Seeing LGBTQ Struggles Through Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s Eyes

Master of Arts in Urban Affairs

Chris Bardales
Master of Arts in Urban Affairs Candidate 2016

Having the opportunity as a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs student, to take part in a 2-day seminar with the iconic former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano was nothing short of extraordinary. To be in the presence of a legendary progressive activist like Tom was something I will never forget.

Tom AmmianoIn the first part of our session we watched the award winning documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk, with special commentary from Tom. Although having seen the documentary a handful of times, I am always moved to tears and never grow tired of re-learning about the historic struggles that the LGBTQ community had to endure in order for me to enjoy the privilege of rights I have today.

On the second day of our workshop, we were able to have an intimate Q&A with Tom on a variety of topics ranging from Harvey Milk, legislative policy and the gentrification of displaced communities in San Francisco’s history. With a breadth of knowledge on the history of San Francisco and an impressive resume of political achievements, it was an honor to receive such great advice from Tom. Although only lasting about three hours, I found myself thinking that I could have spent the whole day engaging in conversation with such a legend.

As part of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, I take pride in continuing to fight for the progressive values that Harvey would be surely fighting for if he were with us today. Although our community has come along way in the past 40 years, there is still much work that needs to be done in order for all marginalized individuals to attain basic civil rights.

Tom gave me the motivation to continue fighting for the rights of all oppressed people. Thank you Tom for being a great leader, a great role model and an aspiration to us all!

Tom Ammiano

Learning to Become an Advocate for Community Engagement with Upward Bound

Greta Karisny

Greta Karisny
Advocate for Community Engagement

When I first heard about the Advocate for Community Engagement (ACE) program through the Leo T. McCarthy Center, I knew it would be an incredibly unique opportunity for me to explore my passions surrounding social justice. As a Sociology major at the University of San Francisco, I spend most of my days talking about inequality among races, classes, genders, etc. However, with all these problems presented to me daily, it has been hard to find action to create change. Becoming an ACE and working with my community partner, Upward Bound, have been wonderful resources for me over the past two months in developing my passions towards social justice and identifying how I to put these passions into action.

The community partner that I am working directly with this semester is Upward Bound Math and Science (UBMS). This organization gives a number of important resources to students in economically and educationally disadvantaged high schools in order to help them strive in a university setting. While I am only a couple months into working with UBMS, I have already gained a more practical perspective of both education inequality in San Francisco and the difficulties that arise within non-profit organizations. It has helped me take the statistics and practical knowledge I have gained around racial, economic, and social inequality and apply it to the real world.

Within my initial ACE training I’ve gained a better idea of how I can use both my experience working with Upward Bound and the experience of the UBMS service-learners and apply them to larger issues of inequality and social justice in San Francisco and across the nation. The training itself maintained an open dialogue where I felt comfortable asking questions and discussing hard topics like racial oppression and economic inequality.

The day of service at the San Francisco Food Bank made these open discussions particularly important and meaningful. While I have done single-day trips to food banks and soup kitchens before, having a post-service reflection made the experience far more meaningful. The reflection made all of us critically question why this service is necessary and who this service benefits. While the day started as a simple act of service, it ended with a far more comprehensive understanding of why we serve. This is something that I hope to bring forward with my role as an ACE for Upward Bound, the students that serve it, and the community it affects.

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Dispelling Stereotypes and the Importance of Memory: A Walk Through the Fillmore District

Mary CruzMary Cruz
Advocate for Community Engagement
Esther Madriz Diversity Scholar

As an alumnus of the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars (EMDS), a living learning community on campus that strives to embody the Jesuit ideals of education and social justice, I was naturally ecstatic to have the opportunity to blend my role as an Advocate for Community Engagement (ACE) with my experience in the EMDS program. However, I am most excited about being able to work with the students in the current cohort as they navigate their journey of learning about social issues within the Fillmore community and Cuba, as well as its relation to Hip Hop.

This year EMDS has partnered up with the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center (EHHCC) in the Fillmore to work on an amazing project to preserve the histories of the change makers that are portrayed on the mural on the exterior of the center. As the ACE for EMDS I have the opportunity to participate in this project as part of my direct service with the Fillmore community.

