The Karabelle Pizzigati Initiative in Advocacy for Children, Youth and Families cultivates a pipeline of informed and effective advocates to ensure all children are healthy, safe, learning and joyful. In her lifelong pursuit, the late Karabelle Pizzigati equipped children’s advocates with the essential policy skills to create meaningful, lasting change. In her name, the Karabelle Pizzigati Initiative Fellowship – a joint initiative with the School of Public Policy and the School of Public Health – inspires exceptional students to embark on careers in children's advocacy.
Through fellowships, students gain hands-on experience working with organizations that make a true impact in children’s lives. Students learn the power of using their voice as a force for change, both now and in the future.
During the fellowship, students engage in a paid internship, learning from experts in the field while actively contributing to positive changes in the lives of children. Beyond the required coursework and internship, students receive ongoing coaching and mentoring, preparing them for a future career in children's advocacy.
This year’s fellows include:
JUNIOR, SOCIOLOGY MAJOR
Maliyah Daniels is a junior at the University of Maryland pursuing a degree in sociology. Her areas of interest include juvenile injustice, child welfare, and public policy. She has a strong passion for advancing policies and programs that support the well-being of children and youth who are often marginalized in society. With her expertise and knowledge, Daniels hopes to make a positive impact on the lives of young people who have been impacted by the justice system or who face other challenges. She believes that every child deserves the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential, regardless of their circumstances. Upon completion of her undergraduate studies, Daniels plans to join the PeaceCorps and pursue a master’s degree in public policy.
JUNIOR, PUBLIC POLICY MAJOR
Kerra Dukes is a junior at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. She is pursuing a degree in public policy with a minor in humanities, health and medicine. Her areas of interest are health policy, specifically healthcare equity, and housing policy. Dukes has always been passionate about serving her community, as her earliest memories of giving back were providing meals to those struggling with homelessness. Upon completion of a master’s degree in public health, Dukes is committed to serving marginalized communities by addressing health disparities.
Darshini Babu Ganesh
JUNIOR, NEUROSCIENCE MAJOR
Darshini Babu Ganesh is a junior at the University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences pursuing a degree in neuroscience with a minor in disability studies. Having worked with children for many years, Ganesh aims to improve access to and the delivery of education in underserved communities. She is also passionate about children's healthcare and setting children up for success into adulthood. Upon completion of her undergraduate studies, Ganesh plans to pursue medical school to become a pediatrician working at an intersection of medicine, public health and policy.
JUNIOR, FAMILY SCIENCE MAJOR
Robin Schlesinger is a junior at the University of Maryland School of Public Health pursuing a degree in family science and minors in both public leadership and law & society. Her areas of interest focus on the intersection of the legal system and child welfare. Schlesinger is passionate about reworking federal policies that support harm reduction programs and addressing domestic abuse present in the welfare system. Upon completion of her undergraduate studies, Schlesinger plans to attend law school and focus on family law.
JUNIOR, PUBLIC HEALTH MAJOR
Sophia Thompson is a junior at the University of Maryland School of Public Health pursuing a degree in public health science. She has developed a deep passion for maternal and child health and is especially interested in the advancement of policies and programs that reduce racial and economic disparities in maternal and child health outcomes. Thompson plans to continue her public health education through the University of Maryland School of Public Health’s Accelerated BS + MPH program with a concentration in epidemiology.
JUNIOR, PUBLIC POLICY MAJOR
Emily Villalta is a junior at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy pursuing a degree in public policy. She is passionate about education policy and how it intersects with childhood poverty and early childhood development. Villalta believes that every child is entitled equal access to resources that will guide them towards academic success and encourage students to pursue higher education. Her upbringing and cultural background inspires her to advocate for voices that are often systematically silenced or ignored. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, Villalta plans to pursue a master’s degree in public policy and hopes to work for the Department of Education in the future.