and prominent role of smallholders in the international food system as well as the obstacles they face within it. She seeks a career in sustainable international development to effect positive change in the environment and farming communities around the world. After PiLA, she will travel to Guatemala on a Fulbright study and research grant to investigate the conservation and food security potential of traditional crops of the Q’eqchi’ Maya.

Brazil

Christina Moriah Smith

Christina Moriah Smith

In high school while working with the Boston public schools (BPS), Moriah realized that students could not only change oppressive school policies, but also utilize schools to eradicate oppression itself. This fueled her work at Wellesley College, where she majored in peace and justice studies with a concentration in education, focusing on the connections between race and education in the lives of African Indians (Siddis) and Afro-Brazilians. After graduation, she edited a textbook on apartheid with Facing History and Ourselves, and support talented youth of BPS with the Steppingstone Foundation. In 2014, she was a Fulbright English-teaching assistant in Ilhéus, Bahia, Brazil. There she discovered an enchanting small town, Serra Grande, alive with social movements. She looks forward to furthering her passions by returning to Serra Grande to support the NGO Floresta Viva in its educational initiatives, involving locals who work intimately on environmental sustainability.

Partner Organization

Emilia Sens

Emilia Sens

Emilia graduated from Georgetown University (2015), double-majoring in government and Portuguese. After playing two years on the Georgetown women’s varsity soccer team, she decided to try something new and study abroad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was during her junior year abroad when she became passionate about childhood and community development. Aside from studying at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), she spent time volunteering for a program called “Soccer Girls,” which offers free English classes and soccer training for the young women of the Vidigal favela. She returned to Georgetown for her senior year and wrote an honors thesis on the structure of NGOs in Rio de Janeiro and their potential impact on the women of the communities. She looks forward to continuing her work in Rio’s favelas with the support of PiLA and Developing Minds.

Partner Organization

Chile

Robert Shepherd

Robert Shepherd

Robert Shepherd graduated from Georgetown University (2015) with a double major in finance and international business. There he was a teaching assistant for a business strategy seminar, and chaired a student government committee overseeing an annual budget over $1M; he also worked as a barista at the Georgetown library coffee shop. His professional experiences include an internship in financial services advisory at Ernst and Young and an internship in corporate development at EverBank. His interest in Latin America traces back to his native Florida, where he began learning Spanish a decade ago. He explored this interest through a student exchange program in Spain and volunteer work at a Dominican Republic orphanage. Robert looks forward to merging his interests in business development, emerging markets, and Latin American culture and politics while working with Endeavor in Santiago.

Partner Organization

Colombia

Erick M. Juárez

Erick M. Juárez

From the small town of Bainbridge, Georgia, Erick graduated from Harvard University (2015) concentrating in neurobiology and earning a language citation in Italian. One of five children born to Mexican immigrant parents and field laborers, he encountered poverty early on, and consequently, developed a lifelong passion to give back and help the less fortunate. After graduating as his high school’s first Latino valedictorian, he enrolled at the United States Military Academy at West Point, but soon realized that his career interests lay elsewhere. At Harvard, Erick took part in Army ROTC, researched traumatic brain injury, and was very involved in shaping residential house life. He also studied in Italy (neuroscience) and in Colombia (public health), and did volunteer work in Costa Rica. His career goal is to become a surgeon, and he plans to maintain his interest in public health and the military. Beyond his professional and academic interests, he enjoys long-distance running, working out, watching and playing sports, and learning about other cultures. He is excited to return to Colombia as a Developing Minds fellow in Medellín, and hopes to make a profound impact on the lives of the former child soldiers with whom he will work.