Part of the importance of having this project partnership between the EHHCC and the Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars is to create a social consciousness about the histories of the Fillmore community and preserve these stories first hand while the change makers are still available to give their personal testaments of their involvement in the community as well as how they have observed the community evolve.

Last month, to introduce students to the space and community that they will be recording in their mural projects, EMDS participated in a tour of the Fillmore community led by the Director of Engage San Francisco for the Leo T. McCarthy Center, Karin Cotterman along with community members Lynette White and Altheda Carrie.

Participating in the walk through of the Fillmore allowed me to learn more about the inviting environment of the community. Many times we are put off by the exterior or stereotypes of a community without actually entering the space and drawing our own impressions or understanding the issues facing a community. During the tour, the students and I experienced a number of community members who were not a part of the tour, come up to us and tell us their memories about the history of the Fillmore. This interaction which happened naturally, definitely helped humanize the people within the community and reinforce the importance of our service project as we continue to record the oral histories of the community members in the Fillmore throughout the semester.

Check back for shared oral histories in future blog posts!

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Public Service and Community Engagement Minor Opens Doors

Leadership for Civic Engagement adThe Public Service and Community Engagement Minor guides students to explore and analyze intersections between themselves, their communities, and pervasive social justice issues while integrating a range of opportunities to develop and implement skills for effective civic engagement.

This 20-unit minor draws on courses from across disciplines to provide a holistic learning experience that is relevant and engaging to students with diverse majors, interests, and career paths. A new 2-unit Leadership for Civic Engagement course, launched this Fall serves as an introduction to the PSCE Minor, providing a framework for analyzing the program experience, and connecting students in an intimate learning community.

Lunna Lopes

Lunna Lopes, Research Associate with the Public Policy Institute of California

Lunna Lopes, a 2006 USF alumna with a PSCE Minor reflects back on the value of the Minor. The Leo T. McCarthy Center Public Service Minor was really a great opportunity for me to just meet a lot of really interesting fellow students who are still some of my best friends. I’ve even lived in London with one of my friends and fellow Public Service Minor where we both had the opportunity to gain international public service experience.

Back home in San Francisco, the Public Service Minor allowed us to get to know a lot of public servants, from Mayor Art Agnos to a historian, Kevin Star. They were able to come into our classrooms’ small seminars where could truly talk to them in-depth about what it’s like to work for the people of California and develop policies that could really improve their lives. Having that opportunity to sit in such a small seminar class and engage with guest speakers was useful to get some insight into what the life of a public servant actually is and the different type of public service that you can pursue in your careers.

How would I define the graduate school experience?

Sarah Souza_1

Sarah Souza
Master of Public Affairs Candidate 2017

How would I define the graduate school experience? I wonder how to best define it, I think I could describe it as a pathway to leadership development. My journey has only just begun with the Master of Public Affairs (MoPA) program, but it has already left lasting impressions upon myself.

Before classes officially began, my cohort had a whole week of orientation. This was a great opportunity to meet the rest of my cohort and bond together. The most outstanding part during the week of orientation was our day of service. We spent the day serving at the Saint Anthony Foundation, where we, as a group, served about 2,500 meals to the homeless population in the Tenderloin. It was a life changing experience to learn about their background, and what led them to become homeless. What I liked about the program at St. Anthony’s the most, is the humane approach they approach their mission with. Everyone is treated as people with the respect and dignity al humanity deserves. It is a non-discriminatory approach not turning anyone away, in which they offer daily meals, and free clothing to anyone who is looking for help regardless of gender, race or status.

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Although the resources provided by St. Anthony’s, and by other non-profits in the Tenderloin neighborhood are critical, they are not sufficient resources to mitigate the lack of access. The most crucial and vivid issue is the lack of access to affordable housing, and for some of them even limited access to portable water. After our day of service we all spent time reflecting on our activities for the day. Learning about their situation made me reflect about the importance of becoming a leader, and the significance of speaking up for others  – reasons that lead me to seek a graduate program.

