Supporting Student Leaders
For USF’s Day of the Don Celebration, we are reprinting a pre-pandemic post highlighting alum and supporter of our Center, Evelyn Fernandez Pedraza ’21, who became a dedicated social justice advocate through her experience as a her experience as a McCarthy Center Community Empowered Activist (CEA), Esther Madriz Diversity Scholar (EMDS), and Public Service and Community Engagement minor. Through her challenges, she continues to forge ahead, and is an example of the transformative experience that students find at the McCarthy Center. Today, we invite friends and family to donate to our Center, and enable more students to find their paths through advocacy for social justice.
What does “Changing the World from Here” mean to you?
Changing the World from Here is using our knowledge, power, privilege, voice, and accessibility to support and fight for marginalized communities. After joining EMDS I began fighting for systematic change. I’ve been blessed with so many opportunities and learning experiences at USF to allow me to change the world from here, especially through the McCarthy Center. Through the McCarthy Center’s CEA program, I was paired with the organization, PODER. For the last three years, I’ve been community organizing in the Mission district to fight for affordable housing and learning new grassroots advocacy. Although I cannot physically assist with PODER this year, I’m still going to use my knowledge to advocate for social justice issues.
Who is someone you know within the USF community who is “Changing the World from Here” and how have they transformed your time at USF?
I have to shout out two amazing women. Firstly, professor Stephanie Sears from Sociology. When I applied to be a member of EMDS as a Freshman she was present during my interview. She was the first person that helped me realize my ability to advocate for my community and to realize the voice, passion, and power I have. The second woman is Jackie Ramos, the program manager for the CEA program. While I have only known her for a year, I have seen her passion and commitment to fighting for social justice. Both of these women are not only mentors to me, but family. I cannot imagine my time at USF without either one of them.
What inspired you to pursue a major in Sociology and a minor in Public Service and Community Engagement and what are your aspirations for the future?
As a sophomore, I was frustrated because I felt behind everyone else I knew. I changed my major three times and didn’t know what I wanted to pursue after college. I decided to focus on core classes and a required sociology class for the EMDS program. I instantly fell in love with the subject. I pursued a minor in Public Service and Community Engagement because I saw a chance to learn more about community organizing. Although I am not entirely sure what specific path I want to pursue after graduation, I know I either want to continue my passion for public service and civic engagement or my dedication to development and alumni engagement.
What led you to apply for the Leo T. McCarthy Summer Fellowship?
I chose to be a McCarthy fellow because I wanted to bring humanity into policymaking. I know the systematic changes I want to make cannot realistically occur during a few short months in the summer but I can remind our policymakers of our communities and advocate for them.
What makes you proud to be a USF Don?
I am proud to be a USF student because of the opportunities I’ve been able to engage with. No other university had programs similar to USF. The scholarships that USF gifted me demonstrate that USF has believed in me from the start. As a first-generation low-income student, college was always a dream I wanted to pursue, but if it weren’t for the various donors I would not be at USF. For me, college is about taking advantage of moments and learning about one’s passion, and the scholarships allowed me to do so at USF.
To support students like Evelyn, make a gift in support of the McCarthy center.