Daniela Estrada, a senior political science student and a 2016 winner of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, has recently been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to spend next year teaching in Colombia. The opportunity is another step toward her goal of becoming a public defender, albeit a slight detour.
Estrada previously interned with the Orange County district attorney’s office, an experience that solidified her desire to pursue a career in law. She believes the chance to teach English in Colombia will only help her grow as a public servant.
In her new position—she has yet to find out where she will be placed—she will be instructing college students. Her experiences with UCI programs such as SAGE Scholars and Saturday Academy of Law where she helped educate and inspire her peers as well as younger students will provide a helpful foundation. She also has plans to volunteer for a nonprofit organization that advocates for and provides legal services to victims that have been affected by armed conflict in the country. In fact, the past conflicts and ongoing peace talks in Colombia are what initially drew her to that location, and she plans to use everything she learns in her pursuit of a career in public defense.
“There is a lot of change occurring in Colombia and I am eager to immerse myself and learn from a society that is undergoing great change,” she says. “I believe volunteering for such organizations will better prepare me for my future as a public defender by learning how to best serve and interact with people from unfamiliar backgrounds and experiences.”
Estrada has always held the work of public servants in the highest regard—by her own account, her success has been made possible by the help of public service organizations and instructors who have gone beyond the call of duty. So she sees the Fulbright Fellowship as one more opportunity for her to pay it forward.
“I account my achievements to the public servants and professors who have mentored me throughout my time in higher education, as well as the assistance I’ve received from public service organizations I’ve been a part of,” she says. “If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be here. And I think that has motivated me to help others and to be a public servant – because I see how powerful it is.”
—Bria Balliet, School of Social Sciences