A week ago when I first started MoPA, I was asked by my Applied American Politics professor to read and discuss both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution in class. The purpose of this assignment was to analyze the function of government in our current political system; this challenged me to think outside the box, and enticed me to question the role of government in both local and federal level. During this class discussion, I felt empowered and confident to speak up – my voice mattered – that was when I was certain that I made the right decision when I choose to apply for the MoPA program.

The first week as a graduate student at the University of San Francisco, I’ve been pushed outside of my comfort zone, encouraged to collaborate in class, and compelled to read critically – everything that graduate school promises to do. This program provides access to multiple tools that will enhance career growth, network and works hard to provide students access to multiple internship opportunities in the government sector, non-profit and private sector. Besides the multiple benefits of this program, I already feel part of the MoPA family. Everyone is willing to work with one another, and the professors and staff member provide support that will help me to grow personally and professionally over the next two years.

I appreciate the experiences so far that the MoPA program has provided to our cohort and it’s only been a couple of weeks! I look forward to learning more and contributing what I have to offer throughout this amazing program.

MoPA '17

Bringing #Disruption in Political Communication to USF

One of the many things that draws students to our graduate programs in Public and Urban Affairs is our location in the vibrant and diverse San Francisco community. We pride ourselves on giving our students myriad opportunities to put what they are learning in the classroom to use in their “backyard” here in the Bay Area.   We are often lucky enough to have local political figures, from supervisors to city planners, take part in a class or open up their organizations to give our students an insider’s view of the complex, inner workings of the city.


Professor Ken Goldstein

One such opportunity is the American Political Science Association’s annual conference, where our Master of Public Affairs program is proud to co-sponsor a day-long pre-conference workshop, led by Professor Ken Goldstein, on Wednesday, September 2nd.

Entitled, “#Disruption: Political Communication in a Digital Age,” the program will feature eight (8) panels showcasing the work of more than fifty (50) political communication scholars in addition to an Author-Meets-Critics Roundtable featuring Jennifer Stromer-Galley’s new book, “Presidential Campaigning in the Internet Age.”

The year’s conference focuses on the challenges of measuring and understanding politics in today’s rapidly changing media environment. These disruptions challenge our paradigms and encourage new analytical modes, while reinvigorating questions about the politics of persuasion.  The pre-conference is an opportunity to discuss the intersection of information technology and political communication in a city so heavily intertwined with the heart of tech: Silicon Valley.

I’m thrilled that our students have the opportunity to engage with scholars at the forefront of their fields. It’s something that makes our programs unique and helps us educate leaders who will create positive, lasting change in their communities. I hope you’ll join us on September 2 for this exciting event. It’s just one of the many ways we benefit from being in the Best City Ever.

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On the Start of the New Year

David Donahue

David Donahue
Director, Leo T. McCarthy Center

The same week that I started as the new Director of the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good, I finished reading Teacher Wars, Dana Goldstein’s history of the teaching profession in the United States.

Teacher Wars

Her chapter on recent, data driven educational reform described a charter school classroom that motivated children with a song about why they were learning: “cause knowledge is power, and power is money, and I want it!” (Goldstein, 2014). The same chapter reported that teachers were discouraged from focusing on unquantifiable goals, like developing students’ sense of citizenship, no matter how worthy those goals might be.

The McCarthy Center’s vision to create a just and humane world by preparing ethical public servants stands in stark contrast to Goldstein’s depressing vignettes. As I learn about USF faculty creating classroom experiences that transform students’ mission in life and about staff developing community engaged programs that make a real difference to individuals and organizations in San Francisco and the world, I couldn’t be more optimistic that the classrooms described by Goldstein do not have to shape our civic destiny.

ACE classroom

I am convinced that the McCarthy Center’s work to prepare students for public service is more crucial at this moment in our nation’s educational history than ever. I couldn’t be more motivated, inspired, or proud to work with the staff, affiliated faculty, community partners, and board members of the McCarthy Center to shape education that prepares students for participating in democratic life and leading lives of purpose. I look forward to a year — and years — of working at USF to support teaching and learning based on the Jesuit tradition of education for the common social good, not merely individual financial benefit. I look forward to meeting all of you who share this vision and welcome your participation.

