Category: General News, Policy Perspectives, Student Experience

Title: Introducing the 2021 National Urban Fellows

A Life of Service and Duty

Brace Clement has embraced a life of service and duty in ways few others have. From his recent life as a stay-at-home parent supporting his spouse and caring for his child, to serving in the United States Marine Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Brace has been a model of service to many. Currently, Brace serves on the Board of the Chicagoland Area Runners Association (CARA), a nearly 50-year-old organization committed to serving and advocating for the local running community, and providing accessible opportunities for all runners to train, race, learn, be social and volunteer. While living in Seattle, Brace was a member of the Community Building Committee for the United Way of King County, a Board member of the Seattle Chapter of Communities in Schools, and a Board member and Treasurer for the Seattle Chapter of the University of Wisconsin Alumni. Brace also led the Starbucks Black Partner Network, which brings together people with shared identities and experiences, along with collaborators, to promote a culture of inclusion, and contribute to the success of its partners and business. As he looked ahead to graduate school at McCourt, Brace reflected on the many challenges he has faced, including now as primary caregiver for his 4-year-old son: “I didn’t have a role model for how to be an involved father, so I had to come up with that myself. Some of that was instinctual and some of it was luck — it just evolved from the desire of wanting to relate to my son. Through that purpose, I wanted to share in his journey while also sharing with him some of the things I’ve found fascinating about life. I wholeheartedly believe dads make a difference beyond being a provider or assistant. The truth is that just as women have always had what it takes to be CEOs, men have always had the power to nurture. Now that we’re recognizing this, I believe there will be a day when the default assumption that women are the primary parent will seem contrite — and we’ll all be better for it.”

A Larger Impact on Society

NUF Fellow Xavier Garcia-Molina has worked as a community mobilizer and is a co-founding member of the LGBTQ+ Center in Lancaster, PA. He was elected as a City Councilor when he was only 25 and became a trusted public voice in the city during the summer of 2020 when the issues of police violence and racism, social injustice and mobilizations for community change heightened tensions in confrontations between protesters and police. “I came into politics not with the aspiration of going on that career path, but because I saw in my work in direct services that policies did not always trickle down to the individuals who need help,” Xavier says. “I wanted to be part of that systemic change, but my goal as a NUF Fellow in the longer-term is to grow my skills, network and education to deepen my contribution on the legislative side to have a larger impact on society.”

Steadfast Social Justice Advocate

Recently a senior aide to United States Representative Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), NUF Luz Villar has been a steadfast social justice advocate and activist who intends to advance her career in policy reform, challenging the systems that have disproportionately impacted communities and families like hers. Raised in the foster care system, Luz was determined to overcome the odds where only three to ten percent of foster care youth will go on to college and graduate. Luz’s extraordinary journey involved living in over twenty foster homes, attending several different schools each year, entering college without a home, dropping out, working her way back through training and hard work. “Luz knows she is an outlier,” recounted a story about her published by Teach for America. “She shares her story to speak up for foster youth who don’t have a voice — and to show them there can be light at the end of a dark tunnel.” “There were so many times when I was on the verge of falling, but I was blessed to meet people along the way who held me up,” said Luz. “I want to be that person for them.” She has largely made good on that promise. During the five years Luz served as a staffer to Rep. Pressley, she helped establish the first civic engagement course at a Massachusetts correctional institution and worked to unite families with their children in the foster care system and in the criminal justice system. All while working full-time, Luz also attended school earning her bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Cambridge College — making her the first in her family to graduate high school and college.