It’s been four years since I finished the Global UGRAD Program, one of the most amazing adventures I could ever dream of. Through this journey, I had not only an academic exchange, but also a life-changing experience that shaped me into the person I am today. During the program I got involved in the Illinois State University (ISU) Leads Leadership Certificate Program, Leaders of Social Change in Washington D.C., Western Avenue Community Center, and ISU Spanish Club. These experiences helped me to grow both academically and as a person, and to set more ambitious goals.
After coming back to El Salvador, I was awarded a scholarship from a local university – the Superior School of Business and Economics (ESEN) – to finish my undergraduate studies in Business and Economics. I worked at ESEN as a teaching assistant in several courses such as Leadership, Political Science, Business and Its Environments, and National Reality. Time flew by and I graduated Cum Laude from ESEN last January 19th. I also completed the FANTEL Academic Excellence Scholarship Program, which is sponsored by the Government of El Salvador.
Global UGRAD strengthened my skills as a leader and social change agent. Hence, I started working in different social impact projects. In 2014, a few college friends and I founded Crece (Grow), a student organization that seeks to provide educational opportunities to fellow classmates at my university through mentoring, support in scholarship applications, and sponsorship programs. In December 2017, our workshop “No pares de soñar, no pares de crecer”(Don’t Stop Dreaming, Don’t Stop Growing), which motivates low-income high school students from El Salvador to pursue undergraduate studies no matter their socio-economic situation, was a finalist of the competition Solidarity Award of Sagrera Palomo Foundation. During my sophomore year, I tutored elementary school students with TECHO El Salvador so they could improve their reading, writing and math skills. In May 2016, I and five fellows from the International Exchange Alumni network won a grant from the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Thanks to this, we developed our own project called Jóvenes Pioneros (Young Pioneers), which trained 53 public high school students from San Salvador in entrepreneurship and helped them create business models based on their own ideas.
Since 2017, I am a founding member of the Youth Council for the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador. Through my involvement in the Council, I get to report issues of interest to Salvadoran youth to the Ambassador and other U.S. Embassy officials, as well as develop projects of positive social impact. In January 2017, I participated in Empowering Latin America Program in Mexico. I enrolled in peace agency, public affairs, creative action, civic engagement and management of social projects workshops and got to meet 33 fellow Latin American leaders who are committed to creating a better world.
During my junior and senior year in college, I was an intern at the USAID Economic Competitiveness Project, the Ministry of Economy of El Salvador, and the Help Me to Live Foundation. By working at these institutions, I grew professionally and gained valuable knowledge and skills. Upon graduating from college, I started working as a Competitiveness Analyst in the Economic Intelligence Unit of the Ministry of Economy of El Salvador.
Many things have happened since I finished the Global UGRAD Program. However, I am sure that it was this program that gave me wings to fly and fight for my dreams instead of just running. During my visit to Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in December 2013 for the Global UGRAD End of Program workshop, I learned the quote: “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.” This has been part of my personal and professional mantra since then.