Evelyn Pedraza Fernandez, a third-year student at the University of San Francisco, is a campus leader working towards social justice impacting immigrant and undocumented families. She participated in the year-long Esther-Madriz Diversity Scholars Program (EMDS), focusing on social justice and community organizing in the sociological framework of hip hop. Through EMDS, she interned at Tenants Together, a 24/7-hour crisis hotline that defends the rights of California tenants to safe, fair, and affordable housing. She is currently a Resident Advisor, overseeing 400+ first-year residents—serving as liaison to campus resources, managing crisis de-escalation, and conducting wellness checks. Evelyn serves as a Community Empowerment Activist, acquiring the skills of grassroots organizing while interning with the People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Justice (PODER). PODER, a grassroots organization works to create people-led solutions to environmental and economic inequities facing low-income Latino immigrants. In summer 2020, Evelyn will be a McCarthy Fellow in Sacramento, living, working, and learning at the state’s capital—conducting legislative research within the systems that shape policy. Evelyn has committed to be an agent of change through grassroots organizing, community building, and implementing policy change that serves the people.
I am the daughter of a low-income, immigrant and single mother growing up in an affluent city.
Since I was young, I knew that I wanted to help people because I do not want others to feel their struggles are their fault. When I arrived at USF, the emphasis on social justice, inequality, and advancing change in the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars program motivated me to apply. There, I was able to intern as a hotline crisis counselor with Tenants Together. Hearing and sharing guidance with callers afraid of housing instability was a humbling and enriching experience for me. Now, I am a Community Empowerment Activist, learning how to organize and build advocacy in solidarity with the community through PODER. We have been preparing the community for the 2020 Census by hosting educational and computer literacy workshops. We want the community to receive necessary funding, which stems the Census report. Next summer, I will be a McCarthy Fellow in Sacramento working at the state’s capital to understand how politics relates to community organizing to respond to the needs and lived experiences of the people being served.