Partner Organization

Xavier Burke

Xavier Burke

Xavier is an Atlanta native and credits the extensive Mexican-American population there for sparking his interest in Latin America. He graduated from Temple University (2015) with a B.A. in Spanish and a minor in Portuguese. Throughout, Xavier was involved in various activities that developed his interest in helping to better the North Philadelphia community. He was a mentor at Big Brother Big Sister of Southeastern Pennsylvania, which led to a position at Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia. Xavier studied in Havana (Universidad de La Habana) and in Barranquilla at Universidad del Norte, and traveled extensively throughout Colombia. A trip to Quibdó, Chocó Department, was a defining experience that caused him to shift his academic interest from Spanish language to human rights. Xavier subsequently undertook two internships in the Dominican Republic, as a U.S. acculturation teacher with the Dominican Summer League of Major League Baseball, and as a general operations intern at TECHO-República Dominicana. Xavier is ecstatic to work with Developing Minds and return to Colombia. After PiLA, Xavier plans to pursue graduate in study human rights and international relations.

Partner Organization

Costa Rica

Conor Lane

Conor Lane

Conor graduated from the University of Michigan (2013), triple-concentrating in history, Spanish, and Latin American and Caribbean studies. Conor became actively involved in a number of social justice organizations, coordinating support programs for the university’s LGBTQ resource center and serving on the executive board of The Quito Project, an education development partnership. Conor also had the privilege of interning with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York during his senior year, where he assisted U.S. ambassadors in the U.N. Security Council. These experiences have proven instrumental in developing his interest in U.S. diplomacy in the Western Hemisphere. Following graduation, Conor moved to Bogotá, where he was a Fulbright Scholar, teaching English at Universidad Colegio Mayor de Cundinamarca and volunteering with Colombia Diversa, an LGBTQ political rights organization. After PiLA, Conor hopes to earn a Ph.D. in Latin American history and pursue an academic career. Conor looks forward to a fantastic year in Costa Rica working with Fundación Arias.

Dominican Republic

Chelsea Christine Muir

Chelsea graduated from Pomona College with a B.A. in public policy analysis, and was awarded the Dole Kinney Prize in creative writing. She was elected captain of the Pomona College soccer team and awarded the Brine Distinction of Achievement Award from the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for her contributions on the field, in the classroom, and in the community. Her international experience includes studying at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, interning with the government of Buenos Aires, volunteering with a humanitarian aid group along the U.S.-Mexico border, leading an experiential education program in Costa Rica, and teaching English in Argentina and Indonesia. She taught ESL to dining hall workers at Pomona College, as well as to survivors of domestic abuse at the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center. She has conducted bilingual legal self-help clinics for migrant workers at Neighborhood Legal Services Los Angeles and she has done program development for a Bronx-based nonprofit that facilitates creative writing workshops for incarcerated and detained youth.

Partner Organization

Claudia Villar-Leeman

Claudia Villar-Leeman

Claudia, a native of Washington Heights in New York City, graduated from Bowdoin College (2015), where she studied biology and Spanish literature. She is passionate about social and environmental justice issues, and is interested in exploring how the two intersect. She has conducted various ecological research projects, including studies of pelagic seabirds in the Bay of Fundy, of eel larvae in the Sargasso Sea, and of salamanders in western Massachusetts hemlock forests. She has participated in two study abroad semesters, the first with the Sea Education Association, where she sailed a tall ship from the Caribbean to New York City and conducted research while on board, and the second in Quito, Ecuador, where she was directly enrolled in an Ecuadorean university and volunteered at a local medical foundation. At Bowdoin Claudia has been very involved with Intersections: People, Planet and Power, a group of Bowdoin students and faculty who are committed to a holistic and inclusive discussion about injustice. In the future, Claudia hopes to participate in initiatives that use scientific data to inform public policy, environmental education, and community development projects, and to promote environmental sustainability and climate change mitigation as a means of achieving social justice.

