A junior inductee to Phi Beta Kappa in 2020, Katia Necoechea Madriz (she/ella) is a first-generation, low-income student, raised by a single mother, from a predominantly Latinx community of Chula Vista, CA. Katia is a fourth-year undergraduate double majoring in Psychology and Education Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, graduating in Jun2021. Throughout her undergraduate career, Katia has dedicated her time to serving first-generation and/or low-income students, both in K-12 and at the university level. Katia has served as a Peer Academic Advisor (PAA) for the School of Social Sciences, mentored incoming first-year undeclared majors and/or first-generation college students, provided a fun and safe environment to second-grade students as an afterschool intern, was involved in 3 research programs, and was part of UCI’s Student Alumni Association. In her final year, Katia serves as the Peer Academic Advising Program Coordinator, where she oversees and trains a team of 70  PAAs. In this role, Katia increased PAA social media engagement and gained over 400 new followers, increased 2021-22 applications by 25%, and implemented professional development for the PAAs. Additionally, Katia served as a Policy Intern at Advocates for Justice & Education, Inc., through the UCDC program during the winter quarter. In just ten weeks, Katia was able to create a distance learning survey to assess how policies and practices had affected families with children with special needs in the D.C. area. Another highlight, Fiona Geary and Katia  Necoechea co-wrote a grant proposal to fund a project that makes important information about the rights of students with disabilities more accessible to Spanish-speaking parents, and to parents with lower literacy levels. The grant proposal was funded at 80%, which is what we requested ($8,000). Most notably, Katia received the Emerging Leaders & Emerging Researcher scholarship that reflects her campus leadership involvement and research experience through the  Summer Academic Enrichment Program and the Learning, Language, and Literacy Lab. In the future, Katia will earn a bilingual multiple subject teaching credential to teach elementary education for a few years. Then, she plans to pursue a Master’s in Educational Leadership and become an elementary school principal.

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1)  If we ask one of your friends to describe you, what would they say?
They’d say that I’m charismatic and welcoming. My friends know that I am outgoing and always want everyone to feel comfortable with one another. Last February, my roommates and I hosted a Galentine’s dinner. During this evening, I ensured that everyone felt comfortable with one another by starting conversations and games among one another as there were folks who did not know each other.

2)  What life events or personal mentorships, if any, directed you to the field of study you have chosen for your future endeavors?

One of the first courses I took as an education major was Education 101: Bilingual Tutoring. This was such an impactful course on my career aspirations as it unveiled my love and passion for bilingual education. This course taught me about bilingual education pedagogy and allowed me to gain practice in the field as a tutor. I am forever thankful for Professor Guilfoyle’s class, mentorship, and continuous support. Furthermore, the Student Achievement Guided by Experience (SAGE) program at UC Irvine provided me the mentorship and resources to achieve my aspirations of becoming a principal. As a first-generation student, I found it difficult to navigate planning for life after UC Irvine. However, through this program, I learned how to become a better candidate for competitive internships/fellowships, the graduate school application process, and just having an overall community I felt comfortable asking for help in achieving my academic, personal, and professional goals. I hope to build that sense of community Cecy and Neda built for us in the SAGE Scholars program in my future classroom.

3)  How and why did you choose the Fulbright Scholarship opportunity and what was your experience like working under the tutelage of your SOP advisor?

During my sophomore year, I participated in the Summer Academic Enrichment Program where I first heard about the Fulbright Scholar Fellowship. I remembered hearing an alumni speaking about her experience as a Fulbright English Teacher in Mexico City. The experience sounded so culturally immersive and such an impactful experience in her life. At the time, I never would have thought that I would be applying to this prestigious program myself. Personally, I applied to the Fulbright ETA in Spain because I felt it would be enriching as I would learn how Spanish educators and after-school youth programs support learning, as well as other needs, such as social justice and mental health. All of this knowledge and skills will allow me to create more tailored programs to foster individuality and confidence in my students. At the beginning of the application process, I did not feel competitive enough and felt I was not “Fulbright material.” I read upon previous Fulbright winners and felt I had not done enough to be awarded this fellowship. Imposter syndrome truly got the best of me at the beginning and at times, I felt like giving up. However, I am beyond grateful that I had the support of my SOP advisor, Courtney Santos, who helped me through the entirety of the application process. The Fulbright application had so many components that could have made it easily super overwhelming and discouraged me from finishing through the application process, but Courtney and the rest of the Scholarship Opportunities Program (SOP) team made it so easy to navigate.

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