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Ford School names Weill Scholars and Weill Youth Policy Fellows

January 24, 2023

Seven outstanding master’s students have been named as 2022 Weill Scholars and Weill Youth Policy Fellows. Weill Scholars Shirley Araiza Santaella (MPP ‘24), David Castro (MPP '24), Moriah Nacionales-Tafoya (MPP ‘24), Juan Sandoval (MPP ‘24), and Christiana Verdelus (MPP ‘24) and Weill Youth Policy Fellows Eneida Hysi (MPP ‘24) and Paloma Ramos (MPP ‘24) are recipients of the prestigious Ford-Rackham Master’s Award (RMA), one of the Ford School’s and the University of Michigan’s highest honors. They’re awarded to graduate students underrepresented in the public policy field and with outstanding qualifications and tremendous promise. With it, students receive full graduate school tuition, a stipend, and health and dental insurance.

Weill Scholars

Shirley Araiza Santaella

Araiza Santaella was born and raised in Oregon to a family of Mexican immigrants. Her commitment to public service is rooted in serving her home state by reducing inequities and empowering communities of color. Previously, she worked as a district representative for Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. Inspired by the Congresswoman, her colleagues, and other policymakers, Araiza Santaella aspires to gain the training necessary to formulate evidence-based and effective policy, centered in equity and justice. 

David Castro

Castro was born and raised in Chicago. He has previously interned for U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen and worked with the federal government. Most recently, he served in a communications role with the National Park Service, traveling to Alaska and to California to learn about preserving natural and cultural resources for future generations. Castro’s interests include foreign policy, diplomacy, national security policy, and environmental policy. 

Moriah Nacionales-Tafoya

Nacionales-Tafoya is passionate about advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the international affairs sphere and uplifting the next generation of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) leaders in foreign policy. Her experiences as an intern in the U.S. State Department fostered her passion for foreign policy and public service. 

Juan Sandoval

Born and raised in Chicago, Sandoval is a United States Army Veteran who is passionate about making impactful changes in people’s lives, specifically those who have been historically marginalized, through policy and activism. Sandoval developed his passion for social policy through the Public Policy International Affairs fellowship and a Fair Housing/Fair Lending Course through the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law. 

Christiana Verdelus

Verdelus is a first-generation Haitian American woman born and raised in Broward County, Florida. Her experiences as a licensed emergency medical technician, patient care technician in the hospital setting, and care coordinator at a free clinic for medically underserved patients led her to public policy, where she passionately works toward a safer, stronger, and more accessible healthcare system. 

Weill Youth Policy Fellows

Eneida Hysi

Hysi is an immigrant from Greece and Albania. She participated in the Immigrant Justice Lab, an immigrant advocacy collaborative project, where she wrote asylum briefs for undocumented children seeking asylum in the United States. Hysi also worked with community partners and student organizations to provide educational and vocational resources to refugee youth in Michigan. Hysi hopes to continue her work in immigrant advocacy and education equity, specifically in the Detroit area.

Paloma Ramos 

Ramos is a second-generation Mexican-American. Her research interests include international and social policy.

Read more about the Weill Fellows

The Weill Scholars and Weill Youth Policy Fellowship are made possible through a generous gift from Joan and Sandy Weill and the Weill Family Foundation. The Ford School Rackham Master’s Award (RMA) is given to graduate students underrepresented in the public policy field, with outstanding qualifications and tremendous promise for future contributions. Ford-Rackham Master's Awards are one of the Ford School's and the University of Michigan's highest honors. With it, students receive two years of full tuition, a stipend, and health and dental care.