Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Destined for greatness

Tears were flowing with abundance from the eyes of Valencia Lynch, remembering the opportunity she had more than a decade ago that changed the trajectory of her life forever.

"I have always felt that I was destined for greatness," Lynch said. "I just didn't know how I would get there."

You see, she came from a poor family, the child of a Mexican mother who sought a better life for her daughter, but money was tight. They could not afford a private school on their own. The moment which changed Valencia's life forever was the moment she enrolled in the school of her parents' choice through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.

The school was a place where Valencia's mother felt confident her daughter could enrich her Catholic faith, find fellowship with other girls, and most importantly, a place where she would be academically challenged.

Because she had access to a high-quality educational opportunity which surrounded her with mentors and where she was encouraged to grow academically, spiritually and socially, Valencia was able to lay a strong educational foundation that propelled her through college with great success.

She is now proud to say she earned a dual bachelor's degree in both anthropology and in Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

These days, Valencia is creating a film about Afrolatinas at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, works as a therapist for children with autism, and volunteers extensively in her community.

She attributes her success to the opportunity to choose the school that worked for her individual needs as a student years ago:

"These values [I learned there] have in many ways have framed my life choices to be a socially responsible member of Milwaukee."

Although Valencia is already giving back to her community, she hopes to increase her role in helping children with backgrounds like hers by one day opening a community center in Milwaukee. Said Valencia:

"It is a beautiful thing to go into my alma mater and see girls running up and yelling 'Valencia' and hugging me even a decade after my graduation."

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