“What are you thankful for?” – Like many other students, this is the question I will answer during Thanksgiving Dinner today with my family. My answer has always been “family, God, and my health”, and I am always especially thankful for my mother, Ty Harps, who sacrificed so much for me to become the woman I am today. But while I am annually and eternally grateful for these things in my life, this year I think my answer will be Loyola Marymount University. It transformed a nervous freshman girl in 2013, into the confident leader she is today. As LMU’s elected student-body president, I cannot help but feel immense gratitude this holiday season for this special place that has taught me so much.
Through these experiences I have also learned that my education is a privilege, and must be utilized to empower and serve the most marginalized of our society.
I am thankful LMU helped me to discover my passion to serve the underserved and to consciously fight against injustice. My Jesuit education has allowed me to serve in Tijuana, Mexico learning about immigration reform on De Colores trips, in Madrid tutoring English to homeless citizens while studying abroad in Spain, learning about international relations in Belize on an Ignacio Companions trip, and at Good Shepherd Domestic Violence Shelter teaching nutrition as a member of Belles Service Organization. These are only a handful of my LMU experiences that have allowed me to heed LMU’s mission and put compassion into action as a woman with and for others. Through these experiences I have also learned that my education is a privilege, and must be utilized to empower and serve the most marginalized of our society. Therefore after graduation I plan on pursuing my MD/MPH dual-degree to practice as a physician in underserved communities.
I am also very thankful for my LMU mentors, each of whom has helped me realize my passion for service and medicine. Each has gone above and beyond their duty as faculty or staff in order to help me become educated as a whole person. Dr. Ed Mosteig and Dr. David Berube recruited me into the ACCESS (A Community Committed to Excellence in Scientific Scholarship) program and helped me discover my potential for success. Dr. Heather Tarleton taught a course called, “Health and Well-being in Homeless Communities,” where our class spent 4 days and 3 nights on Skid Row, teaching me the true essence of service. Pam Rector from the Center for Service and Action and Samii Hartman from Campus Ministry have both continued to educate and empower me through service immersion trips and impromptu lunch dates. These are only some of my mentors at LMU who have immensely impacted my life and have taught me how “my education is an invitation to serve the most vulnerable of our communities.”
Lastly, I am extremely thankful for my fellow LMU students for giving me the opportunity to serve as the President of the Associated Students of Loyola Marymount University (ASLMU), LMU’s student government. This position continues to challenge me to become a stronger leader and is teaching me the importance of servant leadership. Every resolution, protest, celebration, or program ASLMU has completed this semester has brought me closer to our campus community in beautiful ways and I am so excited to continue our work next semester. The work that I have been able to do at ASLMU could not be done without my amazing Vice President and best friend, Marina Marmolejo. Marina and I met during the ACCESS program and lived in the same residence hall our freshman year. At the time we could have never guessed that LMU would kindle a friendship that would help us grow into the dynamic leaders we are today.
This holiday season will surely be one filled with heavy conversation and discourse around the dinner table. But as I reflect on my LMU experience, I can only find joy in my heart because this university has given me the tools to engage these difficult conversations, confidently, as a Jesuit educated woman of color.
I will always be thankful for all LMU has done for me and I hope this Thanksgiving season you are able to share this same gratitude with your families as well. Happy Thanksgiving!