Soriano-Villa wants to use the Harris toolkit to create change in her Long Beach community.
Brenda Soriano-Villa, Headshot
Brenda Soriano-Villa

Brenda Soriano-Villa was born, raised, educated, and currently works in Long Beach, California. After earning a BA in International Studies from California State University, Long Beach in 2015, she began working for the Community Development YMCA of Greater Long Beach. There, through numerous roles, she recognized how policy and community access are intertwined—and how they can be improved.

“The work I do is community-oriented and focuses around empowerment,” Soriano-Villa said, “ensuring that existing resources are known widely by the people who come through our doors.”

As Assistant Community School Director, Soriano-Villa currently facilitates parent engagement programming, including classes and workshops in English and Spanish, leadership programs, and a collaboration with Long Beach City College on ESL and technology courses.

In previous roles, Soriano-Villa worked with diverse families and parents on community outreach and programming; organized classes, services, and events around immigration, civic engagement, and inclusion with the Latino/Hispanic community; helped families complete citizenship applications and connected them with legal aid resources; and helped implement the YMCA’s Full-Service Community School program.

“An integral part of my experience at the Y has been prioritizing the voices of community stakeholders in the organization’s programming, which also helped me identify the importance of inclusive public policy. We invited [stakeholders] to bring their opinions to the table—and made sure there was a place at the table for them. A lot of what I would take into account when enacting policies resulted from what I learned at these meetings. For example, how do we ensure inclusion for people who aren’t literate in English or Spanish? I recognized that policy needs to be written in a certain way, and there needs to be access for everyone in the community.”

It was this recognition of making impact change through policy that led Soriano-Villa to develop a passion for community building and equitable access to resources.

And that passion motivated Soriano-Villa to apply to the Master of Public Policy (MPP) program at Harris.

Soriano-Villa said learning about the diversity of domestic and international students at Diversity Day was a huge factor in her selecting Harris. “I love the aspect of learning from other people from different backgrounds and countries with different systems." She also was attracted to the core curriculum concept, as she wants to gain quantitative skills to “back up” her lived experiences in the field.

“Although I have been volunteering and working in my community from a young age, sometimes self-doubt creeps in about whether the opinion or knowledge I have will be of value. I think the quantitative skills I gain at Harris will give me greater confidence to both ask questions and share my knowledge.”

At Harris—and beyond—Soriano-Villa plans to focus on social policies, including education, housing, and immigration—all important issues in her Long Beach community. After earning her Master of Public Policy, Soriano-Villa plans to pursue her doctorate, the thesis of which will be shaped by her experience at Harris. “My goal is to always create space for change in whatever environment I’m in.”