Personal Statement by Amanda Alvarado
Social change starts with one person who has passion and motivation to change the community around them for the better. My motivation comes from my past, I have been homeless, have had family members incarcerated, experiencing sexism and racism, and have had friends and family members survive sexual assault. The motivation I have is a drive to ensure youth, especially young women do not tolerate the same difficulties that I endured.
My abilities and my accomplishments have shaped my passion to help my community, underserved populations, and survivors. I empathize whole heartedly and sometimes hurt for the people who have become resilient through uncontrollable circumstances they have faced. This balance of success and empathy has contributed to my life accomplishments and my natural ability to help others.
I graduated college with a Bachelor of Science, Honors from McNair Scholars Program, The International Organization of Psychology Psi Chi, Alpha Chi Omega and the Multicultural Club. I managed to accomplish this while living on my own and working multiple jobs. After graduation I found myself choosing between a deferment from a Ph.D. program in Alaska or going to work. I started what soon became the most influential job of my life, working as a residential counselor.
St. Mary’s Home for Boys in Beaverton, Oregon, trained and prepared me for several of my experiences and jobs later in life. For three years I worked as a Residential Counselor with youth whose mental health and behavioral needs warranted secure residential treatment. During my time there, I went above and beyond my job title, I held various supervised therapeutic groups, developed curriculum and attended every training available.
This was one of the most influential experiences that reinforced my belief that I am beyond capable in assisting and educating youth. Shortly after my third year at St. Mary’s my partner and I moved to Hawaii Island to pursue similar careers. We moved to Volcano in March of 2015. In the short time I have been here, I have not only excelled in my career, but I have expanded my personal professional abilities.
I began working for the YWCA of Hawaii Island in 2015 as a Program Coordinator for the Teen Court Program. I have worked with youth in a unique role. My position entails several roles with youth including an authoritative court role, mentor, and educator. Administratively, I have assisted in grant writing, developing and executing curriculum, creating programs which branched Teen Court to assist youth at Ola I Ka Hana, youth on probation, High School Interns, and most recently executing curriculum at Hawaii County Correctional Center.
My job description is to coordinate teen court hearings and ensure court runs smoothly, but once my passion merged with this job it evolved into so much more. In addition to my role as a Teen Court Coordinator I assist the Sexual Assault Services Program at the YWCA as a part time crisis advocate and part time support group facilitator. This position has given me the opportunity to create curriculum for support groups for incarcerated women in Hilo, facilitate a support group in the community and attend several trainings to keep my thirst for up to date research quenched.
It’s difficult to imagine how involved I have become in such a short amount of time, but I have loved every minute I have immersed myself in this community. Through my positions at the YWCA I have also assisted with Project Hawaii, a local nonprofit for homeless youth, assisting with coordinating their summer camp and Christmas programs. At the Food Basket, I coordinated volunteers to assist with meal packing. I have also worked with STARS, a Resource and Support group for members of the community who have lost loved ones to homicide, and Hawaii Community Correctional Center, where I have led support groups and educational classes.
I became a registered Yoga Teacher in 2015 as well as an Adolescent Yoga Educator in 2016. I began interning for Big Island Yoga Therapy, where I started a Yoga Program at the HCCC Prison, women’s population. I also began volunteer instructing at University of Hawaii Hilo as a Yoga Teacher. I have also volunteered with community therapeutic yoga classes such as prenatal, trauma informed, and youth yoga classes.
These experiences have influenced my decision to participate in Women’s Marches here in Hilo, Dakota Access Pipeline Protests, “Going Home” meetings (which brings resources to inmates who have been released) and other community gatherings that bring awareness and resources to the community. Social change is not just showing up to a march, it’s bringing the march with you everywhere.
With all my accomplishments and passions lining up, I realized there was one thing I had left to do: Pursue a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology. It has been my dream for a long time to complete a Master’s Degree but due to my financial circumstances, work has been the more fiscally responsible choice.
Granting this scholarship to me will allow me to pursue my dreams and more importantly, help the underserved community. I will use my degree to march forward to bring resources, access, and assistance to survivors of sexual assault, incarcerated populations and at-risk youth to bring social change on our island.