Monica Valencia is from Los Angeles, California and she was born to immigrant parents from Mexico. She is the first in her family to attend college, graduate, and receive a higher education. Spanish is her native language and learning to speak English at a young age was a difficult endeavor. She believes that her language and her culture are both important to her identity, but also to the way in which she navigates her spaces in society.
Monica enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after high school and received station assignments in the U.S., South Korea and Germany. She excelled in the military and spent six years in service of her country, traveling through Europe, Asia, and the U.S. Monica returned home to California with an honorable discharge.
After the military, Monica graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, where she excelled academically and received numerous awards, scholarships and fellowships. As a McNair Scholar and Mellon Mays Fellow, she was able to design, conduct, & complete an Honors Thesis under the instruction of Dr. Jody Agius Vallejo and Dr. Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo. Monica spent a year and a half in the field conducting ethnographic research based on participant observation and in-depth interviews in an indigenous community in Southern California. Monica successfully presented her research findings at numerous sociological conferences around the nation and coined the term "transnational prejudice."
Monica graduated from USC having received one of the highest honors; the Order of the Laurel and the Palm, among other honors that celebrated her academic abilities. She graduated from USC (Magna Cum Laude) with a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Human Rights.
Monica went on to study law and received her Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree at the University of San Francisco School of Law. While at USF Law, she gained practical skills by interning and externing at various organizations including the Immigration Center for Women & Children, Justice Now, and the Immigration & Deportation Defense Clinic at USF Law. Monica taught Street Law to high school students in the Mission District of San Francisco, CA, and competed on the Asylum Moot Court Team at USF Law. She was also one of ten students selected to participate in the Keta Taylor Colby Death Penalty Project and was assigned to the Capitol Defenders Office in Jackson, Mississippi.
As a result of her dedication to the profession of law, she has been awarded several awards including the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association Fellowship, the Equal Justice Works Public Interest Law Award, and the OneJustice Pro Bono Publico Gold Award two years in a row. Monica graduated from law school having received a public interest law certificate with high honors. At her graduation, Monica was also the recipient of the 2017 "Pursuit of Justice" award; which is only awarded to one student from the graduating class.
While in law school, Monica founded the Dreamer Fund in 2016, a non-profit in San Francisco, California, with hopes of giving back to her immigrant community. She is currently the founder and co-executive director of the Dreamer Fund and her focus is to work collectively and learn from the undocumented and immigrant communities to create social change and education equity. Monica was trained under the "Rebellious Lawyering" model by her mentor and professor, Bill Ong Hing, and was also a Post-Bar Fellow at the Immigration & Deportation Defense Clinic at USF Law, where she continued her training with Prof. Bill Ong Hing, Esq. and Prof. Jacqueline Brown Scott, Esq.
Currently, Monica is a supervising attorney at Centro Legal de la Raza in Oakland, California and an adjunct professor at Golden Gate University School of Law.