Kenia Miranda Verdugo has joined the Michelson 20MM Foundation as Smart Justice Program Manager. In her new role, Kenia will lead the foundation’s Smart Justice initiative, which strives to create innovative pathways to educational attainment, employment, and economic opportunity for system-impacted communities and people. 

Kenia was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and at the age of 5 she immigrated to the United States. Being formerly undocumented and raised by a single mother who did not speak English, Kenia had to bear witness and try to protect her family against the many injustices within the criminal and educational systems. It was through these experiences that she decided to get involved with government and law-making.

Kenia received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of California San Diego (UCSD). While in college, she worked a range of jobs, including waitressing, painting houses, selling parking permits, project managing, driving buses, and serving as a legal assistant for an Immigration and Criminal law firm. In the law firm, Kenia’s focus was on assisting clients with U-Visas. These visas are granted to undocumented people who were victims of a crime and assisted law enforcement in the investigation. However, Kenia quickly realized how inconsistent law enforcement was to help approve the victims’ U-Visas application. This further fueled her passion in helping others and helping correct a flawed system. 

Upon graduating from UCSD, Kenia was accepted to the California Senate Fellows program where she was then placed in the office of State Senator Ben Hueso. She was also elected as the Fellows Representative for the California Latinx Capitol Association Foundation (CLCAF) where she created an internship for community college students to intern in a Senator or Assembly member’s office and gain access to the Capitol’s network. 

Kenia became a Legislative Director in the California Senate with a focus for public safety, energy, immigration, natural resources, California-Mexico affairs, and education. In this capacity, she was able to pitch and work on her own bill ideas, in addition to providing the Senator with vote recommendations and research. Kenia also created events like Mexico Advocacy Day, the inauguration of the California Culinary Caucus, and the introduction of the Baja California governor to Sacramento. 

Most recently, Kenia worked on SB 416, which was co-sponsored by the Michelson Center for Public Policy and signed by Governor Newsom in 2021. This bill will help protect incarcerated students from predatory higher education institutions, in addition to prioritizing education while in prison. Kenia is passionate about Smart Justice because her whole life has been about helping others with injustices and this work benefits not only those fighting for higher education but society as a whole. 

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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