The below interview with Rebeca Valencia was featured on the nonprofit My Favorite Outfit webpage. Rebeca, now a student at University of Illinois Chicago, started attending programs at Metro in the 4th grade and continued through her high school graduation. Since, she has volunteered, taught and served as an assistant to the director of the Metro College Orientation Program.
Women who inspire us: Rebeca Valencia
November 29, 2016
Meet Rebeca, current student at the University of Illinois at Chicago and our new MFO Pop-up coordinator! Check out this inspiring chick and her involvement with the Chicago community!
1. Tell me about your involvement with the Metro For Girls youth program.
Metro is a nfp tutoring center that helps inner city youth. I started the program in 4th grade and, after I graduated, I wanted to continue working with Metro as an advisor to the students I knew in the program. During my time there, I saw how the girls really needed someone to motivate them to keep going to Metro. I asked Metro's program director about the volunteer options available and I began working as the summer assistance sports teacher. Then I became a program director's assistant for high school program. I stayed with Metro for a couple years and started getting to know the girls more personally.
2. How did your high school experience shaped you?
Being in the Metro program really helped me. I was in an all girls school from the suburbs and Metro introduced me to girls from all around Chicago. The program encouraged us to try to learn about each others cultures and backgrounds. As I formed friendships, I started learning about the different neighborhoods in the city. Without Metro, I would’ve been a completely different person—I was rebellious before high school and Metro really put me on track by encouraging me to focus on studies and myself. I got closer to faith and learned to set specific goals for the future through my mentors.
3. What attracted you to MFO's mission?
Working with the inner youth. It’s really important because it all starts with the younger generation. Teaching youth how to work on themselves is important. In order to spark change, you have to go within yourself. Being able to teach students this by boosting their confidence is really important.
4. What do you like most about MFO and it's programs?
Teaching girls how to be confidence. It is a powerful thing. MFO inspired me to keep working with inner city youth to help them in any way possible. From what I’ve heard and seen about MFO's programs, the mission is very powerful.
5. How has helping others - both in and out of work - impacted you?
I believe that it's important to help others no matter what. You can never go wrong; its something that’s needed in today society more than ever now. Helping others not only influences you, but it also influences those around you as well. It’s like a domino affect. It starts from within, you need the change before trying to help others. I try to put myself in these situations to demonstrate that volunteering is a wonderful rewarding thing. When my friends see me trying to help others in school, they become inspired as well. Its nice to see when your actions influence others!
6. Do you believe that clothing impacts your confidence?
Yes! Clothing plays a huge role, but I also think that loving and believing in yourself comes before anything else. However, clothing is defiantly a bonus!
7. Describe your style.
I am most comfortable in a pair of jeans with a basic, plain t-shirt. It depends on the season too. So fall for example: jeans, a plain t-shirt and nice scarf, blanket scarf. I love being cozy so that’s always a priority. Oh! And comfy flats.
8. What hobbies fulfill you outside of work and volunteering?
I used to blog a lot! I focused on fashion and I found it was a great way to express myself, be creative, and put myself out there. A lot of my friends aren’t really into fashion, so it was a cool way to meet people with similar interests. I also used to make make-up tutorial videos on Youtube. Apart from my blogs, I love hanging out with my friends!
9. What’s your favorite part about growing up on the South side of Chicago?
My favorite part is being in a community that is very united. The majority of the population are Latino. Growing up around people from my culture was a really beautiful thing. I fee like it helps unit everyone when we come together regarding any issues or causes. It was a community that was uplifting and positive, which is always important
10. What do you think the biggest issues are affecting students in low income communities?
Communities like Brighton Park (where I live), Pilsen, and even Rogers park, are affected by gentrification. It’s affecting a lot of the families there. I don’t think people see how it’s affecting the community as a whole. It's important to recognize the culture and the struggle that families have gone through to be able to express themselves about issues like, for example, oppression. Gentrification has sanitized a lot of these issues. I think it’s important to embrace the culture that’s already there and recognize the hard work that went into to creating a place to express their culture.
11. What's had the biggest impact on those issues?
There hasn’t been a solution to any of these issues yet, but I believe that the communities need support from one another. People need to come together and give support, love, and positive energy to make a change within these areas. It can be as simply as listening what people have to say. People have many different opinions, but when we listen to one another instead of arguing, it can make a huge difference.