As USC Norman Topping Student Aid Fund’s outreach coordinator, USC Dornsife undergraduate Erica Silva noticed a disturbing trend in local high schools.
“Many students don’t have the information they need to prepare themselves for higher education” said Silva, who graduated with a bachelor’s in political science in December 2011. “It’s important that students are encouraged to go to college. That’s what drives me. All kids should understand what they need to do to get to college. I set out to provide them with the resources to do that.”
Recognizing Silva’s work fostering educational opportunities for high school students, the USC Latino Alumni Association honored her with the 2012 John R. Hubbard Award during the association’s 38th annual scholarship ceremony March 2 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
Hubbard was the eighth president of the USC between 1970 and 1980.
“Erica Silva was selected as the 2012 Hubbard Award honoree for her well-rounded academic coursework, leadership in various USC settings, and commitment to advancing educational opportunities for Latinos,” said Domenika Lynch, the association’s executive director. “She is a dynamic young woman and an ambitious leader who will be an advocate and a voice for many.”
Hubbard awardees are recognized for their exceptional academics, community service and leadership exhibited while at USC. Silva, a West Covina, Calif., native, was selected from 20 finalists.
More than 750 USC alumni, USC trustees, faculty, administrators and other guests attended the awards ceremony.
“It was really amazing to see a room full of such successful members of the Latino community,” Silva said. “I was proud to have been designated to represent the Latino students at USC. And I was overcome by emotions that night; it was an awesome and humbling experience.”
While a student, Silva had been awarded a USC Leadership Scholarship and Latino Alumni Scholarship.
Now an intern at the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) at Los Angeles Charter Schools, Silva works in recruitment and community outreach. She’s also helping principals prepare their two Los Angeles middle schools for their grand opening this fall.
In June, Teach for America is placing her in a L.A.-area school. During her two-year commitment in the classroom she will pursue a master’s in urban education and a teaching credential at Loyola Marymount University.
Prior to coming to USC, Silva had not considered a career in education. But in her political science classes, she learned how education and policymaking intersect. She understood that governmental policies must be changed in order to see improvements in the classroom.
“The classes I took and my time with the USC Norman Topping Student Aid Fund gave me the opportunity to see the different ways you can combine political science, students and education,” she said. “The realization was life changing.”
While at USC, Silva tutored third graders through the Joint Educational Project (JEP) housed in USC Dornsife, while investigating in her studies another interest: immigration.
As a daughter of a father who emigrated from Mexico to the U.S., Silva conducted research on the naturalization process with the help of the McNair Scholars Program and USC Dornsife’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF). In collaboration with the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, she designed and conducted a study in California and Texas on citizenship assistance workshops. The project found that a lack of education was the number one barrier facing citizenship applicants. Increased educational opportunities to Latinos on the naturalization process were recommended. Her research was later selected for publication in the 2010 USC McNair Scholars Journal.
Silva hopes to one day establish a K-12 school where students will receive the support they need to get to college.
“I recognize what a privilege it was for me to be a USC student,” Silva said. “It’s important that we make sure other students can have the same opportunities.”