Sharon Valerio, a biology and chemistry major at Lock Haven University, has been actively involved in creating a wellness program for economically disadvantaged youth in our region. Ms. Valerio recognized that many of the children at the local after school program were in need of services beyond academic support. She took initiative to develop a comprehensive wellness program for children to learn essential skills in emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being. The goals of her program are for children to be empowered in choosing the direction of their own lives and personal health. She would like to expand opportunities at other agencies to enhance their capacity of treating the whole individual with their offered services.
I first became acquainted with socioeconomic inequality while traveling with my Venezuelan father through the U.S. and the bustling streets of Venezuela growing up. As we observed the affluent architecture and shops of cities like NYC, Philadelphia, and Caracas, my father would always turn the car aside and drive us to the poorer districts of these "wealthy" cities. He did this to teach my brothers and me that while there is great beauty and resources in the world, there are also places in great need-even a street over. It's not necessary to travel to another country or state to find disadvantage and poverty- it is here-and they are our neighbors. As I got older, I realized that I did not have to wait until I was established in my career to serve the people around me. I have been serving as a volunteer at my local Salvation Army since 2014, and as a premedical student, have recently developed and enacted a comprehensive wellness program for disadvantaged youth that focuses on how to make healthy choices to prevent chronic illnesses. I am looking to expand this program to other local centers that will potentially serve all age groups.