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Elsa Mota


Miami, FL

Elsa was born and raised in Miami, Fla., and is of Dominican descent. In May 2014, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Florida with B.A in Criminology & Law and a B.S. in Psychology. Her senior thesis, titled ” Gun Culture in the South and Black Victimization” explored the alarming rate at which young black men are shot and at times killed by police officers and the prevalence of those events in the South.

At the University of Florida, Elsa was a Florida Opportunity Scholar. In that role, she served as a mentor to other first-generation, low-income identifying students and obtained a full tuition scholarship. Additionally, she was an orientation leader and “First Year Florida” instructor, working with incoming freshmen.

Elsa’s passion for teaching and mentoring led her to join Teach for America in Denver, Colorado. There, she taught a bilingual class of fourth graders. As a teacher, Elsa founded a co-ed dance team that incorporated fitness, creativity, and self-esteem into culturally responsive dances. In an effort to increase community and family engagement, Elsa set her school’s record for most home visits conducted in one semester. During these home visits, her understanding of the various socioeconomic and racial inequities faced by immigrant families deepened. Elsa’s experience with her students and their families inspired her interest in research, policy, and advocacy.

During her Autry year, Elsa hopes to learn about and develop relationships with the communities she will be working with. Elsa believes that identifying local needs is crucial to attaining educational and professional growth. Specifically, she will conduct policy research.