Photo by Noreen Salalac
For those who don’t know me, my name is Elysa Marie Peña Guerrero. I am 20 years old, from a small town in NJ called Delran. I grew up with an enormous family, who are always supportive and will always be there for me, near or far. I attend a great college, Penn State University, the Behrend College in Erie. I am roughly 6-8 hours away from my family so having that freedom has given me many different opportunities as well as experiences. I have learned being so far from them , not to take anyone for granted.
As busy as I am, being able to talk to my parents or my siblings for at least a few minutes is always reassuring and that I know that I am fine and can handle whatever is being thrown at me. It is a lot harder not being able to go home on a weekend especially when you’re too stressed or just want to get out. But being on my own has taught me a lot about responsibility and just to be aware with what I’m doing.
As a psychology major, I’m starting to understand why people feel the way they do and how they’re mind works so just from taking a few classes, I know what I want to do. After I graduate, I plan to work as therapeutic support staff, for awhile, and be able to do one-on-one mentoring with a student or a patient at a hospital. Then I plan to go back to school and work on becoming a school psychologist.
A lot of people don’t know that I mentor for middle school kids in a low socioeconomic area. I have been doing this my freshman year and haven’t stopped ever since. I have learned so much about these kids and learned a lot about myself as well. Some of these kids go to homes where they don’t always have meals or a family that supports them or even cares for them. Throughout these sessions you start to notice who those mentees are and the other kids don’t want to be around them because they’re different. The other students don’t realize how smart these mentees can be and the potential that they have which is why I am doing this program. Each of the mentees at this program deserves all of the support, proper guidance, love, and fun at each session we go to. I know they have the potential to do whatever they want to do, to feel confident about it, and not to fall into that stereotype. This is why I love giving back because it shows. The differences show from the beginning to the end and it is always a great feeling seeing the mentees become a greater version of themselves. And I know doing what I do is making me a greater version of myself.
Besides all the emotional stuff, I am in a couple of organizations: Her Campus, Reality Check, and a new member of Gamma Sigma Sigma which is a service sorority. Her Campus is a nationwide online collegiate organization throughout a lot of universities. We write a lot about news, students at Behrend, topics that we like or that needs to be heard, etc. I am typically not a writer but being in this organization can help bring out major topics that many people need to read. The girls I work with are just amazing, unique individuals as well as great writers! Reality Check is another great organization that does a lot of service and gives back to the Erie community. I have done two major projects recently, ServErie and MLK Service Day. ServErie is another organization that does a lot for their community by painting new walls, organizing a bunch of stuff, fixing what needs to be broken, etc.
I have helped at an elementary school in a low socioeconomic area that helps a lot of refugees. We would paint the bathrooms, organize books and shelves. It was a great experience having to help better a student’s learning environment. MLK Service day was pretty much a day of service. Many Penn State students took a time out of their day to help out at all these different sites. I helped out at a nursing facility by fixing the walls and repainting them. Even had a few games of bingo with the residence which they absolutely love! I loved doing this because I am able to talk to these residence especially when they don’t have family that visits them so just by saying hi, they’re face just lights up and they get super happy!
Many people think that doing community service is boring or a complete waste of time but they are absolutely wrong. You are changing so many lives without realizing it. We are the anonymous extraordinaries! We do the smallest things that can help change a bigger situation. We may not make the biggest change but we are for sure making a rippling affect. Nobody realizes especially at my age, just one, one small act of kindness can go a long way. You’ll never know whose lives you are changing.
From being in college as well as getting involved to many organizations, which leads me back to here, becoming your Miss Valentine 2017. I have truly realized what having this title means. Being the Miss Valentine, you are representing all the youths of Filipino-Americans in South Jersey. I am being represented to set an example, to make a difference, to step up and get involved.
So this is my personal message to the youths of Filipino-Americans: You have the chance to make a difference for this organization, for your school, for your community, and anywhere else in this world. Take advantage of that. Help what needs to be fixed even if you’re not a professional at it. Don’t feel discouraged, you are capable of doing anything you set your mind to. As a Filipino-American, we need to show everyone who we are, what we are here for and how a strong organization like this can help in any way possible. Isn’t that what Filipinos are known for? We are known to be proud of our humanity. Just by getting involved can help in the long run. You won’t regret it.
To end my long heartfelt message, I just want to thank all the members of the FASSJ for letting me become your Miss Valentine. I hope I lived up to your expectations. It will be a great opportunity to share everything with all of you. I would like to thank my parents for giving me so many opportunities which shaped me to become a greater version of myself. I also like to thank my siblings, Katrina and Marco, thank you for being my best friends and always having my back. Of course I can’t forget the rest of my family and friends, thanks for always being in my fan club!
Salamat sa lahat!