The IDRAEducation Policy Fellows Program‘s latest class began in October 2022 for the Texas and Georgia legislative sessions in 2023. The IDRA fellowship program is generously supported by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Kresge Foundation. The IDRA Education Policy Fellows Program moved from Texas in 2021 to Georgia for the state’s legislative session in early 2022. The program’s inaugural cycle in Texas operated from November 2020 through July 2021. The IDRA fellowship program was generously supported by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Trellis Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and in partnership with the John Gardner Public Service Fellowship, facilitated by Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service. IDRA’s Research Fellowship was supported in partnership with the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The IDRA José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellowsprogram was established in 2013 by IDRA to honor the memory of IDRA founder, Dr. José Angel Cárdenas.
Jonathan Peraza Campos (he/him/él) received his undergraduate degree in 2018 from Emory University. He completed his master’s degree in social foundations of education at Georgia State University in 2021.
Jonathan studies and organizes around the links between racism, imperialism, immigration, militarism, incarceration, policing and education, especially in the U.S. South and the Central American diaspora. He has been involved in campaigns for racial, immigrant, and educational justice and abolitionist causes in metro-Atlanta and beyond. As an educational consultant and an abolitionist educator-organizer, much of his work has focused on creating curriculum and infrastructure for Latino studies and abolitionist teaching. He is invested in teaching Latino and immigrant youth about their histories, writers, thinkers, knowledge and movements through an asset-based Latinx Studies and ethnic studies approach. Culturally sustaining, bilingual/multilingual and liberatory education are at the heart of the work he does.
His favorite foods are pupusas, pizza, lo mein, mangos, and maracuyá. Books, swimming pools, and the dance floor are his friends. And he feels spiritually connected to mountains and forest.
Community Engagement: Facilitated meetings for the Georgia Coalition for Education Justice and helped lead a coalition teach-in.
IDRA Education Policy Fellow – Texas College Access and Success
Steve Kemgang is a graduate of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in French with a minor in educational psychology. He served in several leadership positions on campus and in the surrounding community where he developed a passion for advancing educational equity and health care access throughout his service with various organizations, such as Communities in Schools and Habitat for Humanity.
After undergrad, Kemgang taught English to underserved and low-income minority students in the East Austin community. As an educator, he established a space for his students to analyze identity through the readings of Chicano/Latino and Black literature in order to assist them in linking literature and their own experiences in crafting their personal narratives.
Subsequently, he earned a bachelor of science degree in human biology at Northwestern Health Sciences University and completed a research fellowship in the emergency department of the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Throughout his term, he assisted several underserved and marginalized patients from the surrounding communities navigate their healthcare journeys.
He has been serving as a lead advisor at Breakthrough in Austin, where he has been instrumental in working with students who will be first-generation college graduates. His research interests lie at the intersection of education and health equity.
IDRA Education Policy Fellow – Texas Fair Funding for Strong Public Schools
Diana Long grew up on the West Side of San Antonio and is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She is a proud Edgewood ISD alumna and first-generation college student. Diana is pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy at the University of Texas at Austin. She earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Trinity University in San Antonio, where she served in several leadership positions on campus. During her undergraduate career, she was a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and worked alongside well-renowned scholars in the field of education and educational leadership. Her inquisitiveness and general concern for inequitable education motivated her to design and publish a thesis that highlighted the processes in which the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated inequities in education, specifically in low-income districts in San Antonio.
Most recently, Diana was selected as a Summer 2022 Graduate Archer Fellow. As an Archer Fellow, she served as a research intern at Excelencia in Education, a national not-for-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., working to accelerate higher education success for Latino students. In this role, she completed a comprehensive data verification project to craft recommendations that utilize data to inform practices that intentionally serve Latino students in institutions of higher education.
Diana’s personal background and research experiences in the areas of Latino education and school finance motivated her to pursue a career in education policy. Diana used her IDRA fellowship experience to learn and grow as an educational advocate in a professional setting and make a positive impact in the public education system for generations to come.
Community Engagement: Helped coordinate activities of the Texas Legislative Education Equity Coalition
Community Engagement: Led presentation for ARISE on the status of the Texas Legislature
Alisha “Tuff” Tuff
IDRA Education Policy Fellow – Texas Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline
Alisha Tuff is from the southside of Chicago. She attended Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology with a minor in psychology. She is a second-year master’s student in the educational policy and planning program at the University of Texas at Austin. During her time at UT, Tuff mentored at Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success) where she worked with young men at the Austin Alternative Learning Center. She has interned for the Children’s Defense Fund Texas where she taught youth how to advocate for themselves and prepared testimony promoting an honest social studies education that represents all students.
Tuff is interested in the school-to-prison pipeline, pushout of Black and Latino students in school, and ensuring every student feels welcome in the classroom. She wishes to change the narrative that Black and Latino students are “at risk.” She believes there is value in every student and that to have a good learning environment we must embrace the backgrounds of all students and have respect for their community.
Her main hope in education advocacy is to uplift those who have been left behind and who have only been seen with a deficit mindset.
