October 11, 2019
Newman Civic Fellow and third-year ASU student Jacqueline White’s path to diplomacy started at home. Her mother immigrated from Mexico, and her father served in the border patrol, making a “unique family dynamic” and teaching her both how to navigate two worlds and the stark difference in opportunity she saw available to her and her sister compared with her extended family in Mexico.
The Sierra Vista, Ariz., native didn’t have an easy path to education as a first-generation, nontraditional, low-income student. But she saw that it was even harder for others. So when she graduated high school she didn’t know what she wanted to do exactly, but she knew she wanted to make a difference.
“I knew I wanted to help people, and I wanted to help people have greater opportunities. Because I thought that if I could have it then they deserve it too,” White said. “I want to live in a fair and just world.”
White’s path took her to Mesa Community College, where she earned her associate’s degree. At one point, she was working three jobs to pay for her schooling out of pocket, with help from her parents. She transferred to ASU and is studying public policy and public service with an emphasis on homeland security and emergency management.
White quickly established herself as an esteemed student leader in her time as a Sun Devil, which led to her nomination to represent ASU as a Newman Civic Fellow. White has been a leader in civic engagement through Changemaker Central @ ASU’s Community Action Grants; she helped award and guide student-led grant projects that addressed sustainability, civic engagement, public service, entrepreneurship and innovation. White also served as a senator for Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions in ASU Undergraduate Student Government. She is also involved in Next Generation Service Corps, worked for Rep. Ruben Gallego and attended the McCain Institute last semester in Washington, D.C.
The Newman fellowship is a year-long opportunity for student leaders who are committed to changing their communities.The program builds a national network of engaged student civil leaders through a national conference, monthly virtual events and local mentorships that foster personal, professional and civic development.
White said that through her fellowship she wants to help students enact the change they want to see on their campuses.
“I always want to advocate for students who have similar backgrounds as myself but also people who just don’t have the same opportunities as I do,” she said. “I want to make change for my campus and for myself.”
Her passion for fostering change connects the local and the global, which is why she is spending part of the fall 2019 semester in Tanzania working on her Swahili.
White earned a spot as a Boren Scholar to learn Swahili first in Florida and then abroad. The Department of Defense program helps students learn a language that is critical to national security. White chose to pursue Swahili because of her work in Gallego’s office.
“I encountered a lot of immigration cases that actually spoke Swahili, and unfortunately there are not a lot of Swahili speakers in the U.S. so those individuals would have to hire a translator,” White said. “It’s relevant to our bilateral relationship with countries in Africa.”
White’s dream career is to work as a foreign service officer with the Department of State and maybe later in the White House. She has a passion for building bridges between cultures, especially after studying abroad in Ecuador and finding out that locals there assumed as an American that she’d be rude and unkind.
“I realized I want to make the world look at each other differently, and I want to make sure that the U.S. is represented in an accurate way and that we’re working to create better relationships with people abroad—really people-to-people diplomacy,” White said.
White said she feels very grateful to be in the position she is currently in, and she said ASU is a place where she has felt very supported in her work.
“Since coming to ASU, I’ve found such a community of people who care about me, both faculty, staff, professors, teachers, peers, other student leaders and things that I didn’t always have answers for I was able to collaborate with them and they could help me, whether it’s through my educational career or also just my professional career,” White said.
“So I feel like ASU is home and that means a lot to me because especially as a first-gen student, sometimes going to universities can be really intimidating.”