Photo Courtesy of Abril Peña.
My absolute favorite part of working with VE is that the program is an opportunity for social mobility to students who normally would not get the education, resources, and network that they need to thrive as young adults. In my own experience, I went to a high school where a majority of students came from lower-income households, were children of immigrants, and didn’t have high expectations for their futures. The students in our VE program, including me, were able to say they were learning something at school that they would use in the future. With 50% of our schools eligible for free or reduced lunch, it’s clear that we are helping provide access to a unique educational experience to students who wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn vital career and life advice otherwise. The more I get to connect with our students, the more I realize the importance of the work my team and I are doing, and how much further we have to go.
I’m going to be frank: I tried to join clubs numerous times at school, and none of them really clicked for me. Some opportunities or projects felt disingenuous for me to take if I was joining with the sole intention of making my resume pop or finding for the “right” connections (which, if this is your goal, then more power to you). Also, I needed money! So, instead, I worked as a hostess at a Harlem steakhouse, volunteered and then worked with VE, and traveled to 9 countries in the span of my college career. I speak highly about my short-lived hostess experience in particular because I learned some important skills there that set me up for my future career — a person’s bark is much bigger than their bite and kindness takes you farther than spite.
What is an accomplishment you're proud of?
On my Germany trip, there were moments where I thought I didn’t belong there, where I thought I was in over my head, and where impostor syndrome and jet lag would keep me up for hours. I was in a new country, trying to understand a new culture and working full-time in a new office. After work, I was left with no one but myself. The fear of failure was a regular occurrence. But the more I forced myself to go outside, talk to people, travel to different cities and get lost, the more I learned about myself and my capabilities.
I asked my boss at the time what I should be doing to become better prepared for my future career and he replied: “I’m not saying this because you’re sitting here right now, but exactly what you’re doing now — traveling and meeting new people and experiencing different ways of living and working.”
By the end of the trip, I was very proud of the work I did with EUROPEN-PEN International. I experienced solo-traveling in four countries, and most importantly, I got the chance to better understand myself.
Fairygodboss is all about celebrating female leaders — so every other week, we celebrate a young woman who is making a difference in her school or local community. Do you know a student leader who’s making an impact? Celebrate her and thank her by nominating her here.
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