Natalya Green grew up in Port St. Lucie, Florida. After high school graduation, she moved to Orlando with her older brother to attend the University of Central Florida where she achieved her bachelor of science in elementary education. Following her graduation, she taught middle school social emotional learning at a charter school in her hometown. While she loved teaching her students, she was dedicated to bettering the lives of students and their families through classroom policy. After six months of teaching, she decided to further her education in order to make a bigger impact on classrooms.
Natalya is simultaneously pursuing her master’s and doctoral degrees in educational leadership with a concentration in education policy at the University of Florida. While working on her studies, she serves as a council member for the College of Educations’ Advisory Council and is an active member in the Holmes Scholars Program and Kappa Delta Pi. Natalya is an advocate for all things education, including diversity and equality in school curricula and student/teacher mental health. However, her research interests are centered on improving educational outcomes for students in foster care. Natalya aspires to work in education policy to advocate for the needs of students, teachers, and schools across the country. She began her internship with IDRA in the summer of 2022.
Originally from East Tennessee, Makiah Lyons is a third-year law student at the Howard University School of Law. Makiah was a teaching assistant in a Chicago charter school when the pandemic arrived, exacerbating existing issues of educational access and equity. During her second year of law school, Makiah served as president of the Education Law Society and chaired HUSL’s inaugural education law symposium. Makiah is deeply passionate about school discipline policy and restorative justice work and hopes to be an advocate for Black and Brown youth, especially girls who are often overlooked. When Makiah is not working or studying, she enjoys thrifting and trying new recipes she finds on TikTok. She began her internship with IDRA in the summer of 2022.
Shaca Sweet is a senior at the University of Texas at San Antonio, studying communication with a public relations concentration. AT UTSA, she is the student body vice-president and works to ensure she is the primary voice and advocate for her community. She is also a part of the Black Student Union at UTSA where she serves as a co-community service coordinator. During her time at UTSA, Shaca has had the privilege to serve on the College of Liberal and Fine Arts Dean Student Advisory Council, was on the Dean’s list, selected for George Washington Universities Public Service Weekend 2022 Cohort, and more! Moreover, Shaca plans on pursuing her graduate degree in public policy. As a communication intern at IDRA, she looks forward to learning and working toward the IDRA’s mission!
Jailynn Eaton is a senior at the University of Texas at San Antonio where she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communication with a minor in sociology in December 2022. She is passionate about her studies, having made the President’s List for outstanding academic achievement her sophomore and junior year at UTSA and hopes to attend graduate school sometime in the future. She spends her free time reading, playing video games, and working with watercolor paint. Her future career goal is to use her strong writing skills by working with companies in creating effective communication plans and coordinating their social media. At IDRA, she is working with the communication team on a number of projects, including developing advocacy tools for students.
Haley Gray, originally from Loganville, Georgia, is a second-year graduate student at Vanderbilt University, pursuing a master’s degree in education policy. She finished her undergraduate program at Vanderbilt University in May 2021 and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in child studies and a bachelor of science in human and organizational development. While at Vanderbilt, Haley has been an active member of several campus and community organizations that are dedicated to mentoring and providing equitable educational resources to students in families with low incomes and students of color in Metro Nashville Public Schools. Haley’s experiences working within the Nashville Public School System coupled with her current position as a research analyst for Resonant Education have refined her interests in school discipline, community schooling, and culturally sustaining curricula. As a policy, advocacy and community engagement intern at IDRA, Haley will continue her work and research on these topics by pursuing opportunities to advocate for policies that support the spatial legitimization of Black and Brown students.
Gabriel Martínez is a second-year master’s student in the education policy and planning program at the University of Texas at Austin. Gabriel currently works as a graduate assistant for Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success), a mentoring initiative focused on supporting middle and high school boys of color across the Austin area. He received his B.S. in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in education from Texas State University in the fall of 2020. Gabriel’s research interests include reviewing the socio-economic factors that impact particularly young men within the Latino educational pipeline, as well as the effects of community organizing and mentorship.
Melivia Mujica is a queer, first generation Chicana from the South side of San Antonio. She is currently pursuing her double major in law and environmental science as a junior at Texas A&M Kingsville. Since her sophomore year, she has been a student advocate at her Title I high school, where she was able to push her school toward greater structural equity through her leadership. Some of the main projects Melivia led on campus were a LGBTQ tolerance training for all faculty and staff, “know your rights” training for undocumented students and families, an on-campus community garden, a push for and acquiring more mental health services on campus and in her community, and a change in the disciplinary structure which took the system from being punitive to a more holistic approach that addressed students’ personal issues.