Eduardo Carlo

Eduardo Carlo

Eduardo is a graduate the University of Florida (2015), majoring in international studies and economics, with a minor in French. Fluent in English, Spanish, and French, Eduardo is driven by interests in international relations, economic and social development, as well as his passion to see Latin America grow. Eduardo has twice interned with the Capacity Development Unit of the United Nations Development Program. His passions for travelling and learning about different cultures have led him to backpack through Southeast Asia, precursor to a planned one-year, round-the-world road trip; Eduardo also enjoys reading, playing and watching soccer, cooking, and travelling. He hopes to combine his love for travelling and different cultures with his passion for Latin America, to pursue a career in international development.

Partner Organization

Emma Sleight Wilson

A Portland, Maine native, Emma notes that “over half my public school classmates were recent immigrants, often refugees, hailing from everywhere from the former Yugoslavia to Somalia, from Vietnam to Afghanistan.” She graduated from Duke University (2014) with a B.A. in international comparative studies, a certificate in Latin American studies and a minor in English. There she won the William J. Griffith Award for Outstanding Service to the Durham community, and the Duke Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies Service Award. Studying in Argentina and Ecuador sparked her passion for Latin America and the study of development and globalization.

Partner Organization

Isaac Bloch

Isaac Bloch

Isaac Bloch is a Yale (2012) graduate interested in education and economic justice in Latin America. Through Yspaniola, he first visited the Dominican Republic during his sophomore year, and the relationships he formed with Haitian immigrants in the Batey Libertad community challenged his assumptions about development work and activism. Isaac soon returned to lead a group of fellow students to the same community. He has since supported Yspaniola’s mission as a development associate based in New York, learning about fundraising drives and benefit galas, and is extremely excited to return to Batey Libertad to help with literacy education and, hopefully, to learn Haitian Creole. Beyond Hispaniola, Isaac has lived and worked in La Paz, Bolivia, where he directly enrolled at la Universidad Mayor de San Andres. For his senior thesis, which analyzed indigenous influences on Bolivians’ sense of nationalism, he won Yale’s Latin American Senior Essay Prize. Most recently, Isaac was an instructor with Chess in the Schools, where he taught chess full-time in New York’s public schools. When not working on lesson plans, he could be found juggling in Central Park or playing jazz piano.

Partner Organization

Morris McGinn

Morris McGinn

A Massachusetts native, Morris graduated from Cornell University (2015) with majors in government and Spanish and minors in Latin American studies and law and society. Volunteering with the Cornell Farmworker Program, he taught English, researched employer-employee relationships on farms, staffed legal clinics, and supported Mexican and Guatemalan consular visits to upstate New York. He also managed the weekly seminar series at Cornell’s Latin American Studies Program. Working for an education- and human rights-focused NGO in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, studying in Buenos Aires, and traveling in Ecuador and Brazil compelled him to return to Latin America. Morris enjoys learning languages and studied Portuguese and French in addition to his degree in Spanish. He is also an avid outdoorsman who enjoys backpacking and running. After PiLA, he plans to pursue a graduate degree in law and diplomacy.

Nicki Alexander

Nicki Alexander

Nicki is an Atlanta, Georgia native, and graduated from the University of Georgia Honors College (2014) with a double major in environmental economics and management and Spanish, and a certificate in environmental ethics. Throughout, she pursued her interests in athletics, the environment, and language. For four years, Nicki rode on the Division I Equestrian Team, which won the National Championship title in 2014. She worked within the community to reduce plastic bag use, volunteered on an organic farm, and tutored English as a Second Language and GRE math and language at a Latino center for education. To further her environmental and language studies, Nicki studied for a semester in Buenos Aires, where she interned with Greenpeace Argentina, and fell in love with Latin America. In August, Nicki will be leaving her job as an energy efficiency consultant to move to the Dominican Republic. She is very excited to share her passion for the environment with her students, and learn more about environmental issues affecting the Caribbean through her work at El Liceo Científico.