Reference: Goldstein, Dana.  The Teacher Wars:  A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession.  (New York: Random House, 2014), p. 203.

Reflections from a USF MoPA Alum: Collaborate, Communicate, Have Courage

Alia Al-Sharif headshot
Alia Al-Sharif
Senior Project Manager, Barbary Coast Consulting
Master of Public Affairs ’12

When I reflect back on my experience as a graduate student at the University of San Francisco, I can’t help but think about how fast the last two and a half years since graduation have flown by.  My mind immediately starts thinking about how incredibly fortunate I am to apply everything I learned in graduate school to my job. People usually stop and stare blankly when I say that, but it’s true! From media pitches to developing authentic community engagement strategies, the Masters of Public Affairs (MoPA) program was where I cut my teeth in San Francisco politics. The MoPA program also helped me strengthen vital skill sets that have been crucial to me as a working professional.

As students we were pushed outside of our comfort zone to collaborate and work closely with others in every course and even outside of the classroom. Throughout our coursework we were challenged to compellingly communicate our thoughts, whether it be in our writing or our presentations. We also needed to have the courage to stand up and voice our opinion on controversial topics and to defend our work.

These three skills came up time and time again in the program, and come up time and time again in my role as Senior Project Manager at Barbary Coast Consulting. As a political consultant, collaborating with colleagues is instrumental to our work. It’s not about who comes up with the best idea, but how can we work together to develop a concept and strategy that will successfully achieve our goals. I’m challenged to think outside of the box to creatively communicate complex topics and translate these messages across audiences. Even when having an unpopular opinion; when you know it’s the right one you must have the courage to share it and believe in everything you do and say 100 percent of the time.

I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to have worked closely with a student currently enrolled in the MoPA program, Jasmine Conrad.

Alia Al-Sharif blog 2Jasmine has been working at Barbary Coast Consulting this summer for her graduate internship.The thread that ties us together is one of passion, purpose and pride of doing things differently and wanting to make a positive impact in a city we care so deeply about. It has been such a joy to work with her! I’m grateful to the MoPA program, its staff, its faculty, and its students, for being a community where we can all rely on each other. We’ll continue to collaborate, communicate, and have the courage to leave this world better then we found it through the professional fields we all enter. When you know someone is a graduate of the MoPA program or another program at  the Leo T. McCarthy Center, you know you’re working with someone who has as much of a commitment to serve the common good as you do — and that’s truly incredible!

Watch Alia along with two other recent MoPA graduates here.

Alia Al-Sharif

Summer 2015 Immersion in Nicaragua

Hana Bottger
Hana Mori Böttger
Assistant Professor of Architecture & Community Design
University of San Francisco

For two weeks immediately following the Spring 2015 semester, I led an immersion course to Nicaragua with 7 University of San Francisco students. We stayed with homestay families in the city of León, near the Pacific coast, and traveled daily to the village community of Goyena. The course, ARCD 348: Nicaragua Outreach Summer Immersion, was interdisciplinary, consisting of students from Architecture & Community Design, Environmental Studies, Nursing, Physics and Psychology.

Hana post 1

We were hosted by a local Non-Governmental Organization called ViviendasLeón, with whom the Architecture & Community Design program has had many years of fruitful collaboration both during the regular semesters and during summer immersions.

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti, and is located in the very center of Central America. For being a relatively small, poor country, Nicaragua has had an enormous presence in world politics especially in the latter half of the 20th century due to a revolution and subsequent power struggles. For the last couple of decades there have been a great number of Non-Profit and Non-Governmental Organizations who have visited and provided aid to impoverished and displaced people, with varying degrees of success.

ViviendasLeón differs from other NGOs due to its focus on human capacity development. Many organizations, including the Nicaraguan government, have come through villages such as Goyena with direct donations of building materials, clothing and shoes, and water well construction, but have not provided people with any methods of empowerment. ViviendasLeón works toward fulfilling this very important need with community-building programs such as skills training and small business seeding.

On a typical day during our immersion, after a hearty breakfast with our homestay families, we met first at the ViviendasLeón office for a Spanish lesson and debriefing on the goals for that day.

