How Do I Immerse My Passions? Am I Meant For Only One Path? Answer: Be Open To Change – Fernanda Perez-Alvarez ’24

When I first agreed to join the Non-Profit Careers Conference, I was unsure of what to expect. Of course I knew there would be panels, speakers, and it would revolve around non-profit organizations in Worcester, however, I had never attended a week-long conference that I, at first, believed was straying away from future career goals. Now having come out of the conference I want to share my passion for non-profit organizations with others while still being pre-med, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, let me start from the beginning. 

The first day of the conference my stomach was turning as I walked down the steps of ‘Science’ (science building) toward Smith Laboratories. I had been so used to entering Smith Laboratories ready for Chemistry classes, yet I was greeted with kind smiles by CBL Interns, Mattie, and Isabelle. It felt a bit as though two of my different worlds (academics and CBL) had collided. Although I am a returning CBL Intern, I am still trying to pave the way for two of my passions, medicine and CBL (community building, immersing in community, working for and with others, etc). I want to mash these two passions together and create a vocation out of it. Although I am a Biology major with a LALC concentration on the pre-med track, it can be hard talking to other students majoring in the STEM field and even pre-med students about the importance of CBL. I want so hard for them to understand what it means to be immersed in the Worcester community. I want them to see how important it is to work with non-profit organizations to better understand how they themselves can go out into the world ready not only for themselves, but others too. I understand that better now thanks to the CBL Intern Program, but I am still learning. 

During the NPCC, there were sessions students could choose from to attend. I attended Lynn Lancaster’s (HC Alumni ‘86) session about Grant Proposal Writing. I went into the session thinking I would simply learn about how to write proposals in order to receive grants. I was very wrong and actually learned about Lynn’s road to her current job. There are so many twists and turns in life that it is important to remember that change can be good. One just has to be open to it. It was during this talk that I realized how glued to one single path I had been this whole time. It is definitely possible to do non-profit work and go into medicine. I just need to be open to change. I realized how important both my CBL and science experiences are. I began to really think that day about how intersected both fields could be. On one hand, I was to be a provider of health, but yet I could still do non-profit work by helping in clinics doing behind the scene work. 

As I began working with my team on our designated non-profit, Girls Inc., I began to also think about my identity. I thought about other women of color in the field and what it means to be in STEM as a woman of color. I began to reflect on experiences I had as a young girl. I grew up a daughter of Mexican immigrants in a low-income community. I’m now at a predominately white institution in a predominately white field. Imposter syndrome is almost impossible to ignore, yet CBL and the NPCC conference reminded me what a gift it is to grow up understanding first hand what it is like growing up as a woman, POC, and low-income. These intersecting parts of my identity are what are now able to help me pursue my two passions. The NPCC and Girls Inc.’s mission were a wake up call for myself and for what the future holds. 

Going forward, I am not pressuring myself to stick to one single path, but instead to be open to multiple and allow my experiences to guide me. Currently, I am working with young 2nd grade and kindergarten students at Girls Inc.. Seeing these young girls reminds me of after school programs my parents would place me in and I find such joy working with these young scholars to prepare for future chapters in their lives. I can’t wait to continue working with Girls Inc. this semester (as well as my senior year) and be a part of more CBL reflections to help me discover more about myself and what I want to do with my life.

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