Bryceida Valencia, a sophomore and health studies major at the College of the Holy Cross, was selected for the fellowship because of her extensive civic and political engagement, her dedication as a mentor to first-year students, and her commitment to deepening her understanding through Community Based Learning. Among other activities, she has worked locally with families at the Centro Las Americas food bank, and formed connections with residents at the Brookdale Senior Living Center. She also served with great dedication as a peer mentor for first-year students, and engaged in dialogue with peers during a 5-week Civitas Community Engagement Leadership Institute this summer. She also became a part of the leadership team of the Pause Project, a new initiative which aims to create a college-wide sabbath hour during which no classes would be scheduled and opportunities for prioritizing well-being would be encouraged. As a first generation Latinx student, Bryceida faced a number of challenges transitioning to higher education, and did so with steadfast determination. Bryceida credits these experiences, as well as her own family story, as having informed her ensuing interests in mentoring, promoting wellness, and addressing issues of equity and justice through political engagement.
Reflecting on my college experience as a first-generation student, I learned about caring for myself through academic struggles by focusing on cura personalis: the importance of caring for the whole person. This allowed me to focus on my mental, physical, and spiritual growth. While adjusting to college, I found personal growth through reflection, community service, and faith, which helped me balance between school, community engagement, and personal well-being. This led me to join the Pause Project, an organization that promotes prioritizing one’s wellbeing for the campus community. With my passion for civic engagement, I also served as an election worker and campaigned for candidates by communicating with hundreds of registered voters. Throughout high school and college, I have volunteered in non-profit organizations to assist marginalized communities. Finally, working with the Office of Student Wellness Education allowed me to serve as mentor and guide first-year students, creating a foundation that will support and lead them to excel through their four years. I am glad I have positions where I can voice my concerns, help my community, and share information with others. As a student of color, I want to continue to create a welcoming and engaging environment for all students.