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Experiencing Guatemala through a student lens

Nicky Cuevas, is a great friend of Seres. She travelled to Guatemala to get in touch with our project. She just wrote a letter to her friends explaining her experience. It’s always amazing to receive this kind of email, so we decided to share it with you.

“Dear Friends,

I don’t normally do this, but I am asking you all to support an organization that I have had the privilege to grow with throughout my time at UC Irvine.

I made it my goal to make a positive impact during my undergraduate experience at UC Irvine and with the mentorship of various inspirational individuals. I will be graduating from UC Irvine this coming June, having done just that. SERES in particular had a big impact on helping me do that. It empowered me to use my voice – to not be afraid to stand for my beliefs and to push my peers to care for our shared world.

NickyI was first introduced to the SERES’transformational sustainability leadership training as a freshman in the fall of 2013. Following that, in my sophomore year, I was enabled by UCI’s Global Sustainability Resource Center to visit Guatemala for two weeks to participate in SERES’ pilot Communiversity program, a program to build sustainability leadership skills and develop a critical lens on local-global solidarity. During this time I expanded my training in facilitation and leadership techniques – resulting in a notebook filled to the brim with Spanglish J When I returned to UCI I was as full as this notebook…brimming with profound memories, rich experiences and a very tough reality.

In Guatemala I met some of the most unlikely leaders – they have incredibly limited resources, are faced with so much adversity, and yet are so appreciative of the natural world and the ebbs and flows of life. The biggest concerns in their lives are not the fear of gang violence, or the threat of natural disasters, or poverty, but rather the current environmental and social state of the world.

As of now, I am a SERES trained Ambassador and Facilitator that has hosted a number of programs including the Global Sustainability Minor Retreat at UC Irvine, and the Summer Institute for Sustainability Leadership (SISL) Program at UCI that aims to welcome incoming students to existing campus sustainability programs and student organizations. I have co-facilitated a number of workshops at UCI and in the Anza Borrego Desert with local high school students to allow my peers to realize their ability to be a leader. (I think this is what SERES calls Fractal Impact!)

Through these experiences I have been empowered- they have given me the priceless gift of a global perspective. Along with my passion for environmental law,they have helped me to an increasing interest in the notions of justice and social solidarity and how these relate to the growing need and demand for sustainable development.

February 16th marks the first day of my next big adventure: I will be studying Environmental Law and International Diplomacy at the Université de Genéve in Switzerland for the coming 4 months. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to reach for the stars without the guidance and motivation of so many role-models around me, and these priceless opportunities.

Each of us has a voice-but it’s our choice to let it be heard. Please follow the following link to support this organization doing incredible work in Guatemala, El Salvador and the U.S.

I was selected to speak at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) in Minneapolis this past Fall. I mentor students and share this message with as many of them as possible. I’ve returned to Irvine with a responsibility to make the most of the opportunities given to me and the opportunity to share my experience and training processes that enable students to surpass what we call eco-paralysis. To get youth to a point at which their willingness to make positive change supersedes their fear of failure or meaningless impact.”

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