Hana post 2

Then, we would hop into our air-conditioned van (the only air-conditioned place we would experience!) for the 20-minute ride out to Goyena, the rural community where we would be working. It was very warm (95-98 °F) and humid so it was not easy to contribute a lot of manual labor for many hours at a time. Still, we managed to make ourselves useful as best we could, drinking enormous amounts of water and taking breaks in the shade. The climate was only one of the constant reminders of our status as fish-out-of-water visitors.

Prior to our arrival, ViviendasLeón had scheduled a number of small projects that they knew we could help with right away. On the first day we set to work at both – rebuilding a toilet facility at the elementary school, and preparing gardens with post-and-string structures for planting. These gardens are part of a successful vegetable cooperative program which has engaged many women in the community to learn farming and business skills in order to sell their vegetables at local markets and earn some income for their families. Most men find employment in neighboring sugar cane fields, some local construction, and even abroad in Costa Rica, Mexico, or the United States. Some of the women who are left behind have become highly engaged in small businesses such as a honey bee-keeping cooperative and sewing, empowering them to not only make changes in their personal economics but also in their family structures.

In both of these initial projects, USF students worked directly alongside local community members, receiving instruction and learning resourceful tips about how to accomplish these jobs, as well as entertaining each other with limited Spanish or English skills.

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A typical morning was concluded by an invitation to lunch – hand-cooked over a wood stove by a local family. Delicious!

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After lunch came another set of activities, which saw the group occasionally splitting up into smaller teams. We were asked to assist with the afternoon arts & crafts enrichment program for children, which took place at the community center in the middle of the village, a building designed with the community and partially built by USF students! Working with the children was very rewarding as communication (often via humor) was quite easy and immediately satisfying.

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After two afternoons with the children, and some conversations with the art instructor, we decided to write up more lesson plans for activities that would use simple and inexpensive materials. Tapping into our collective experiences of art, craft and science activities as children, we brainstormed and then wrote up step-by-step illustrated instructions for the teacher. One element we were careful to incorporate was embedding a lesson of care into the activity. For example, the creation of small paper star ornaments required careful folding of thin strips of paper and getting the angles even enough into a five-sided shape to become a well-proportioned star in the end.

One of the main motivations for the “lesson of care” emphasis was the fact that these children were all from a small neighborhood within Goyena, called Nueva Vida. This area is unique in that the resident families have been displaced from their original lands a great deal, and now live in close proximity because they no longer own any land that could be cultivated with crops or husbandry. More than other surrounding communities, the people of Nueva Vida have been victims of non-sustainable charity efforts by a variety of organizations prior to the arrival of ViviendasLeón. Over time the community has learned to depend on these direct donations and have stayed in very poor conditions without learning how to improve their situation or gain employable skills. They have also become known as the community least likely to attend capacity training or informational workshops, and seemed to be the most fractured. Their main “oppressor” is a huge sugar cane company called Ingenio San Antonio, which own all of the land surrounding Goyena. They fumigate by airplane right over their fields which are directly next to the village, and every time they do, residents are sickened to the point of throwing up. They also know that their well water is being contaminated by the chemicals but they have no choice but to pump it daily and drink it. It may be too difficult or even impossible to directly influence the sugar cane company, but one thing we can slowly do with daily results is to help the people of Goyena develop a stronger sense of community so they can feel more empowered and eventually become more organized.

So, after our first half-week of observations and discussions with ViviendasLeón leaders, we decided to work on two things – developing a culture of care, and helping young people to attain habits of community engagement early (which are linked, and both lead to empowerment which, at its best, will allow them to stand up against their oppressors). To this end we created two things – one was the set of care-oriented lesson plans for the kids’ art/craft activities. The other was an environmental health survey, which was carefully worded to link their environmental health concerns with a need to engage with their fellow community members. We talked to about 40 young people between ages 15 and 25, and almost all of them identified the fumigation and chemicals used by the sugar cane company as bad for their health, and almost all of them also identified that they themselves would like to participate more in community activities such as cleaning public areas and learning about environmental hazards. The next step is to design and implement these programs, as well as to secure more investment from the 3 or 4 people we talked to who were clearly energized and had strong leadership qualities. It was very exciting work, highly rewarding to talk to these individuals at length!

