Garcia seeks to combine storytelling and social impact to reduce poverty.
Headshot of Astrid Garcia
Astrid Garcia

Astrid Garcia, MPP Class of 2023, grew up in La Vega, one of the 32 parishes in Caracas, Venezuela. It was a rough neighborhood known for its high crime rate, gang violence, and a high rate of school dropout. “As a child,” Garcia said, “you had to learn the difference between gunshots and fireworks because it would be the difference in surviving.”

However, Garcia also saw challenges in how La Vega was presented by outside media to the rest of the world. “They would only cover the violence or chaos. They would not tell the stories of the brave, talented, and resilient community members or the stories of those working hard to make their way in the world.” Growing up in the neighborhood and raised by a single mom, Garcia got to see the more interesting side of the community and learn the stories of those living in La Vega. “I decided that those stories had to be told. And I would tell them.”

Garcia studied Mass Communications at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. While in college, she worked as a producer at Venevision, Venezuela’s largest TV channel, where she covered personal interest stories and Venezuela’s 2016 parliamentary elections.

During this time, her family had to move to a refugee shelter due to flooding. Garcia decided it was time to shift from telling stories to working to fix the issues she saw around her.

Garcia applied for an internship at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) in Washington, D.C. Over the course of three years, she rose to Program Communications Officer, where she led communications for the bank’s e-learning programs. Following IADB, Garcia joined the Vice Presidency of Communications team of the World Bank in 2019, where she has been working on the World Bank’s COVID-19 response. She produced live-stream interviews with experts and helped design a website for the bank’s COVID-19 programs in more than 100 countries.

However, Garcia wanted to find a way to create and enact change: “I wanted to shape policy informed by people’s stories to help build a better future.”

Garcia began looking at public policy programs that would help her link technical skills with social impact. She also wanted a program that emphasized listening to communities’ ideas about how to best solve the challenges they face. The Master of Public Policy program at Harris, she said, jumped out to her as a perfect match.

“Harris has the best technical skills and emphasizes working closely with communities,” Garcia said. “I want to improve my data analysis abilities, because as a journalist I did not develop those skills. These skills will be very helpful when doing program evaluations of programs I develop in the future.”

Garcia also said she is excited that Harris has a diverse student body, with students from around the world. “I want to learn from their perspectives and hear how other countries have worked to solve hard social challenges.”

After Harris, Garcia wants to join a multilateral organization focused on social development. She is particularly interested in working on education policy and hopes to return to Venezuela to help improve the lives of those living in the country.

“I plan to work on poverty reduction through education so that more young people have the same opportunities I had—and so they never have to learn how to differentiate gunshots from fireworks.”