Title: Regional Organizer/President
Company: Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts
Education: Pursuing Master’s in Conflict Resolution; BA in Labor Studies, University of Massachusetts (2022)
Career History: Regional Organizer/President, Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM) (2018-Present)
Izabel “Iza X” Depina, Regional Organizer and President at Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions and achievements in the field of education.
While working in retail sales and marketing, Ms. Depina, a mother of two and a grandmother, pursued higher education at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she developed a passion to make the world a better place and became extremely active as an advocate of student rights and justice. Since 2018, she has served as the regional organizer and president of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, an organization made up of students, alumni, professors, families, and community members throughout the UMass system that calls for debt-free college education.
Through earning a Bachelor of Arts in labor studies in 2022 and currently in the midst of a master’s degree in conflict resolution, Ms. Depina amassed more than $66,000 in student debt and has been on the frontlines of aiding struggling students and demanding a better, more financially viable future for those seeking education and an eventual career path. A worker, student, and parent, she hopes that there will be a better system in place for her children, a first-year college student and a high schooler, so that they can receive a strong education without a financial burden in the aftermath. Speaking on the Cherish Act, a bill that would end the “downward spiral in state funding for public higher education” at UMass, she said, “With the possible loss of an entire generation of students from college access, now is the time for Massachusetts to make more robust investments in public higher education…We need a solution to this crisis. We need to fund education for students.”
Ms. Depina has always been motivated to make a difference and inspire others. When she was just 17 days old in her home country of Cape Verde, she suffered a stroke, which paralyzed her right side and placed her in a coma for five months. Reflecting on this experience and what she went through at such a young age drove her to want to help others persevere as well. She put herself through school following an abusive relationship and found that the educational experience helped heal her trauma.
Recognized for her efforts with a citation from Governor Charlie Baker, Ms. Depina has also been involved with the South End – Roxbury Community Partnership, a grassroots group that strives to improve the quality of life for the community.