Jessica Villa is a graduating senior majoring in Sociology and also enrolled in the Dual Degree and Teacher Preparation Program, and has served as an admirable leader at University of San Francisco. She is a second-year Advocate for Community Engagement through the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good, and coordinates meaningful service-learning projects at an educational nonprofit called Mission Graduates. Jessica is committed to serving youth through educational enrichment and college readiness programming, and coordinates projects to ensure a dynamic and supportive learning environment for student program participants. She also serves as Co-chair of Latinas Unidas, a student organization dedicated to celebrating sisterhood among Latina students at University of San Francisco. She is a committed leader on campus and in the community, and inspires her peers to combat educational disparities impacting low-income students in San Francisco. We value her impact on the USF community, and commend Jessica for her social justice and education advocacy throughout her undergraduate career.
As a child, I remember my mother's voice saying, "¡Échale ganas!"(roughly meaning "give it your all"), as I completed my homework after school on our kitchen table. My parents constantly reinforced the idea that education was the key to success as an immigrant family in the United States. This has greatly informed the way I engage with communities through service during my college career. Education should provide the tools necessary for marginalized communities to advocate for themselves in support of their individual and collective goals. In working with Mission Graduates in San Francisco, I have come to realize the importance of community involvement and leveraging neighborhood assets in support of students. I have learned this firsthand through my engagement with the Mission District community, which is comprised of primarily Latinos, immigrant families, and first generation students. Each semester I coordinate service-learners from University of San Francisco placed with Mission Graduates, and challenge them to break the deficit-based narratives often told of the youth in San Francisco's Mission District. My service experiences have greatly influenced my career path as a future teacher, as I aspire to teach for social justice and equity in academically underserved communities.