Santa Clara University

The Johnson Scholars Program

Denise Castillo Chavez '14

Hometown: Windsor, Calif.
Double Major/Minor: sociology and ethnic studies/urban education
Mentor: Lorenzo Gamboa, associate director, Undergraduate Admission
Project: Starfish International—Gambia, Africa

Denise Castillo Chavez values service learning, advocacy for and accompaniment with marginalized communities, empowerment of women, and improvement of access to education. She will spend six weeks in Gambia, Africa, working with Starfish International to share these values and empower girls and women through education. As part of a summer institute, Denise will lead classes for girls and young women from local villages—ranging from English and mathematics to goal-setting and photography—all with the intention of providing a safe learning space where these young women will be able to give back to their home communities. Because of her passion for education and advocacy, Denise plans to pursue a career in education advocacy and eventually teach at the university level.

Denise's 2013 Summer Project Update:

"Words cannot express how grateful I am for having spent six weeks with Starfish International. There wasn't a single day that I went to sleep without my heart and soul feeling full and happy—whether it was because of a connection that I made with somebody or a class lesson that went well or learning more about Starfish as an organization—there truly is inspiration and awe to be drawn everywhere you look. Perhaps the biggest thing that I have taken away is knowing that I am now a part of a movement—a movement grounded in everyday accomplishments along with tremendous plans for the future."

See the article "Farther afield" in the Spring 2014 issue of Santa Clara Magazine for more on Denise's experience in Gambia.