For Monica Olveira, who was born in the U.S., spent her childhood in Spain, and attended high school back in the States, thinking from a global perspective comes naturally.
So when she thought about spearheading a new club at Fordham in her sophomore year, a UNICEF chapter seemed like a perfect fit. Under her leadership as president since 2016, the club has successfully engaged in fundraising and advocacy to advance the U.N.’s efforts for children.
Graduating from Fordham College at Rose Hill with an international political economy degree in the French language track, Olveira credits Fordham’s West Wing, an integrated learning community, with nurturing her as a student and a social justice activist.
“It gave me a sense of community, but we were also talking about public policy, international relations, and local issues,” she said of the West Wing, which focuses on Ignatian leadership and civic service. She also gained confidence in her public speaking abilities, which she needed to pursue leadership roles.
“Just looking at who I was sophomore year versus now, I know that the program was a catalyst for so many things for me,” she said.
Olveira’s aspirations for peace building and public service have flowered through internships she pursued, including positions with the U.N.-affiliated Religions for Peace, UNICEF USA, and most recently, Pencils of Promise, which helps build educational infrastructure in Ghana, Guatemala, Laos, and Nicaragua.
In 2017, she was elected to represent UNICEF USA as one of six National Council Members at the college level; in this role she has advocated on Capitol Hill for the human rights of children.
Olveira received a Tobin Travel Fellowship from Fordham to fund a research trip to England, France, and Germany following her junior year. She studied how governments in these countries are helping refugee children transition to new schools after their educations have been disrupted.
“That really connected with me because I know how important it is, after having moved my whole life, to be at a school that can welcome you and create an environment where you feel like what you are doing is important, and also help you catch up with the work,” she said.
Through school visits and interviews, Olveira learned that while some schools, particularly in Germany, have many resources for these children, others are severely lacking. She hopes to publish her findings as part of an expanded project.
While in England, Olveira learned of a University of Cambridge M.Phil. program in education and international development. She applied and was accepted, but decided to defer enrollment to pursue a prestigious UNICEF USA Global Citizenship Fellowship, which she has just been awarded.
The two-year program prepares individuals working on behalf of children for effective leadership in public service. As the New York Community Engagement Fellow, Olveira will lead partnership development and grassroots implementation of UNICEF initiatives.
Ultimately, she aims for a career with a worldwide view.
“I would love to be an ambassador and do foreign service work, or if not, be in an organization like UNICEF working on a larger leadership scale,” she said.