Monica De La Cruz

5th Year Ph.D. Student in Social Welfare

Monica De La Cruz was highly motivated by the challenges she faced as a young parent and turned it into actionable work to help families struggling in the same way. Noticing that assistance programs she worked on were only offering temporary solutions, she committed to getting involved with deeper change at the policy level. This led her to apply to the Social Welfare doctoral program at UC Berkeley and study at her “dream school.” Continue reading to hear about Monica’s unique journey to Berkeley, and her current research as a 5th year Ph.D. student.

My name is Monica de la Cruz, and I joined the doctoral program in Social Welfare at Berkeley because I want to make lasting change for families, specifically families of color who are experiencing poverty.

My research centers around economic insecurity, and this issue is close to my heart. I had my first daughter when I was 18 years old, when I was attending City College of San Francisco, and times were tough. My partner and I struggled a lot with money those first few years, and being a student raising a kid while I was trying to raise myself was a challenge.

I want to support families who are experiencing the same things we did in that situation. I think that’s what drives my passion for this research.

I worked at Stanford for about five years before coming to the doctoral program here. We worked on local interventions around Palo Alto to try and address the effects of poverty for families in that area, specifically low income Latinx families.

We were running things like a food program for kids to address food insecurity, or giving away free diapers to address diaper insecurity. But what we kept finding is that the same families were coming back for the programs over and over again. Our work wasn’t changing the real structural issues that were essentially creating poverty for these families.

I decided that I need to do more, and I came to Berkeley to pursue a graduate degree to address things on a policy level. I talked to a lot of Berkeley faculty before I decided to apply, and I learned about The Abundant Birth Project. It’s a guaranteed income program–and the first of its kind in the country– for Black and Pacific Islander birthing people in San Francisco. It really tries to address the birth outcomes in those communities, which is related to the fact that a lot of these families are economically insecure.

I decided that I need to do more, and I came to Berkeley to pursue a graduate degree to address things on a policy level.

Monica De La Cruz

I was hooked when I heard about this program and have been part of the project ever since. My dissertation will revolve around the narratives we have about people in poverty, and how they are harmful and contribute to punitive policies. Instead, we need to directly address poverty in the United States.

Something I thought about when I was applying to graduate programs was, “How am I going to make this work, being a parent and a student?” I feel very fortunate and super grateful to be able to do this, because I love to learn, and that’s why I’m here. That’s why I came. Berkeley was literally the pie in the sky, my dream school.

Thank you for taking time to read my personal Berkeley story. I hope you decide to create one of your own.

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Steps to Apply