dreamer | adventurer
Monica Valencia was born in Los Angeles, California to immigrant parents from Mexico, but she very much grew up in an immigrant household where Spanish is her native language. Her parents did not speak English, so Monica did not learn to speak English until she reached elementary school. Monica believes that her language and her culture are both important to her identity, but also to the ways in which she navigates her spaces in society. Often, code switching is a very present in Monica's life, not only in every day conversations, but in speaking with family and friends.
Monica grew just a half mile away from Dodger Stadium in Echo Park, sporting all the tomboy-ish attributes that a little Mexican girl from Los Angeles could ever display. As the eldest, she spent her days daydreaming and convincing her two brothers, Oscar and Alberto, to follow her around the neighborhood attempting all types of "travesuras."
After some time, Monica's family relocated to Riverside, California because gang violence was becoming pervasive in Echo Park. When Monica was only 12 years old, her parents divorced. Her mother became a single parent and they decided to move over to Moreno Valley, California. Monica graduated from Moreno Valley High School and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force just a few months after. She received station assignments in the U.S., South Korea and Germany, where she was able to travel the world and experience new cultures. After six years of service, Monica returned to California in 2008 with an honorable discharge.
Anxious to start on a new path, Monica enrolled at Oxnard College under the instruction of Dr. Marie Butler; a Sociologist. Monica was very active as the Sociology Club president and quickly became the Editor-in-Chief of the Student Voice News Media on campus. After two years in community college, she received 3 Associate of Arts degrees in Sociology, Anthropology and Liberal Arts with High Honors. Monica was then accepted to several universities, but she ultimately decided to attend her dream school - the University of Southern California (USC).
Monica excelled academically and received numerous awards, scholarships and fellowships at USC. She was accepted into the Honors Thesis program and was able to design, conduct and complete an Undergraduate Honors Thesis. Monica successfully presented her research findings at numerous sociological conferences around the nation and coined the term, "Transnational Prejudice." Monica spent a year and a half in the field conducting research based on participant observation, ethnography, and in-depth interviews, which focused on Oaxacan immigrants and the discrimination they face in Mexico, during migration, and in the U.S. This is a piece of work that she is most proud of.
Monica forged strong mentorships with two USC professors, Dr. Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo and Dr. Jody Agius Vallejo, to whom she is very grateful for their tutelage. Monica graduated from USC in 2013 having received one of the highest honors; the Order of the Laurel and the Palm, among other honors that celebrated her academic abilities. She graduated from USC (Magna Cum Laude) with a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Human Rights.
In 2014, she began her Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree at the University of San Francisco School of Law with a focus on indigent criminal defense, immigration, and human rights. In 2015, Monica spent her summer in Jackson, Mississippi working on the death penalty at the Mississippi State Capitol Defender's Office. She returned to San Francisco to volunteer as a law clerk at the Immigration Center for Women and Children and as a legal advocate for persons in prison at Justice Now in Oakland, CA.
Monica also been active at USF Law as the president of USF La Raza Law Students Association, the vice president of the Immigration Law Society and the vice president of the Veteran Law Students Association for the 2015-2016 school year. In addition to her community service and civic engagement, her work has been recognized with scholarships, fellowships and awards to include the Arthur C. Zief, Jr. Scholarship, the San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association Fellowship, the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association Fellowship, the OneJustice & USF Law Pro Bono Publico Awards, and the Equal Justice Works Public Interest Law Award. At her law school graduation, she was awarded the "Pursuit of Justice" award - a true honor for her.
Although Monica prides herself in being a woman of color with a diverse background, she has never lost sight of where she comes from. Her Latino roots remain an integral part of her identity and she hopes to continue to give back to her community. Monica is grateful and appreciative to her family, mentors, and friends for keeping her grounded and supporting her through her journey.