When Jaissa Feliz was growing up in what were then the projects in South Boston, she recalls when her family got access to income-restricted housing it was a stabilizing force.
“I see affordable housing as a stepping stone, a foundation for low income families. It’s a form of stability,” said Feliz, who is planning to graduate from UEP in the fall of 2017, “I don’t know if my brother and I would have gotten this far without it.” Similarly Feliz, a Boston native whose family is from the Dominican Republic, hopes to work in housing policy and offer the same opportunities to other immigrant families.
Feliz, a former algebra teacher, recalls having many immigrant students in her classes who did not speak much English and whose education had been interrupted through most of their lives. After a few years of teaching Feliz felt the urge to make a broader impact on families like hers and her students’.
“I couldn’t see the impact I was making outside the four walls of the classroom,” Feliz said, noting that she also felt her students also faced many structural challenges and challenges pertaining to educational access.
Having done her undergraduate at Harvard University, Feliz felt Tufts University’s UEP program stood out, particularly because the curriculum is heavily rooted in on-the-ground experiences.
UEP helped expose Feliz to work that community organizations were already doing. Further, Feliz obtained her current position as a Kuehn Fellow, working with the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, indirectly through UEP’s Off the Wall weekly newsletter and the Greater Boston Graduate Affordable Housing Development Competition posted in one of the issues.
Feliz is still working through her next steps, but her vision is for her native Boston to be an inclusive and equitable community. She envisions a Boston where diverse community members can pursue anything they want and where all can reap the benefits of economic development.
“I know it’s a long shot,” said Feliz with a laugh.
For her part, Feliz would like to tackle this vision through the avenue of affordable housing.