Cynthia Valencia-Ayala

Cynthia Valencia-Ayala is a PhD candidate in the School Psychology program and a practicing school psychologist. Prior to coming to Berkeley and throughout her time in graduate school, Cynthia has worked to provide culturally relevant mental health services to youth experiencing carceral involvement, trauma, and institutionalized racism and poverty. She is most interested in producing research that decriminalizes non-dominant youth and re-conceptualizes the education system.

She currently studies youth perceptions of carceral practices in schools and the extension of the carceral continuum into education systems. She also explores how discriminatory disciplinary practices emotionally and psychosocially influence students. Cynthia has focused both her research and clinical work on supporting non-dominant youth.

Cynthia is originally from Southern California and is a first-generation college student and daughter of Mexican immigrant parents. Her work is inspired by her own educational experiences as a low-income student of color. Cynthia loves spending time outdoors and with her family. She enjoys camping and hiking with her dog and is also a big fan of horror movies, reading, and cooking.

Specializations and Interests

School - Prison Nexus; Juvenile carceral system; Trauma and race-based traumatic stress; Youth perceptions of equity and education


MA, UC Berkeley, Education

BA, UC Santa Barbara, Psychology, Chicanx Studies, and Minor in Applied Psychology