Major(s): Cognitive Science; Linguistics and Psychology
Class Standing: Senior
What interests you about your major?
I find my Cognitive Science major fascinating in the sense that it is a multidisciplinary degree involving psychology, linguistics, anthropology, computer science, philosophy, and neuroscience. I do not think that intelligence can be measured by a standardized test, so I enjoy learning about the many areas that contribute to a person’s intelligence. I declared a second major last year in Linguistics and Psychology so that I could further look into these courses as I am very intrigued by language acquisition and mental illnesses.
You’ve been invited to serve in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua, what will your role entail?
I will be serving in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua under the official title of “Primary Education Environmental Educator.” My primary role is to provide education about the environment to my community and the schools within it. Nicaragua has many environmental issues, such as deforestation and irrigation problems, that I will be working with my community to combat. I will be involving the schools by creating composting systems, planting trees, and educating them about the many ways we can improve the environment. Nicaragua has a wealth of natural resources, so it will be great to work with the community in effectively using them!
How did you obtain this opportunity?
I have been interested in applying to the Peace Corps for quite some time now, so I was well researched in the application process. But one thing for future applicants to consider is that you need to apply a year in advance to the date you are available to leave. This being said, I applied last May using their online application. I was then approved for an interview in July with my ‘Peace Corps Recruiter,’ which is the person that represents your application and you can communicate with. I reached out to a Peace Corps speaker here at UConn with some questions about the Peace Corps and she actually was able to check on my application status and told me I was being considered for the Teaching English as a Foreign Language position in Nicaragua. Then about two weeks ago I received my invitation to the Peace Corps to serve as an Environmental Educator!
Can you tell us about your experience with the AmeriCorps Jumpstart Program and your role as a Team Leader?
I served as a Corps Member last year for Jumpstart after applying on a whim and ended up loving it! It has truly helped to shape me as a person and I have met so many friends through the program. Jumpstart serves low socioeconomic preschools by implementing language and literacy lesson plans to make preschoolers kindergarten ready. Children from low socioeconomic communities enter kindergarten 60% behind their more affluent peers, which is an alarming statistic. I serve this year as a Team Leader, leading my own team into a nearby preschool in an effort to close this achievement gap. We work all year in one classroom where we are able to develop great relationships with the students and really see them progress. I would recommend Jumpstart to anyone interested in getting involved with the community, working with children, and/or making a difference in our education system.
What are some of the things you’re responsible for as a Student Leader for Community Outreach?
As a Student Leader for Community Outreach, I am responsible for serving as a liaison between my community partner and the students I lead from UConn. I work one-on-one with my community partner to ensure that our program is running successfully and meeting the needs of the classroom I serve in. I also meet with my team of six UConn students to strategize, prepare, and communicate the goals and needs of our service. I also serve with other Student Leaders on a Social Justice Committee for immigration, where we discuss and educate ourselves about that issue today.
Can you give us some background on Love 146 and some of the things you’re in charge of as the Community Outreach Chair?
Love146 is an international human rights organization working to end child trafficking and exploitation through survivor care and prevention. At UConn, we work towards creating awareness and fundraising to support Love146 in their efforts. As the Community Outreach Chair, I am responsible for involving our community in the events and fundraisers we hold here at UConn. Our latest event was our 2nd annual dress resale in which we raised over $800 with all the proceeds going straight to Love146. We reached out to the UConn community and the communities around us for dresses to be donated to our resale. We received an overwhelming amount of dresses, which made our event all the more successful. If anyone is interested in getting involved in a great organization aimed towards abolishing human trafficking, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
You’ve also served the community through Campus Connections, the Providence Youth Development and Education Alternative Break, and Husky Ambassadors. How have those experiences prepared you for what you want to do in the future?
I am very passionate about working with children, as they are our future. I am specifically interested in working with people with mental disabilities and I currently work with children with emotional, behavioral, social, and learning disorders. I became interested in Campus Connections because it connects individuals from Easter Seals (an organization that works with individuals with autism and other disabilities and special needs) with UConn students. This experience has helped prepare me for what I want to do in the future by providing a positive way to involve myself with people with various disabilities. I went on the Providence Youth Development and Education Alternative Break last year to help youth in education programs in Providence, RI. This experience was very influential in my life and provided confirmation that there is a necessity for change in our current education system. I met students who were passionate about getting an education but somehow failed out of our current system. Some of their teachers told them that they would amount to nothing and that there was no point in them continuing their education. They were told that they were a waste of time and would probably end up in jail later in life. This was devastating to hear, as I firmly believe that everyone deserves the right to an equal education. The teachers that told these kids this were the ones who failed. I hope that I can accomplish what these teachers could not and provide equal opportunities for education for all people despite the limitations, country, or socioeconomic status you were born into.
Would you say community outreach and helping others is a passion of yours? If so, how did you find this passion? What got you involved in serving the community?
I would definitely say that community outreach and helping others is a passion of mine. I can’t say that this passion was found in a particular moment, but one particular story comes to mind in how I feel about volunteering. It’s called the Starfish Story. An old man is walking across the beach, picking up starfish and throwing them back into the water. A young boy approaches and asks why the old man is doing this, saying that he cannot possibly make a difference as there are thousands and thousands of starfish drying up on the beach. The old man proceeds to pick up another starfish, throw it into the water, and say, “I made a difference to that one.” I love this story because it shows that one little act of kindness does make a difference. If you were to do one act of kindness a day for a year, there would be 365 people you have helped. Volunteering works in the same way, you may not change the entire world in your lifetime, but you can make a difference to each and every person you interact with. I find that this not only benefits other people, but it makes me a better person. I have met so many amazing people through volunteering and serving in my community and I would recommend that everyone gets involved in some shape or form.
What has been the best part about reaching out and serving the community?
The best part about reaching out and serving the community is seeing the impact one individual can have. I work with so many great individuals who are also passionate about getting involved and together we make a web of involved community members working towards change.
What would you say has been the most challenging part?
The most challenging part about serving my community is creating awareness of all the social injustices that happen everyday. If every single person in the world knew how important early-intervention education was in a child’s life, everyone would be on board with positive change. Similarly, if everyone knew that human trafficking is still a prevalent thing in the world and that it happens in our own communities, we could have the masses working towards abolishing it. However challenging this may be though, I won’t stop trying to make a difference and I will always try to be the change I wish to see in the world, (credit to Gandhi for my favorite quote).
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I will have returned from the Peace Corps pursuing a career working with children. I do not really know what country this will be in or in what capacity, be it school or mental health facility, but I know that it will be towards positive change.
How has the Center for Career Development (CCD) helped you in achieving your educational/career goals?
The Center for Career Development has helped me in achieving my goals by providing support and guidance when I was questioning what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. After meeting with someone from CCD, I felt more prepared with multiple options, resources, and support systems. If you have any questions or concerns about your future post-UConn, I would strongly recommend paying a visit to the CCD for some reassuring advice and support from qualified professionals whose job is to literally help you be successful.
What has been your favorite part about being a UConn student?
My favorite part about being a UConn student is the multiple opportunities I’ve been given. I had access to an education as well as a plethora of ways to get involved. I am so thankful for this and owe everything to my education here!
Based on your experiences, what advice would you give your fellow UConn students?
Based on my experiences, I would advise my fellow UConn students to get involved in something, literally anything on campus. I know that we are all here to get an education, but there is so much more you can learn by involving yourself in your community. I know what I want to do with my future because of my experiences here and I hope that you are all able to do the same!