What leadership roles or volunteer experiences have been important to you during your time at Maryland?
My volunteer experience is largely credited to the support of family and friends who raised me to believe that giving back to the community should be one of my highest priorities. My siblings and I have been involved with food banks- especially SHARE- non-profit organizations, and our youth ministry since as long as I can remember. My time as the editor-in-chief of a satirical newspaper in high school produced much laughter (at least my own), and as part of the National Honor Society I tutored fellow students and participated in activities such as cleaning the auditorium for theater programs. Besides official groups, I helped teachers with paperwork and classroom decorations and tutored a girl who wanted to score well on her SAT. At least for me, volunteering is fun, especially with Washington AIDS International Teens, a group which spreads awareness about HIV/AIDS through performing arts. Although I am an awful dancer and would rather keep it confined to my room, I learned a routine that was choreographed to empower others to make positive decisions.
When I came to campus I was overwhelmed by the number of students groups, but last year my friend invited me to volunteer with the Lutheran Student Association to participate in after-school activities with local elementary students. We read books with them, gave them snacks, played sports outside, helped them with homework, did arts and crafts projects, and overall gave them positive role models to keep them motivated in class. I also ended up helping the staff make Christmas presents for the students. Some of them spoke limited English; unfortunately I cannot speak Spanish, but I did get the chance to read a book to one student, going word by word to make sure they understood. Besides that, I also volunteered to do tech for a small theater group. This semester I am leading a group of students as part of an independent study; it is a lot of work to handle so many students and get them to complete the project, but I think it will be worth it in the end.
What has your scholarship meant to you and how has it enabled you to pursue new and exciting opportunities?
The Belva Hopkins Scholarship has allowed me to reduce the loans I have taken in order to cover the cost of tuition. In the past I was too anxious about my financial standing to consider any additional programs, with this award I was given the confidence to consider and apply for study abroad (even a year-long program!). I can also do everyday things like hang out with friends or have the occasional dessert at a diner down the street to reward myself for academic achievements like receiving my honors citation or earning a 3.8 GPA. I can enjoy my education with the positive stress of classwork rather than the negative stress of whether I can actually pay for it all.
Coming from a family of four children, all yet to graduate college, I am determined to set the precedent and prove to them that an education is worth the investment. Of course, I am also a bit frightened to think of finding a job in our current economy and repaying my loans, but at the same time- as I continue to apply for scholarships and other aid- I can at least attempt to minimize that debt and focus on classes rather than that anxiety. Now I can actually aspire to study abroad in Japan or to travel the world and teach English to embolden other students from different backgrounds to pursue an education.