Vanessa Lorena Villaverde is a first generation American raised in Little Havana, like a true Miamian! Mx. Villaverde is a community organizer and activist, actively involved in making her South Florida community a more inclusive place for her LGBTQ+ community. Mx. Villaverde considers herself a gender-queer intersectional feminist with a fervor for debate and discussion of gender politics. She has channeled her passion for challenging gender norms through her involvement with several LGBTQ+ advocacy groups. Vanessa graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a concentration in Gender Studies and Community Planning and Development from Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. She graduated Honors Summa Cum Laude with over 1000+ community service hours that she accumulated through service-learning projects with local Southwest Florida community agencies.
During her time as an undergraduate, she worked with a student-run advocacy movement, S(he) Will Fade, a theatrical ethnography which collects oral histories from survivors of sexual violence, where she learned how to be an ally and an advocate on behalf of survivors of sexual violence. She considers this her life work and has plans to bring the S(he) Will Fade community to her native Miami community.
Mx. Villaverde intimately understands how public policy determines the fate of the lives of many vulnerable minority populations at risk of being deported, being denied medical coverage or disenfranchised by insufficient legal protections. She began to take an interest in immigration law after the deportation of her uncle in 2014. In the same year that her uncle was deported, her aunt passed away from cancer as a result of being denied medical services. These events were the nexus for the sociology research she conducted as an undergrad that focused primarily on health disparities between socioeconomic groups, vulnerable populations, and racial disparities in the legal system.
Mx. Villaverde is currently pursuing her paralegal certificate from the University of Miami and plans to pursue a joint J.D. and an M.S.Ed.-Master of Science in Education in Law, Community and Social Change degree in 2020 from the University of Miami. Mx. Villaverde hopes to empower minority and disenfranchised communities with her continuing education and as a 2019 NLC Fellow.