Rachel Weinstock

Rachel Weinstock

Rachel is a graduate of Tufts University (2015), where she majored in anthropology and community health. She pursued pre‐med coursework at Tufts with a special interest in primary care. She has focused her academic pursuits primarily on global health equity and community empowerment. Rachel also served as co‐President of GlobeMed, a student group partnered with an NGO working on poverty alleviation in rural Nepal, where she coordinated various fundraising and advocacy projects. Locally she volunteered as a peer health educator in Boston high schools with Peer Health Exchange. Rachel spent a semester studying in Chile, on a program that allowed her to complete independent research on the cultural relevancy of rights‐based health care in indigenous communities. Back in Boston, she interned with a planning project in the Dominican community. She developed an allied project examining the US medical system’s impact on Dominican transnational immigrants’ lives. She also worked as a clinical researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, where a project on patient‐centered prevention of hospital readmissions reinforced her understanding of sociocultural and political causes of serious health outcomes. She is excited to be working at El Liceo Científico teaching health and biology, and she looks forward to learning about the links between education, health, and community development.

Shawon Jackson

Shawon Jackson

Shawon graduated from Princeton University (2015), majoring in public and international affairs, with a concentration in education policy, with minors in African American studies, Latino studies, and Spanish. His senior thesis addressed the impact of strict school discipline policies on students of color. Outside the classroom, Shawon served two terms as student body president, co-led a civic engagement trip on juvenile justice, worked as a residential adviser, and was a hip-hop dancer. During summers, Shawon served as an international intern with an NGO in Honduras, an education policy intern with the Children’s Defense Fund, and a White House intern with the Office of Cabinet Affairs. At DREAM, Shawon looks forward to applying his passion for advancing educational equity and promoting social justice. After completing his fellowship with DREAM, Shawon will join Deloitte in Washington, D.C. as a business analyst, consulting for the federal government. Afterwards, he plans to join the federal government or a nonprofit and work on improving federal education policy.

Partner Organization

Sophia D'Angelo

Sophia D'Angelo

Sophia’s passion for culture and service reflects her own multicultural heritage and international upbringing, cultivated through her educational experiences. During her senior year at Princeton University (2012), she completed an AmeriCorps Term of Service as K–12 Education Project Coordinator for Energy Service Corps, leading a group of volunteers to teach in the public schools of Trenton, New Jersey. She also completed a semester in Santiago de los Caballeros, the Dominican Republic’s second largest city, where she returned to write her thesis on Dominican-Haitian relations and the portrayal of Afro-Latino racial perspectives in popular culture. After graduating, with a bachelor’s in Spanish literature and culture, and certificates in urban, Latin American, and African American studies, Sophia moved back to the DR. She began her teaching career at the university level in the English department at the Pontificía Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra, and then accepted a job teaching middle-school math and geography at Saint David School. There, she successfully implemented methods of in-class differentiation, significantly increased student success rates in mathematics, and formed the school’s first ever soccer program. Sophia is an avid soccer player, traveler, and adventurer.

Partner Organization

Ecuador

Sara Torres

Sara Torres

Sara graduated from Yale University (2015) with a B.S. in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology. She aspires to become a pediatrician and a future owner of a free healthcare clinic. As the daughter of Portuguese immigrants, she grew up speaking Portuguese and learned Spanish at Yale and in Quito, Ecuador through a Yale summer study abroad program. Growing up, she witnessed first-hand how health and education disparities affected her hometown of Newark, New Jersey. Wanting to implement service and change as a high school student, she organized soup kitchen trips, participated in education advocacy, taught catechism, and began a toy drive at a children’s hospital. At Yale, she continued to implement her passion for community service by tutoring New Haven youth, interpreting for Latino patients at a free health clinic, and by serving as a mentor for Yale minority students interested in STEM. She participated in education-related volunteer projects with disadvantaged youth in Morocco and China. She also conducted research at the Yale School of Medicine in a lab that focuses on developing future therapeutic targets of metabolic diseases, like diabetes. In her free time, Sara enjoys dancing, gastronomic photography, and traveling.

