In Their Words: Gianna DeFelice

gianna-defelice-quaye.jpegName:  Gianna DeFelice

College: Rachel Carson

Department: Community Studies and Sociology

What Award/Scholarship did you receive? I received the Benjamin Quaye Memorial Award for Social Justice.

What year do you expect to graduate? 2020

Where do you call home? I moved around a lot growing up, but I spent most of my adolescence in a small mountain town called Oakhurst near the entrance to Yosemite. My roots are there, but Santa Cruz also feels like home to me.

With all of the choices for college, what made UC Santa Cruz stand out? While I did not have the opportunity to visit all the colleges I applied to, I was fortunate enough to visit a friend who was attending UCSC during my senior year of high school. I fell in love with the beauty of the campus. The redwoods, the ocean view—it really is the best of both worlds. Of course, it didn’t hurt that UCSC also awarded me with the most financial aid.

What is your field of focus? I will be graduating as a double major in Sociology and Community Studies. In particular, most of my main interests fall under realm of health justice; including affordability and accessibility to nutritious food and environments, mental health awareness, and mitigating health inequalities experienced in disenfranchised communities. However, I am specifically interested in working with children who lack traditional family backgrounds and working in rehabilitative spaces that promote health on a multi-dimensional level.

What do you hope to do once you graduate from UC Santa Cruz? Once I graduate, I hope to gain additional experience related to my field of focus with the intention of returning to graduate school to pursue a degree in public policy or counseling.

What is one memorable moment that stands out for you as a student here? Reflecting back, I feel incredibly privileged to have participated in the Student Volunteer Center’s Alternative Spring Break trip to New Orleans during 2017-2018 academic year to learn more about food and housing insecurity predominantly in the Lower 9th Ward. During the trip. we met with organizers and community leaders that shared their knowledge and wisdom with us in a way that transcended the theme we originally were there to learn about. It was humbling to be welcomed by a community that I was not a part of, to learn from it, and to be impacted in such a way that it changed not only my academic trajectory, but also how I view and respond to the world around me.

What is your one piece of advice for incoming students about life at UC Santa Cruz? My one piece of advice for incoming students is to carve out a community of support for yourself whether it be getting involved with student organizations, utilizing the resource centers, or going to your professor’s office hours. Building relationships with TA’s and professors has been foundational in my academic success at UCSC. Lastly, take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves during your undergraduate career and trust that you deserve them.

How will this scholarship impact your academic life/research? Currently, I am preparing for my field study in Oakland, CA at WestCoast Children’s Clinic, in which I will be assisting youth who have been removed from their homes and engaging in policy work regarding the Alameda foster care system. Their work connects back to my passion for health justice on and my research interest in trauma as as a consequence of social inequities. This scholarship will assist me with the associated costs of rent in the Bay Area as well as everyday living while I am dedicating my time to the field study. Receiving the Benjamin Quaye scholarship is a reminder to continue down the path of advocating for social justice issues—and to always bring that knowledge and activism back to your own communities in whatever capacity possible.

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