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Networking the Positive

Bianca De La Piedra ’17 carves out a new path through an internship with the Positive Women Network USA.

For Bianca De La Piedra ’17, a Public Health Science major with a minor in Ethnic Studies, her summer internship with the Positive Women Network-USA (PWN-USA) has not only re-invigorated her academic interests, but it has also carved out a new path for her—one that may lead to law school after Santa Clara.

Based in Oakland, California, PWN-USA builds leadership, creates tools and resources for advocates, develops strategic communications, and changes policy to uphold the human rights and dignity of women, including transgender women, living with HIV.

This summer, through the organization’s advocacy and community forums held in various California locations, De La Piedra participated in the efforts to change state laws that criminalize the non-disclosure and transmission of HIV. Even when a person does not know that he or she is a carrier, “this can become a he-said-she-said argument in court that involves many social issues, such as inequality and racism,” she says. De La Piedra worked on the coordination of well-attended forums; on the advocacy and policy component by seeking the support of city supervisors and other officials; on the collection, analysis and reporting of community-based research surveys that she helped formulate; and on the many, day-to-day tasks at the PWN’s Oakland office.

“My learning has been non-stop all summer, and the experience has been life-changing.  I always thought I was going to attend medical school, but my passion for social issues and everything having to do with inequality and disparity under the law now makes me think that law school may be a better option for me.  And as soon as return to school, I will change my Ethnic Studies minor to my second major. I want to be better equipped to deal with future challenges,” she confides.

But her new insights are not only shaping her academic interests; they are also inspiring her to make a difference to campus life in her own way.  “I want to do some work around STIs (Sexually-Transmitted Infections) and HIV, since these issues are so prevalent among college students.  The subjects are still very taboo, especially in our Jesuit university, but I think students need to find a place on campus where they can discuss this openly. I haven’t quite figured out how I am going to go about this, but it’s definitely an idea I’d like to pursue.”

About the internship

Enabled by a generous gift from Sue Valeriote '77 and her husband Ken Goldman, the Public Health Program provided support for paid summer internships for five students wishing to develop their skills and experience working in the field of Public Health.  The internships sought to build on the Winter 2015 Public Health and Social Justice Valeriote-Goldman Symposium, Women’s Health and Human Rights: Global Activism for Social Change, which focused on the complex impact of social and economic factors on women's health, and on local and global strategies for change.

Learn more about the Valeriote-Goldman Symposium.

Giving, Internships