Melivia also managed to be active outside the classroom as a Youth Commissioner for the city of San Antonio. All while simultaneously maintaining a 4.0 GPA in her school’s early college program, leading as the captain of her swim team, running in her school’s cross-country team, participating as the editor for the yearbook, and working as a photographer for the athletic department. During this time, she also had to manage personal hardships and multiple mental illnesses. She has been featured in several local conferences and news outlets for her efforts, including: The San Antonio Express News, Univision, ABC KSAT12 News, The Rivard Report, The Chalkboard, Intercultural Research and Development Association LSDN Conference, The San Antonio International Women’s Day March, and The South San Kids First Conference. When she is not completely overwhelmed, you can find Melivia painting, reading or hanging outside with her pet tortoise Ophelia, who is named after the Shakespearean character that (much like her tortoise) had issues with swimming. You can follow her on Facebook www.facebook.com/melivia.mujica.3
Taylor Zey is an incoming senior at the University of Texas at Austin, studying communications and leadership with a minor in business. During her time in college, she has interned and worked for various nonprofit organizations, such as Girls Empowerment Network and the YMCA. These working experience enabled her to pick up valuable skills and knowledge on best practices regarding education and nonprofits. She puts her knowledge to use in real time as she serves as president of a student-run organization called Girl Up at UT. As president, she has been able to accomplish several success fundraisers, put on hygiene product drives for local women’s shelters, and spread knowledge surrounding intersectional feminism through tabling events. She plans to continue her work within educational nonprofits that are geared toward students and one day start a non-profit of her own. As a communications intern at IDRA she is expanding her knowledge on communications and best practices within nonprofits.
Adriana Cortes is a senior at L.E.E High School in the STEM Academy. She has been studying engineering and science since eighth grade and will be the only female student in the STEM Academy graduating in May 2022 with an engineering endorsement. Outside of Adriana’s academic work, she remains active as the treasurer of STEM Ambassadors, vice president of the ROSBOTS Robotics Club, and lead violinist of Mariachi Unido. After high school, Adriana plans on continuing her education and pursuing her degree in biomedical or chemical engineering.
Mia Covarrubias is a graduate student at Our Lady of the Lake University pursuing a master’s degree in psychology with a concentration in school psychology. She graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2020 with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. She is the education and social media board member for the PFLAG (Parents Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays) San Antonio chapter. As well as volunteers for the Trevor Project. Her goal after graduation is to create a space where LGBTQ+ youth are safe and affirmed.
Lauren Fontaine, a fifth grade ELARSS-ESL teacher with Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, has had the privilege of teaching and learning alongside brilliant Texas youth in Title I schools for seven years. A graduate of the University of Northern Iowa with their M.A.E in disability studies/special education and two bachelor’s degrees in elementary education and philosophy, Lauren is delighted to support the IDRA EAC-South in expanding their technical assistance to be inclusive and affirming of LGBTQ+ youth, educators and communities. Lauren works with the ultimate goal of education, liberation, always on their heart and mind.
Alejandra graduated from Yale University in May 2021, where she majored in ethics, politics and economics with a concentration in issues of educational inequity. During her time as a student, she conducted policy research on various education equity issues as an intern for the Public Interest Law Center, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. As a community engagement intern at IDRA, she hopes to user her experience advocating for increased educational access to continue making the promise of a high-quality public education a reality for fellow youth in families with low incomes.
Monica Obregon is a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin in the master’s of education policy and planning program. She currently works as a graduate assistant for the Transfer Year Experience program that creates transfer-specific academic spaces, connects students to experienced mentors and builds avenues to establish peer networks. She earned her bachelor of arts in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Texas at San Antonio in May 2021. Her interests include school finance, Texas legislation budgets as it pertains to the education system, and long-term impacts of inequitable funding in school districts across the state.
Darlissa Villanueva is a Rio Grande Valley native from Santa Rosa, Texas. She is currently a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy with a concentration in educational policy and planning. Darlissa graduated from Texas A&M University in 2018 with a bachelor of arts degree in political science. Prior to graduate school, Darlissa worked with Texas A&M’s AdviseTX chapter, which is a non-profit organization that places recent college graduates in Texas high schools to help increase college enrollment for first-generation students and students in families with low incomes. Darlissa served as an advisor at John F. Kennedy High School in Edgewood ISD and Navasota High School in Navasota ISD. Her focus is centered on ethnic studies, accountability, school censorship issues and access to higher education, particularly for students from low-income communities.