Year: Class of 2016
Major: Liberal Arts: Anthropology/Philosophy
Hometown: Lawrence, MA; originally from the Dominican Republic
Leadership: Co-founder & president, Share Esperanza educational mission
Awards: Student Civic Leadership Award, 2014 Dream Scholarship, Louise M. Goodrum Unsung Hero Award
Service: Mission to Nigeria
A philosophy of serving and learning
Since a very young age, I’ve been interested in studying some of the fundamental questions about humanity, as well as the factors that have allowed us to live the ways we do within our societies.
I became committed to the Liberal Arts program's philosophy of serving and learning. I took a no-pay internship that allowed me to help homeless children and fused my new learning experiences with the work that my own organization, Share Esperanza, was performing overseas.
Share Esperanza: mission of hope
I came from the Dominican Republic with gaps in my education, especially in English and science. I realized that the main reason for my struggles was my lack of preparation during school in my country. Anger, despondency, and a spark of hope made me create Share Esperanza around two-and-a-half years ago at UMass Dartmouth.
Its first mission was to create a biology teaching lab at the high school that I’d attended seven years ago, since we were never exposed to the use of a microscope or real scientific knowledge. Share Esperanza has also made trips to the Dominican Republic to donate more than 800 pounds of school and medical supplies to poor villages in the country.
This mission allowed us the opportunity to also work with local community leaders, doctors, nurses and teachers on the basic needs that these people face on a daily basis. We ran classes from personal proper hygiene to environmental awareness for these areas where help is always a blessing.
Our efforts have also allowed us to send supplies to Haiti, and to work directly with the local homeless community of New Bedford.
Leadership in action
My leadership roles are founded within my service in the U.S. Army and Share Esperanza. Both experiences have shaped my personality and skills, especially during times of uncertainty and turmoil.
My biggest challenge as leader of Share Esperanza was to gain the support from the Student Senate (SGA) since they had argued that no support for my organization was possible due the fact that "we were working overseas."
Thankfully, this view on our work changed, and we were given the support needed in order to continue our labor.
Today, Share Esperanza is the proud creator of three national contests that take place in the Dominican Republic. This past November, we celebrated our first Herinell Linares Literature Contest in a local high school. The initiative has been so highly regarded in the country that this year additional schools will participate. We will also be hosting national photography and science contests for middle and elementary school grades.
These types of challenging experiences have taught me that leadership is not about shouting orders, but the creation of a lifestyle where your actions become a noble standard for others to follow.
Class of 2014 Dream Scholarship
Receiving the Class 2014 Dream Scholarship was a total surprise for me. It was a very humbling experience to be appreciated by my university and my friends that evening. It is one of those moments when you realize that you are not alone in the fight to make the world a much better place. It is always a beautiful thing to witness the hope that other people have in you. They see you as the bridge of their own dreams of possibilities.
The challenge of a life-threatening illness
This might sound a little dark, but my biggest challenge has been to return to life. I went to Nigeria last year, and successfully drilled a well and ran a mission in the village of Ozu Abam. I got critically sick with cerebral malaria, which shut down my lungs, my liver, and my motor skills. My body forgot how to accomplish even the simplest of task such as walking or holding a pen. Doctors thought that I might have to put school and everything else on hold for a while, but somehow I recovered; now, with the blessing of life, this will be my last semester.
It’s no secret that educational gaps, being away from family, and lacking financial resources are real reasons to make anyone quit, but, to my understanding, as long as there is the chance to live, everything else is irrelevant.
The future: continuing to serve the less privileged
My plans include the push to make Share Esperanza a non-profit organization, and the pursuit of my master’s in Public Health and Infectious Diseases.
My desire is to become a great professor for future professionals and world changers. I want to continue serving those less privileged communities around the world and chasing the wisdom that can lead me to live on this earth as a better human being.