Guatemala

Abigail Koffler

Abigail Koffler

Abigail began studying Spanish in kindergarten at her international school in Queens, New York, and has studied, worked, undertaken research, and traveled around Latin America. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania (2015) with a B.A. in history and minors in Hispanic studies and urban education. She wrote a history honors thesis on challenges of inclusion in Ecuador’s indigenous education movements, edited the food section of Penn’s campus magazine, and worked in several Philadelphia public schools. In summer 2014, Abigail worked in Mexico City on Ashoka’s communications team, where she encountered the region’s quickly growing social entrepreneurship sector. She then traveled to Quito to conduct archival research for her thesis. She loves traveling, cooking, and talking about complicated issues. Abigail hopes to change the world in the most effective way she can, after figuring out what that might be.

Emily Nuss

Emily Nuss

Emily graduated from Middlebury College (2015), majoring in biology with a minor in global health. Her interests in health equity, global health, and the social determinants of disease inform her passion to become a physician. Her experience working with marginalized communities in the Dominican Republic led her to co-found Kids Connect (kidsconnect.org). She was co-director of development of GlobeMed at Middlebury for two years, where she wrote grant proposals to support its partner organization, Gardens for Health International in Rwanda. Studying with a School for International Training public health and traditional medicine program in Chile deepened her interest in Latin America, learning directly from indigenous leaders and health care workers about the health disparities in marginalized indigenous communities. Emily also volunteered as a medical interpreter for the Open Door Clinic in Middlebury, which provides free health care to uninsured adults in Addison County, Vermont, many of whom are migrant farm workers from Mexico. She enjoys running, swimming, playing soccer, and exploring the outdoors.

Emma Gorin

Emma Gorin

Emma grew up in New York City and graduated from Wesleyan University in 2012. During her junior year, she studied for a semester at the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán in Mérida, Mexico through the IFSA-Butler study abroad program. She returned to Mérida the next summer to intern with Brazos Abiertos, an HIV-AIDS awareness organization, where she developed a new curriculum for the organization’s education program. Emma wrote her senior thesis in philosophy on the role of language education in promoting intercultural understanding. While at Wesleyan, she also organized a contradance series through the Wesleyan Folk Revival Initiative, volunteered as an English instructor with WesESL, and tutored students at a local elementary school. Starting in the fall of 2012, Emma worked as a health educator and then program co-coordinator for the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families’ (CHCF) Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, based at a high school campus in the Bronx. At CHCF she facilitated sexual health education programs in English and Spanish and supervised a team of peer educators. Outside of work, Emma continues to be an avid dance leader and performer.

Josephine Herman

Josephine Herman

Josephine’s family moved to Costa Rica during her 7th-grade school year to be near relatives. There, she was immersed in a new culture and learned Spanish. She graduated from Tufts University (2013), where she chaired the worker-student alliance, directed a program that provided college advising to low-income students, and majored in American studies. Josephine spent a semester in the Dominican Republic interning at a Santo Domingo fair-trade apparel factory, studying with Jesuit priests, and trying her best to dance bachata. The country’s relationship to the bordering nation of Haiti especially fascinated her and inspired her senior thesis on the U.S.-Mexican border, which won the Shapiro Prize for Outstanding American Studies Thesis. After graduating, Josephine worked as a union organizer and as AmeriCorps-VISTA volunteer at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law in Chicago, advancing policies for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. She also volunteered as a counselor with Rape Victim Advocates. Josephine is excited to work with Trócaire to counter gender-based violence in Central America, and she looks forward to exploring Guatemala.

Partner Organization

Sarah Otis

Sarah Otis

Sarah was born and raised in the woods of Connecticut, but always desired to leave the bubble of her hometown. She moved to Washington, D.C., aiming to study international affairs at George Washington University (2015), but ultimately her interest in Latin America guided her. She is a passionate and fun-loving person who always enjoys meeting new people and traveling. Ultimately, she seeks work that will have an impact and enact constructive change in the world.

