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Life After LEAD: Lisa Garcia, ’19

We catch up with one of our former LEAD Scholars.
By Lisa Garcia, ’19

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IN THE PAST YEAR, my life has come full circle. In May 2019, I became the first person in my family to graduate from college and, soon after, began a fellowship with the Women’s Justice Initiative (WJI) in Guatemala—the country my family emigrated from when I was 10 years old. My fellowship has truly made my personal and professional growth feel cyclical.

As a recipient of the Princeton in Latin America Fellowship, I am spending a year in rural Guatemala working for the WJI. My own family emigrated from Guatemala when I was 10 years old. Through fundraising and communications efforts, I am helping to fight violence against girls and women and increase indigenous women’s access to legal empowerment. I have seen the positive impact WJI has had educating girls and women about their rights and the need to transform local norms that condone domestic abuse and child marriage. I have also had the opportunity to meet UN representatives from the Trust Fund to End Violence against Women as well as partners from the Global Fund for Children. From them, I have learned how our concerted effort supports a common mission.

Being back in my native country doing sustainable work in women’s empowerment has given me a sense of fulfillment and pride in knowing that I am accomplishing exactly what I set out to do during college.

Aside from my work with the WJI, I have also had the opportunity to reconnect deeply with my culture, my family, and our roots. All Saints’ Day is a holiday on Nov. 1, when we remember our friends and family who have gone before us. In many Guatemalan communities, this is done by visiting the cemetery, eating fiambre (a special salad), and flying big, colorful kites. I chose to reflect as well on all the people who are no longer with me but who influenced my life and career path. When looking to the future, my hope is to honor the sacrifices and investments they made in my name.

After this fellowship, I plan to pursue a graduate degree in global affairs, focusing on development, with the goal of making an impact in this field, especially by improving living conditions in previously colonized countries. I am confident that my U-M education and the LEAD network has prepared me to do so and that it will continue to empower me. I look forward to continuing to give back to the LEAD Scholars, including my little brother, who is now in the program.


The LEAD Scholars Program provides scholarships to black, Latino, and Native American students who have been accepted into U-M. Visit umalumni.com/LEAD to learn how you can support the program and, thus, help create a more diverse campus.

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