Karla was born in Bogota, Colombia to blue-collar parents who migrated to the United States in the early 1990s. She was raised in the low-income inner city of Jersey City, New Jersey. From a very young age, Karla was tasked with facilitating the translation of complex English-Spanish conversations, related to housing, employment, finances, and medical matters on behalf of her then unilingual parents. To keep up with the demand, Karla read through everything she could get her hands on, with the aim of acquiring as much information about the world around her as possible.
This drive followed Karla to graduate summa cum laude Saint Peter’s University, with a double major in Political Science and Sociology and a minor in Women’s Studies. As a first generation college graduate, she was deeply inspired by a desire to promote self-advocacy, civic engagement and gender equally. Karla was chosen as an undergraduate research assistant for her university twice, and worked for a congressional campaign, where she helped keep track of the campaign’s expenses. She also engaged with at-risk youths, as a workshop leader for the Summer Youth Employment Program, and led a variety of workshops, presenting to over one hundred young adults a week on topics such as financial literacy and career exploration.
She continues to work for a non-profit organization, but is now employed as a Research Assistant II, by New York City’s Manpower Demonstration Corporation (MDRC) – a renowned nonpartisan social sciences research organization whose mission is directed at investigating solutions to issues that affect the poor. It was her first-hand experiences that have directed Karla to dedicate her life’s work to promote the empowerment of underserved populations.
As a National Urban Fellow, Karla is excited to learn more about the public sector and how she can utilize her skills to improve the quality of life of the communities she serves.