Leaving a Mark: Meet Student Valeria Reyes Garcia

Originally from Cancun, Mexico, Valeria Reyes Garcia is studying Psychological Science with a minor in Legal Studies. She is President of the Women’s Leadership Initiative, site leader with the JCU Community Service Program, and on the cheerleading team.  

Why did you decide to major in Psychological Science and minor in Legal Studies? 
In Mexico, I used to do a lot of volunteer work with children from underprivileged backgrounds who had disabilities or terminal diseases. There were a lot of things that I didn’t understand at the time about how the children behaved or the problems they had at home. I wanted to help them more than I was able to, so I decided to major in Psychology. 

I was also interested in how the mind of a criminal works since I used to watch a lot of true crime documentaries growing up. When I first got to JCU, my advisor was Professor Isabella Clough Marinaro, who teaches criminology. I took a criminology course, and right now, that’s the path that I’m leaning toward because in Mexico and all over the world, there’s a lot of work that can be done to improve the judicial system. 

Valeria Reyes Garcia

What are some projects that the Women’s Leadership Initiative is working on? 
We want to bring back “Women’s Month” in March and organize events with faculty and other clubs regarding women in general. We’re thinking of holding self-defense classes, having a mental health workshop, and setting up art galleries with other clubs. We also want to have a roundtable with all the female club leaders to discuss what it’s like to be a woman in a leadership position and the stereotypes we face.  

It’s my last semester as president and I would like to leave a mark on the student body. We’ve been working on making consent training mandatory during orientation so that all students will have to take it. But that takes longer than a semester, so if I can leave a foundation and the rest of the board can work on it in the future, that would be great.  

What impact do you hope the Women’s Leadership Initiative will have? 
I hope that the WLI can be a safe and welcoming place for all students. I would like for the WLI to be somewhere women can ask for resources, be heard, and be supported. A place to rely on, make friends, meet other people, and develop professionally, through tools like our LinkedIn workshops and photoshoots. As women, we need to support each other and be prepared for what’s out there, because unfortunately, we don’t have the same opportunities as men. We also try to focus on community service by helping Casa Internazionale Della Donne, making donations, and doing fundraisers. 

You’re also a site leader with the JCU Community Service Program. Can you tell us more about your experience? 
Once a week, I go to the Vo.Re.Co Center and prepare meal packages for homeless people or people who are struggling economically. I do the dinner activities, so we pack a first and second course, which usually includes protein and a side of vegetables or salad. We also include fruit, bread, and sometimes even dessert. Normally, we package about 60 meals a day, but these last couple of weeks we have done around 90, which means that the number of people who are in need of food is increasing.  

It’s been a nice experience because the environment is great. The people who work there are very kind and I’ve made many friends. But it’s also a humbling experience. I’ve learned a lot from Angela, the coordinator of the Center. She’s always trying to do her best with donations, and you see that she puts a lot of effort into what she does. It’s been very inspiring. Angela makes sure that everything that she’s giving is in good condition and is a good meal. She always tells us these people should “eat like kings.” It’s taught me that you must do everything that you’re doing in the best way possible. 

How did you get involved with this program? 
When I was in high school, I used to do a lot of volunteer work and when I moved to Rome, I wanted to keep volunteering, so I signed up for the JCU Community Service Program. I started with Casa Internazionale Delle Donne, and then a friend told me about the Vo.Re.Co dinner. When my class schedule changed, I couldn’t do Casa Internazionale Delle Donne anymore, so I decided to try Vo.Re.Co. I fell in love with it and started going every week, then they made me a site leader.  

What advice would you give to students considering JCU? 
They should absolutely come. It’s the best experience. I think that JCU offers you the chance to grow both academically and personally. We have great professors and lots of opportunities. JCU also allows you to explore volunteer work, join student clubs, and participate in athletics. The fact that it’s a university abroad, so far from home, made me grow as a person. If you’re looking for a new adventure and a new challenge, JCU is the right place.  

What are your plans for the future? 
I would like to get a master’s degree and a doctorate in Europe. I’m still deciding on the field, but I’m leaning toward criminology. I would really like to have my own association or fundraiser because I want to keep helping people.