I recall walking merrily into school on my fifth birthday, swinging my curly ponytail and wearing the purple dress Mamie (my grandmother) had gifted me. My parents, who came to school to celebrate my birthday, not only sang the English-language birthday song but also a reprise in Spanish, and then again in French. The sadness I felt observing my classmates’ faces would become one of the many occasions on which I resented who I was. I felt overwhelmed by my differences—my faith, my diverse cultural inheritance, and later on, my single-sex high school education. Yet, I have come to realize that these were all playing a significant role in shaping my identity, particularly my passion for breaking down barriers that constrain women and minorities from opportunities to thrive. Over time, I grew drawn to my cultural roots, and my all-girls education had inspired me to embrace who I am and the uniqueness of others. I have learned firsthand the power of education, and I have resolved to be a part of the educational movement in developing countries.
During my spring break sophomore year, I initiated my own service trip to Bogotá, Colombia (where my father’s family is from). I worked at Obra San Rafael (OSR), a convent where women who have survived domestic violence are welcome and helped. I was nervous when I was dropped off at the convent on my first day, yet despite my unease, behind the gates of Obra San Rafael, I felt “at home.” I assisted the teachers in the free jardín (preschool) at OSR, teaching the children their numbers and letters in English and Spanish. The students’ little eyes filled with wonder and excitement when I arrived. I was touched by one student in particular, Carolina, whom I noticed was incredibly smart despite the fact that she was always getting yelled at for running around the school. She was not a bad child; she was just bored. With so many students to supervise, Carolina’s teacher was unable to attend to her needs, so I gave her some enrichment problems I had done with my teacher as a gifted child and copied down problems from the workbooks of the grades above her. Every day she came running into the classroom asking what she would learn today. Watching Carolina, who was zooming through her work and eager for more, thrive and enjoy learning instead of running around aimlessly, opened my eyes to her revealed potential. Her progress and love for learning underlined the fact that everyone should have access to the beautiful gift of education.
I always knew I wanted to work on an international level, and it was in those moments with Carolina that I realized exactly what I wanted—to advocate for education on a global scale. After OSR, I began informing and actively working to involve my school in the power of educating young women. With the help of the director of my school’s new Center for Global Leadership, I created Sister Scholars, a program that currently collaborates with girls’ schools in Nicaragua and Tanzania to build bridges of educational empowerment for women to learn from each other and stay in school through academic enrichment, the arts, and school activities such as robotics and mock trial.
Freshman year of college rolled around, and Schreyer for Women, is what would become for me a community that would once again nurture my passion and provide for me a new sisterhood. Now, as a sophomore, and as the Service Director of Schreyer for Women, I am more committed than ever to empower college students to inspire other young women. Whether we are making reusable pads for girls around the world or exciting young minds to be a scientists, lawyers, or even Madame Presidents, this organization is a place where I can feel proud to simply 'be me'.
I once felt alone because of my diverse familial inheritance, but I have since realized that by joining our differences we can create a brighter world. Today, it is precisely my sense of personal difference that makes me feel so connected and understanding of others. My loving parents, whom I was once so embarrassed by, have sacrificed everything to provide me with a quality education, and it is through their guidance and inspiration that I have found who I am, what I love, and most importantly, my voice to guide other young women around the world to achieve