Originally from Caracas, Venezuela, Ivanna was raised in Miami, Fla., and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Robertson Scholar, a joint merit scholarship and leadership development program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. She majored in political science and public policy.
Ivanna’s interest in MDC’s mission of creating equity and closing the gaps that separate people from opportunity stems from her experience working at a homeless shelter in the Mississippi Delta and spending a summer in Sierra Leone’s Kailahun District leading a rural community asset inventory and supporting the creation of a community-designed and -led economic development plan.
At UNC-Chapel Hill, Ivanna was an active member of Student Action with Workers (SAW), a group that leverages student support to lift up the voices of the university’s lowest-paid workers. During her time with SAW, a coalition of students, community members, and workers led a successful campaign to stop legislation that would have eliminated state-guaranteed work protections for low- and mid-wage employees across the University of North Carolina system. The experience exposed her to the ways that inequitable work environments can exacerbate poverty rather than provide a pathway out of it.
Ivanna continued to explore these issues as an intern with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a grassroots advocacy network for domestic workers’ rights, and by organizing an independent oral history research project with Latina domestics in North Carolina as an intern at the Southern Oral History Program. She also has been involved with Who Needs Feminism, the international photo campaign that helps students worldwide host campus photo shoots of people holding handwritten signs explaining their reason for needing feminism.
As the Autry Fellow, Ivanna is excited to get involved in MDC’s Passing Gear Philanthropy engagements with foundations as they explore their communities’ history and develop data-based strategies for creating long-lasting change. She also hopes to learn about creating a systemic education-to-career pathway rooted in a sense of shared well-being between community members and employers.