Haiti

Camille Allamel

Camille Allamel

Camille graduated from Columbia University (2015) with a double major in human rights (specializing in sociocultural anthropology) and Latin American and Iberian cultures. Her senior thesis analyzed the cultural responses to recent legal and policy changes concerning quilombola communities in the Brazilian Amazon, incorporating both research as well as case studies from her fieldwork in the area. Her strong interest in human rights and cultural studies has translated into several internships, including the Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris (Bogotá, Colombia, 2012), the European Roma Rights Centre (Budapest, Hungary, 2013), and the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi (Belém, Brazil, 2014). With support from the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, she directed a comprehensive group project (2012) in southeastern Louisiana, working with the Biloxi-Chitimacha indigenous community, which faces extensive land loss and relocation. She carried out two months of field research in Peru before beginning work as a resilience fellow for the World Food Programme in Port-au-Prince. She is excited to combine her interests in fieldwork, policy, and reporting in this role, as well as to learn Haitian Kreyol, building on her native French.

Mexico

Casey Ward

Casey Ward

Casey grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. During high school, he took several service trips to Honduras with a group that works with marginalized youth outside the capital, Tegucigalpa; the experience sparked his passion for Latin America. Recruited by the Princeton men’s lightweight rowing team, he studied politics and earned certificates in Spanish and Portuguese. After his sophomore year, he took up a summer internship in Santiago, Chile, at the Ministry of Education via the Princeton International Internship Program. In summer 2014, Casey worked on the trading floor at a major bank in New York City and learned a lot about himself and the professional world, coming away with an even stronger desire to work in Latin America and serve others. As a senior, Casey was the captain of the lightweight rowing team and wrote his politics thesis on the connection between autocratic consolidation and urban design in Latin American megacities. Casey enjoys hiking, running, and driving Jeep Wranglers.

Leah Koller

Leah Koller

Leah graduated from the University of Texas at Austin (2015) with a B.A. in Latin American studies and a concentration in Spanish. She fell in love with Latin American culture in high school by volunteering at a local elementary school in a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Houston. During that time, she also fundraised for and volunteered with Amigos de las Américas, a nonprofit that sent her to the Dominican Republic to collaborate with local youth and facilitate educational camps. At UT Austin, she was involved with Workers Defense Project, an organization that provides legal services, organizes fair employment initiatives, and politically empowers Texas workers. In summer 2014, Leah traveled alone to Peru, where she took buses and boats, befriended locals, and a stayed with an indigenous Amazonian family. After PiLA, Leah plans to pursue graduate degree in public policy, to inform a career in nonprofit work focused on education. In her free time, Leah hangs out with family, does art, hikes, and participates in a local Brazilian percussion group.

Panama

Jessie Burch

Jessie Burch

Having grown up in a predominantly white middle-class town in Central Oregon, Jessie moved to San Antonio, Texas upon graduation in search of a more diverse environment. While at Trinity University, she studied in Valparaiso, Chile for her junior year. Throughout her time at Trinity, she volunteered in community and academic programs that focused on practical approaches to promoting social justice. Working with low-income children in Chile, underserved populations in San Antonio, and community activists in Nicaragua cemented her commitment to a grassroots approach to development work. Since graduating with a B.A. in international relations and Spanish (2012), she has focused on public health, taking related courses in health care and earning certification as an English-Spanish medical interpreter in Washington State. She will be one of three PiLA fellows with the U.N. World Food Programme in Panama City.

