How Cobb Elementary Transformed Me


Valeria Imendia, International Studies’18

I still remember receiving an email about a literacy internship opportunity during the fall semester of my junior year and thinking it would be a great chance for me to expand my experiences in education. As a student in the Dual Degree Program for Teacher Preparation, I decided to apply to be a literacy intern through Engage San Francisco but little did I know I would be embarking on an experience of a lifetime. I am now a senior, about to graduate this coming May, and I continue to learn so much about myself and my passion for teaching with every chance I get to walk the halls of Dr. William L. Cobb Elementary School.

From my very first day of the internship, I was met with nothing but kindness and support. My first impression of the school was more than I could have hoped for, and it continues to be a place of unique learning experiences for me. For one, every day at Cobb is different—whether it is because I have to work with new students and create activities for them on my own or because unexpected situations arise where I have to provide care for students. I first went in thinking of myself as a tutor for my students, but it was not long after I started my work there that I realized this job required a lot more than just academics. Every single student I have had the privilege to work with at this school has sparked so much passion for teaching within me, and I continue to think about them in everything I do as I pursue my teaching credential.

Alongside my students, my mentor at the school and my internship supervisor always go above and beyond to ensure that as interns we are being supported and guided in the best way possible. It has been thanks to their warmth and guidance that I have been able to feel like I have agency in my position as an intern. From day one, I have felt like I am a part of the school community and that is because I have been given the tools and the trust to bring my perspective into the work I do with my students. Hence, this program has been crucial in my journey as a future educator because it has shown me first-hand that there is a lot of work to be done in the classroom. It has likewise shown me in practice what my responsibility as a woman of color going into this profession looks like in order to ensure I am doing my best to advocate for our youth. My students have therefore opened up new possibilities within me and they have taken me by the hand and walked me through their life experiences and their passions, which is something that will be forever engraved in my heart. I am honored and humbled to walk the halls of Cobb and get hugs from students I have not even worked with yet and to get high-fives from the older kids who normally like to tell me they are “too cool” for doing reading activities with Miss Valeria. My students give me so much joy with all their unique ways of showing me love and affection, and I have come to understand that with this care also comes responsibility. I strive to honor these demonstrations of trust by making sure to always keep my students and their rich knowledge and individuality at the forefront of my teaching practices.


My time at Cobb has helped transform me in only the best way. I have been challenged by difficult situations; I have been put to the test as I have had to come up with solutions without much time to prepare, and I have most importantly been shown the most genuine and pure love from my students. Being at Cobb and experiencing the day-to-day routines and witnessing what my students go through both as students and as individuals with their own interests and stories has allowed me to step back and think about the privileges I hold in that space and also as I think about my own future classroom. My students have taught me to be humble and to understand that this work is in the service of every single person in my classroom, particularly of those whose voices have historically been left out. My students—all of whom are not older than eleven—have taught me far more than I could hope to learn from a textbook. I am grateful to have wonderful teachers who push my thinking and hold me to high standards, yet it is my students at Cobb who push me even further and keep me accountable in everything I do.

I continue to be grateful for every single day that I get to be a part of this literacy program because it means I am being challenged to question the ways I engage with this work in education. Regardless of the official expectations of my position or of any titles, this work goes beyond what can be seen as purely academic at a surface level. This opportunity has allowed me to immerse myself in hands-on experiences in teaching and given me a new sense of purpose. I have wanted to go into the teaching profession because I believe our youth has invaluable lessons to teach us and because they deserve to know that their voices matter. I know that this work is difficult, but we owe it to our students to show up for them and allow them to be visible in every way that makes them who they are in order to disrupt practices that have silenced much of our youth—particularly our youth of color— for far too long. This internship has therefore allowed me to work on the skills that make this ideal a reality and I am humbled to be able to experience this with the wonderful mentors I have gained and the students that make this journey worthwhile. This journey is a constant learning experience and I am grateful I got that email and decided to apply all those months ago because now I have a new community that has given me the best gifts: a renewed sense of purpose and a greater love for teaching.



