In March, three Plaza College students attended the Sigma Kappa Delta National Convention in Louisville, KY, to receive national scholarships. One of the winners, Sharlene Valvano, wrote about what inspires her to give back to her college, community, and country. Read her essay below!
Having spent the past 14 years working in various career fields, I found it challenging to get ahead without a degree. In 2008, I joined the US Air Force, and even with military service, it was hard to find my place in the working world. In 2015, I began school, determined to focus and stay below the radar.
Fortunately, my eagerness to learn began to influence those around me, and it became hard to hide how much I enjoyed being involved. I volunteered and became a Student Life ambassador on campus. This allowed me to speak at new student orientations and encourage current students to continue on their path to higher education, always remembering why they began. Every time I stand before them, I’m humbled and reminded of the reasons I began and why I continue.
I am a full-time student and work part-time as a lab technician and peer tutor. Currently serving in the US Air Force Reserves, I have an obligation of one weekend every month and three weeks out of the year until 2027. In addition to military service and mentoring at school, I volunteer locally to serve my community. As a member of Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York, our mission is to show the compassion of Christ through humanitarian works and social engagement.
After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, we visited badly affected areas throughout NYC, and we provided canned food and water with a door to door service, set up after seeing the great need. After volunteering with my church and seeing the devastation first hand, I knew there was more that I could do. I joined the NYC Parks Department efforts clearing parks, beaches, and city roadways for the rebuilding already underway. While there, I applied for a position with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Within two weeks, I was hired by FEMA as a Logistics Specialist. I was trained in disaster response and emergency management, and can be deployed to a disaster anywhere in the US.
In March 2016, I was deployed after flooding and tornados affected cities across Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Texas. While away, I sent emails of encouragement to my classmates and even made a video to run for Vice President of Sigma Kappa Delta- Chi Delta. In October 2016, I was called to assist the FEMA regional office in New York in preparation for Hurricane Matthew. I will be working with Sigma Kappa Delta Chi Delta to organize a fundraiser for an organization supporting relief efforts.
Being involved in my community and college has allowed me to help organizations like St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters in NYC, The Cancer Society of America, AIDS Walk New York, SafeHorizon, Get Focused, and V-Day, a movement to end violence against women.
After my Sigma Kappa Delta induction, I participated in fundraising for the fight against Alzheimer’s. I represented the SKD Chi Delta chapter at Walk to End Alzheimer’s events in New York. Alzheimer’s has affected my family and family members of some of my friends. I recently lost my aunt and in July, I lost my grandmother; both suffered from Alzheimer’s. Being directly affected gave me a different perspective on how important finding treatment and prevention methods are. It was touching to see caregivers, family members, and even people living with Alzheimer’s out raising awareness.
I am looking for ways to participate in future events hosted by SKD and by my chapter. The reward and satisfaction from being the change I want to see is immeasurable. I have a heart to serve and am driven to fulfill that purpose.