Yoana Tchoukleva is an immigrant from Bulgaria
Fellowship awarded to support work towards a JD in Law at University of California, Berkeley
Yoana Tchoukleva was born into a low-income family in Sofia, Bulgaria. When she was four, her mother left her and moved to the U.S. Yoana grew up with her father and grandmother who were traumatized and deeply resentful of her mother to the point that they did not let her have much contact with Yoana and her sister. At a young age, Yoana learned to empathize and forgive her parents for their shortcomings. When Yoana was 15, her mother succeeded in winning green cards for her children. They moved to a Washington, D.C. suburb, where Yoana learned English and finished high school. Admitted to the University of Chicago, she majored in international studies and minored in human rights. In her junior year she won a competitive grant for an internship in Rwanda, where she taught English to widows and orphans who had survived the genocide. She soon realized, however, that language alone would not help them find jobs or afford higher education. So she helped them organize themselves into a self-sustaining business: a bakery catering to embassies, offices and eventually local schools. Returning to Chicago, she graduated with the department's award for the best undergraduate thesis. Now going into her second year of law school at Berkeley, Yoana balances social justice work at home and human rights work abroad. Deeply troubled by the rise of mass incarceration, she volunteers at San Quentin State Prison and advocates for a restorative justice framework to address crime in communities. Also, as the co-chair of the Boalt Hall Committee for Human Rights, she is currently working on a project to improve Liberian sexual violence laws.