Save the Date – Nov. 9 for Our 15th Anniversary

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On November 9, 2017, friends and supporters, alums, faculty and currents students will celebrate the Leo T. McCarthy Center and 15 years of training a new generation of ethical leaders. It’s an evening of recognizing the vision and legacy of co-founder Leo McCarthy, former San Francisco legislator, California Speaker of the Assembly and Lieutenant Governor.

We’ll mark this milestone by celebrating the continuation of Leo McCarthy’s values of service for the common good through the current programs of the McCarthy Center with students who have participated locally and internationally through the Privett Global Scholars, USF in D.C., McCarthy Fellows in Sacramento, Advocates  Community Engagement and our graduate degree programs in Urban and Public Affairs.

The night will begin with a reception followed by the presentation of the inaugural Leo T. McCarthy Award, to be given to the The Honorable Art Agnos, former San Francisco mayor, assembly member and regional head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

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Today more than ever, the world needs future leaders who think critically and respond compassionately. Join us in preparing the next generation of ethical leaders and the programs that serve them—by becoming a sponsor or attending. Visit or email Leslie Lombre, Associate Director at or call (415) 422-2983.

Save The Date

Bo’living in Cochabamba


Juliet Baires, International Business ’20

Before coming to Cochabamba, I constantly told myself, my peers, Professor Dana, my friends and family that I had no expectations for Bolivia. I came to this new country with only the knowledge learned from class, an open mind, and excitement to begin my journey. As I approach week 5 and establish myself here in Bolivia, I am learning that immersing myself in a different culture has been both challenging and inspiring. I encountered a few unexpected ordeals the first three weeks: my health, navigating transportation, adapting to my new host nonprofit organization, host family and the food. I got sick in all types of ways: my eye, stomach, weight loss, and getting the flu was a challenge the first few weeks.

My host family is comprised of three generations: nine people including myself, two cats, and two dogs. I thought I would get home sick since I am very family-oriented, however, my host family is incredibly similar to my family at home: traditional. The dynamic of living with three generations in a household is interesting because I have been able to witness the various different perspectives politically and socially across the family. The middle-child, Jamil, hosted a talent show where Anahi, the youngest, performed a poetry piece where she won first place. Both are such extraordinary host sisters. The younger girls remind me of how I acted when I was their age. They’re so vivacious, sassy divas.

My work organization is called Pro Mujer, a nonprofit that recognizes that in order to develop a community of agents of change, they must provide their clients with comprehensive services to ensure long lasting sustainable impact for women and families in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I had a week to explore the various aspects of my organization. Then I designed my project to build supportive capacity trainings for women, while increasing capacity building opportunities for current and future clients. The regional director, regional finance director, the Pro Mujer staff, and the clients all have contributed to such an amazing first internship experience. Each person I have interacted with has been created a mutual and reciprocal learning experience. I have been able to learn how these business women have worked to get to where they are: their struggles and their strengths. They have given me wise advice that has helped me explore my own future aspirations. Interacting, engaging, and speaking with the clients and visiting the five locations of Pro Mujer across Cochabamba has exposed me to the way people live here: their struggles, their successes and so much more.
With all the travels, I’ve come to love Bolivia. So far, I’ve been to a festival in Sucre, the mines of Potosi, and hiking in Tunari and Apote. This past weekend, we went to ToroToro, a national park in Bolivia. Never in my life would I have said, “I walked on mountains” but I did. I have never seen anything so beautiful; quite frankly I think it is more beautiful than the Grand Canyon. It was an experience that had the most breathtaking scenery. Also, it was my birthday weekend. Our entire group including the people from other universities threw me a surprise birthday party. I’ve been able to create some interesting relationships with the people in my group. We have all been able to connect with the fact that we are working towards creating sustainable change. Everyday, I see all of us making it happen for ourselves, these communities, and organizations.

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How Bolivia Is Changing My Perspective

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Natalia Caprile, Sociology and Pre-Med ’18 

Before the Privett Global Scholars program, I had never spent more than two weeks outside of the U.S. The thought of changing that through such a challenging program was daunting. However, being in Bolivia and having the opportunity to open myself up to the people here, as well as listen to their experiences, has given me an increased understanding of the world and myself.