Kaela Connors

Kaela Connors

Kaela graduated from the University of California, Berkeley (2015) with a B.A. in political science and international relations and a minor in environmental economics and policy. Kaela grew up interested in other cultures, with a mother from Poland and a father who worked in Latin America. Having lived in Mexico City for two years as a child, Kaela has a longstanding interest in the region and is excited to discover more while in Panama. She has long been interested in international development, but narrowed her interests to global health via various formative experiences at Berkeley. She interned at Child Family Health International, and served on a research team at University of California San Francisco called Global Health Decisions, helping to create a web-based tool to recommend HIV-AIDs prevention and treatment studies to policymakers in developing countries. She also worked on a UC Berkeley School of Public Health project investigating safe and reliable drinking water access in rural Panama. She spent a summer with TATA Projects in Hyderabad, India, where she evaluated the company’s social-responsibility initiative to install water purification plants in rural areas around India. After a semester studying in Madrid, she spent her senior year involved with the Patient Support Corps at UCSF. Kaela enjoys cooking and trying new cuisines, spending time in the sun, and becoming closely acquainted with new places. She is looking forward to working with the World Food Programme and exploring Panama City and its environs.

Valerie Moreyra

Valerie Moreyra

Born in Peru, Valerie graduated from New York University (2014) with a degree in international politics. While at NYU, she also studied in Spain with concentrations in European politics and Spanish literature. An avid traveler, Valerie recently completed a Junior Fellowship for the United Nations University in Tokyo. She was a consultant in an impact-evaluation field study for FAIRTRASA farmer associations in northern Peru, work that informed her interest in monitoring and evaluation work. She has supported Ebola emergency preparedness at Médecins Sans Frontières USA (Doctors without Borders), developed capacity building workshops for Amazonian indigenous communities at Land Is Life, and produced performance reports for UNICEF USA. Valerie is very excited to join the WFP food-security analysis team, and looks forward to a rewarding experience living and working in Panama.

Peru

Alexis Álvarez Franco

Alexis Álvarez Franco

Alexis is a first-generation graduate of the University of California, Berkeley (2015) with a major in political economy and a minor in environmental design and urbanism. He emigrated with his family from Mexico at the age of three, so that he and his brother could have an opportunity to pursue higher education. Influenced by his border-town homes, Mexicali and San Diego, Alexis has focused his work on international development and poverty alleviation. He interned for the Justice in Mexico Project at the University of San Diego, where he contributed to their evaluation of the Tijuana municipal police. He also worked as a research assistant for the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, researching ways to spur economic growth in Richmond, California.

Partner Organization

Uruguay

Gabrielle Girard

Gabrielle Girard

Gabrielle earned a B.A. in history and Spanish with a minor in Latin American studies from Cornell University (2015), graduating Phi Beta Kappa. Four summers of work at a nonprofit pre-K program in her Northern California hometown inspired her interest in social justice and Spanish. She has pursued these interests through coursework at Cornell and through interning with a French international law firm. As an undergraduate, Gabrielle served as a Cornell University Ambassador to prospective students, and as chapter president of her 160–member sorority. She also spent a semester of her junior year studying in Buenos Aires. Upon returning, she researched the effects of U.S. solidarity movements on government policy towards the Chilean refugees that fled the Pinochet regime, a project published by the Cornell Historical Society. 

Melanie Eliana Stern

Melanie Stern

Melanie graduated from Washington University in St. Louis (2015) with a major in urban studies and minors in architecture and Spanish. During her time there, she helped create—and was elected president of—the student group City Faces, whose mission is to support and enrich the lives of youth in a struggling St. Louis community by developing mentoring, tutoring, nutritional, and arts-based programming. Her time at City Faces inspired her to work with underserved youth and families and to promote positive and sustainable growth in developing communities. Interested in helping vulnerable communities develop through grassroots initiatives, she has interned with Children’s Defense Fund, a leading child advocacy organization; with Arch Development Corporation (Washington, D.C.); and with Community Arts and Movement Project (St. Louis). Melanie spent a semester in Argentina where she worked in Buenos Aires Villas, teaching music and English classes, while researching grassroots development strategies. She hopes to continue to learn from such communities, and eventually to pursue a masters in urban planning to help promote sustainable development.