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The trip was certainly not without its share of pure fun, as well. In our weekend between the two work weeks, we managed to fit in several significant outings including a day trip to the beautiful colonial town of Granada on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, a highly energized baseball game between the top rival teams of León and Managua, and a hot dusty hike up the side of Cerro Negro Volcano, rewarded by an even dustier descent by “volcano boarding”.

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By all accounts, the trip was highly memorable and even life-changing for our students. According to their final reflection essays, their greatest concern was whether they had done enough, had they made any difference in the lives of the people we visited. As some time passes and the lessons of this immersion trip sink in, I trust they will realize that the greater point of this experience was its effect on their future endeavors – everything they tackle from now on will benefit from their having a little more perspective to contribute.

Live. Learn. Serve.

Traveling the world with the University of San Francisco

Isabella headshot

Isabella Gonzalez Potter
2015 Privett Global Scholars Participant
Cochabamba, Bolivia

Outside of Cochabamba, Bolivia at the Parque Ecoturistico Pairumani outside of Cochabamba the mountains bore a tremendous resemblance to the Catalinas and reminded me of the landscape of Tucson, Arizona where I was born and raised. It is ironic to travel thousands of miles to find yourself in a place that feels remarkably like home, yet foreign at the same time.

As someone who is a double major in Environmental Science and Latin American Studies I have a strong sense of belonging here, because I am blessed to have the opportunity to study my two passions in the field. As the child of two immigrants the chance to study in Latin America is a homecoming. My father immigrated to the United States at the age of 16 from Altotonilco El Alto, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico to work for Ford. My mother is an American who was born in Lima, Peru and was raised throughout South America because my grandfather was an accountant for the United Fruit Company. Thus the creation of my last names, Gonzalez Potter, and myself always an interesting experience to explain.

Through my participation at USF this past year I have been able to travel near and far. I have been on countless adventures throughout the Bay Area, I have seen the Galapagos Islands where Darwin came up with the theory of Evolution and Guayaquil, Ecuador (through the Biology Department), I have experienced snow in Chicago (I attended the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, USHLI, with Latinas Unidas), I have been to Washington, D.C. and stood at the steps of the white house (during DIAS an annual conference for my sorority, Lambda Theta Nu), and now I am in Cochabamba, Bolivia. But what this past year meant most of all, is that I rediscovered happiness through myself.

The first night with my new host family I was treated like the daughter they had always had. After waking up from a short nap after a week of not sleeping, the mom, Leny asked if I was ready to go to the youngest son Ivan’s kinder performance. After a quick rubbing of my eyes I smiled and agreed. We hopped into a trufi, Bolivia’s version of a taxi, and rode a few miles until we arrived at the school.

I was overwhelmed by the quantity of people – hundreds of children accompanied by mothers and fathers who were dressed in everything from traditional aymara and quechua clothes of the Andes, to young parents adorned in the latest Hollister and Aeropostale that was de moda. The show eventually began and the first group of kindergarteners descended upon the audience fully dressed in indigenous Bolivian clothing. They were paired boy to girl and they began to dance in sync with the music. Sparklers were joined by young girls who came out in outfits that remained me of carnival and danced behind a group of kids who couldn’t have been older than four.

As the night continued on I found myself looking into the sky. I couldn’t help but think of how we all look at the same moon, no matter where we are on the planet, there is only one. I thought about all of my loved ones back home and wondered if any of them were looking at it too. The mountains in the distance reminded me of Arizona and the Catalinas I would stare at every day when I drove to high school, or rode my bike, or went for a walk, or took a weekend trip with my family. All of those rides when I would just look out into some place that was both so close, yet seemed so far. For whatever reason I feel that I am in the right place at the right time, it is all meant to be.

Isabella blog post photo

During our first week here, at the Parque Ecoturistico Pairumani I learned that I should have brought more than one bottle of water, and wearing Vans was a terrible idea.

Throwing up my sorority’s “L” in a foreign country where I am continuing to learn about myself and the world around me, exemplifies where I am currently at. My only hope for the future is that I allow myself to be fully open to whatever comes my way.

Live. Learn. Serve.

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