One of my most challenging and rewarding experiences thus far has been the work I have done with my organization, Vivo en Positivo. Vivo does work surrounding HIV and AIDS (primary and secondary prevention, direct support for people living with HIV, as well as their family and loved ones, etc.) throughout Bolivia. For my project, I am focusing on primary prevention among youth in Cochabamba. To meet this end, we are going to middle and high schools in five municipalities and performing training sessions on HIV, human rights, and discrimination.

To prepare for these trainings, I conducted research, created PowerPoint presentations, and designed an informative brochure. Even with all this preparation, I felt the nerves as we went to our first training. I did not have complete confidence in my ability to talk in Spanish about such a specific topic for an hour. I sat back and listened to my coworkers lead the presentation while writing down key concepts on the board and passing other materials out to the students.

At the end of the training session, my coworker asked if there were any questions. One student raised her hand, pointed at me, and point-blank asked, “What does she think? Why hasn’t she said anything?” I could feel my heart beating, but I responded, “Sorry that I haven’t been talking a lot–I’m still working towards speaking Spanish fluently. But, for me, the most important thing is that you all know your rights and have correct information. I hope that you can talk about this amongst yourselves and with your other friends and family.” The young woman who asked the question nodded her head at me in response. I survived my first session.

The next day, I was leading training sessions on my own in a different school. Though my coworkers have been helpful and understanding while I have worked on my project, I was pushed out of my comfort zone pretty quickly. Other than learning how to lead an hour-long presentation in Spanish, I have also learned how important transparency and honesty are in doing work with communities in which you are an outsider.

When I go to schools to lead sessions, I own up to where I am from and what I am doing in this community. I touch on what I hope to bring as well as what I have learned from people and experiences here, and I encourage students to ask questions or call me out if they feel it is necessary. After multiple sessions, I have had students (mostly young women) come up to me and thank me for coming, ask me for more information, or ask if we can lead these sessions in other areas of their communities.

At the request of one of the principals from a school in which we held trainings, we have already branched out with our sessions. We held two at an organization that offers food, shelter, and activities to local children with less access to resources. After finishing the trainings there, they asked us to come back and hold more sessions.

I love doing work that allows me to have interactions with people in communities in Cochabamba. This project has given me more than just public speaking skills or technical knowledge about HIV. I have been fortunate enough to have real conversations with students who allowed me to see into parts of their lives. Some of them have told me stories that have changed the way I conceptualize things like health, family, and responsibility. Because of this, I have gained a greater understanding of others and myself on a global scale. The way I see things has shifted. There is no going back from here.

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Global Privett Scholars Summer Update

The 2017 Global Privett Scholars are spending the summer in Bolivia and Argentina working on community-based sustainable development projects. Our students are cultivating an appreciation for their responsibilities as global citizens and developing personal skills, professional competencies, and values consistent with the mission of the University of San Francisco.

Scholars in Cochabamba, Bolivia  

 Gio Paganini – CeDRUS (Centro de Desarrollo Rural y Urbano Sustentable)

“I’m really excited about meeting my host family in Bolivia. I’m from South America and can’t wait to be able to see how other countries in the continent live. Working side by side South Americans is a priceless experience.”

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Natalia Caprile – Vivo en Positivo

“I’m looking forward to meeting people in my host family and organization, and to start growing in community with them. After learning so much about the social, political, and historical contexts of Bolivia, I’m ready to jump in and start to experience life there!” 


Juliet Baires – Pro Mujer Bolivia

“I will be working with Pro Mujer, a nonprofit organization that works to support women who are living in the conditions of socioeconomic exclusion. I am excited to be a part of a movement that supports women with their small businesses, while recognizing and including women’s values and potential, opening the door for women to have an active role in their own personal and community development.” 


Diego Jones – Tukuy Pacha

“I’m really excited about three things: meeting my new family, working at my internship, and taking cool pictures of Bolivia. I’m really looking forward to also meet the rest of the U.S. students who will be working with the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) this summer.” 


Carter Santini – Martadero

“I’m filled with both excitement and nerves. My job placement at Martadero seems like a gift from the heavens as it aligns all my interests in music, community development and public service. I’m excited to throw myself into a new place and give my all.”