Ruth M. Youn is a native Texan, second-generation Chinese-Taiwanese American, writer and activist in Atlanta. She earned her bachelor’s degree in international affairs at Florida State University. Ruth’s previous studies in French, Spanish and Arabic led her to pursue a five-year stint as an educator in South Korea. During her time there, she experienced the significant impact of simultaneously feeling a sense of belonging (as a person who visibly appears East Asian) and of isolation (as a non-Korean and an emergent Korean-language learner) in a new country. Ruth’s experiences compelled her to deeply reflect upon her own journey in the U.S. public school system as a daughter of immigrants.
Her years abroad also heightened her awareness of the struggles and inequities that present-day students encounter within public education. In response, Youn became a founding member of the grassroots organization, Asian American Voices for Education (AAVEd), which advocates for comprehensive U.S. history to be standardized in Georgia K-12 schools. Upon entering IDRA’s fellowship, looked forward to expanding her knowledge and experience to state-level work.
Mikayla Arciaga, M.A. Ed., spent the last five years teaching high school math and coaching swimming at Title I schools in both Florida and Georgia. While still in the classroom, she worked with multiple school districts in a variety of roles focusing on community engagement, curriculum improvement, teacher development and policy analysis. During her summers, Mikayla collaborated with and led a team of policy fellows assisting school board members in metro Atlanta and across the country. She contributed to several projects including a line-item review of an $800 million budget, an equity audit of almost 200 school board policies, and an analysis of both school and state-level per-pupil expenditure data.
Throughout her work at the school district level, she recognized the need for high-quality accountability processes in the public school system, which motivated her to pursue a master’s degree in program evaluation in the educational environment from the University of Florida. Mikayla’s policy interests are centered around dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, accessibility for students with disabilities and digital accessibility. Outside of education policy, her other great love has been to make swimming accessible to learners of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. As a swim coach, she has worked to create a space focusing on sportsmanship, community, and joy, bringing home the first city championship in school history.
Schools Should Value Student’s Lived Experiences, Not Censor Them – IDRA Testimony against HB 1084 in the Georgia General Assembly, presented by Mikayla Arciaga, M.A.Ed, to the House Education Academic Innovation Subcommittee, February 9, 2022 – See video
IDRA Education Policy Fellow – Texas Preparation and Access to College
Dr. Altheria Caldera is a scholar, writer and equity activist whose other identities include dog-lover, nature-enthusiast and college football fan. The Alabama native began her professional career as a middle school English teacher. As a teacher educator for the last four years, she aims to equip her students with the knowledge necessary to effectively teach students of color in P-12 schools. Through her research and scholarship, she aims to promote access and equity for all minoritized students in academic institutions that span the P-16 spectrum. Altheria earned her Ph.D. in education studies from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and is looking forward to learning how to apply her classroom knowledge to state-level advocacy work.
As an IDRA Education Policy Fellow, Altheria identified and pursued advocacy opportunities to expand access to and ensure success in postsecondary education spaces, particularly for students of color. After the fellowship cycle ended, Altheria became assistant professor of language arts and reading at Howard University and director of its DC-Area Writing Project.
Araceli Garcia grew up on the South Side of San Antonio and is the daughter and granddaughter of Mexican immigrants. As the culmination of her hard work and the sacrifices of her family, Araceli graduated from Stanford with a B.A. in Chicanx/Latinx studies and a minor in education. Araceli is the first person in her family to attend college, and she has held several leadership positions within the Stanford University Latinx community, where she found a home away from home. In addition to her studies, Araceli has worked alongside detained immigrants fighting for their right to seek asylum. She plans to pursue a law degree.
As an IDRA Education Policy Fellow, Araceli identified and pursued advocacy opportunities that ensure equitable and excellent schools for English learners and immigrant students. After the fellowship cycle ended, Araceli entered the University of Texas’ School of Law.
IDRA Education Policy Fellow – Texas Digital Communications and Community Engagement Advocacy
Thomas Marshall III is a native of Columbia, South Carolina and is new to the Houston area, residing in the Third Ward. He attended Clemson University for his undergraduate studies, where he received a B.A. in English with a minor in youth development studies. Educational equity is at the core of his heart and collegiate career. During his undergraduate career, he mentored and holistically developed men of color, ranging from first-year students to seniors in high school. To Thomas, educational equity is when the institution of education decides to take ownership of the inconvenient truth: the history of inequities in education put marginalized folks first. His research interests include the recruitment and retention rate of Black males at predominantly white institutions. He is currently a student in the master of education (higher education) program at the University of Houston.
As an IDRA Education Policy Fellow, Thomas executed a strong digital communications and community engagement advocacy program for the 87th Texas legislative session. After the fellowship cycle ended, Thomas joined the IDRA staff as a policy communications strategist.
IDRA Education Policy Fellow – Texas Equitable Response to COVID-19 in Schools
Christina Quintanilla-Muñoz, M.Ed., is a second-generation, Latina master’s student studying quantitative methods in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Christina believes that voices from students and other advocates of color are grossly under-represented in the policymaking space. She hopes to learn how to be a stronger advocate for families, students and educators in local communities, using advocacy and community-focused data collection strategies to identify their needs.
As an IDRA Education Policy Fellow, Christina identified and pursued advocacy opportunities that address both the new and the existing systemic needs that schools, students and families have due to COVID-19. After the fellowship cycle ended, Christina joined the IDRA staff as research analyst.
Except where otherwise noted, content produced by IDRA fellows during their fellowship is licensed under a Creative Commons (CC-BY). This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use.