Participant name: Elena Chavez

Major: Biological Sciences

Year: Fourth-year senior

Pronouns: She, her, hers

Hello! My name is Elena and I am currently a senior majoring in Biological Sciences and Anthropology. I am the first in my family to attend college and the oldest of four siblings. I identify as a Mexican-American and am proud to call Northern California home. Growing up in Northern California allowed me to fully appreciate nature. When I think of home, I remember the massive redwood trees that shaded the hiking paths, the lakes that provided my family a place to skip rocks and enjoy each other’s company and the oceans that are wilder than hair in strong wind. Moving away from my family in NorCal was a challenge, however it allowed me to find my passion.

Throughout my years here at UCI, I have learned that my passion is serving the underserved by using education as a tool to make a difference. I primarily volunteer at schools in surrounding communities, such as Santa Ana. I educated students on STEM subjects and used creative methods to encourage engaged learning. This included dissecting organs when learning anatomy or building a circuit board as a way to learn to code. My commitment to the students I worked with in Santa Ana opened my eyes to my interest in mentorship and commitment to education.

I think that education is important in opening doors. This is something I constantly tell my students. A door that I had recently opened is sustainability. In opening this door, I have learned how impactful it can be. For that reason, I am very excited to be part of the Costa Rica trip. I look forward to immersing myself in what it means to be sustainable and taking this expanded knowledge to the students I continue to serve.