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Rosa Olascoaga- Performing Life

“I am super excited to be an intern at Performing Life. I can’t wait to work with young people and to be surrounded with the beautiful culture in Bolivia.”

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Rachel Starling- Asociación Amigos del Árbol, Bosques, y Parques Nacionales

“I’m hoping to learn more about the role of community engagement in development this summer.  I’m looking forward to the challenge that working in another language presents, and I’m excited for the chance to work in my community with the issues that are important to me.”


Kaitlin Chassagne- Caminar Con Valores

“Although I was nervous for the language barrier with my rusty Spanish skills, my host organization has done a wonderful job integrating me into their community and making me feel both needed and welcomed. I’m excited to apply my perspectives as an outsider raised in other countries and schools to their newest project focused on gender perspectives.”


Elizabeth Spears- CeDRUS (Centro de Desarrollo Rural y Urbano Sustentable)

“I’m most excited to be in a position to learn about how the local people of Salta understand their relationship to the non-human world, or the rest of the environment. Also, I am looking forward to seeing how the relationships between people and their environment differ between a community in city of Salta, San Rafael and an indigenous community farther north in the province, Pichanal.”


Janelle Nunez- Caminar Con Valores

“I am looking forward to putting into action everything I’ve learning in the classroom. I’m excited to participate in a cultural experience unlike any other and I look forward to all the new amazing relationships I make along the way.”

Learning to Care About Politics

Hallie Balch, McCarthy Sacramento Fellow 2017

Something that I often hear from family members, friends, and teachers is, “The government doesn’t work.” Chances are, if you’re familiar with American politics, you have heard or even said something similar yourself. This was the mindset that I even had as I prepared for my internship with the McCarthy Fellows program. Pessimistic? Sure, but political inaction is prevalent within our society.

As a student at Dominican University, I have been surrounded by people with different political ideologies throughout my college experience. I came to the McCarthy Fellows program expecting liberal individuals with a streamlined theory on politics and little room for my own conservative ways of thinking. What I found in the Fellows was actually quite different – a unique group of people like me, eager to learn and better understand the ways of our government in California.

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This is the most important observation from my time in Sacramento is—just because someone holds different beliefs does not mean their reasons are not valid or that they lack a voice or passion. In my McCarthy Fellows cohort, we each study politics and government in our respective fields. To be a part of the process is eye-opening, to say the very least. For example, I comb through hundreds of bills every day that have an impact on my home district, my community, and people that I love. I study legislation that people may never see or notice. These are bills that legislators craft with teams of policymakers and spend months perfecting. This is a side of government that the public does not see.

I see policymakers in the Capitol working every day to negotiate across the aisle to craft policy that will benefit constituents. This is not what people outside of the Capitol see. They don’t see Assemblymembers buzzing around on the floor, lobbying to get votes from their colleagues for hours on end. They don’t see the effects that a seemingly monotonous bill on water consolidation will have on a community struggling to gain access to reliable, clean drinking water. They don’t see the countless staffers researching bill after bill in order to maximize the benefits for the state of California as a whole.  My greatest takeaway from the McCarthy Fellowship thus far—California’s state government is active. I just have not been staying involved with the politics that have the potential to impact my life.

It can be hard to stay up to date with the ins and outs of policies and procedures, but it is important to try and stay informed. The resources are there and the members of the California Assembly and Senate constantly try to reach out to the constituents of their state. Additionally, legislators are consistently working to pass legislation to increase transparency and open the lines of communication between government and the people. The next step is to use the tools and resources that our government provides us.  One can tune into the Assembly floor while they’re in session and listen to the debates taking place. One can get in contact with their district representative if they’re not happy about something in their community. Getting involved is not hard, one just hard to start taking action.

If we are not informed about what is happening in the world, how can we possibly expect to enact any positive change? I cannot express how important it is to understand what is going on in our government. Not only in Sacramento, with its fast-paced politics and savvy legislators, but also in our individual communities. So the next time you feel like throwing government under the bus, try researching it. Try learning about it. Try understanding it. After all, we’re all in the same bus and who says someone has to be thrown under it?

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