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An interview with Johana, SLI scholar

This summer Scholars Latino Initiative scholar Johana (Harrisonburg High School ‘22, Eastern Mennonite University ’26) started her first job, at a department store. She loves helping customers, she said in the following interview with SLI, and plans to continue serving others as a nurse practitioner.

Why did you decide to work in a department store?
I was trying to get out of my comfort zone. I know a lot of people, but I also like to be with just a few people. So I thought, “Let me get a job and save money.” And I’m loving it there. 

I like seeing different people, the customers. One day I was feeling kind of sad, and this lady came to me and she said, “Have you tried this candy?” She loved this candy. It was like Italian lemon flavored. She said, “Here you go, you can try it and tell me if you like it.” Now it’s one of my favorites.

She made my day. That’s something that I love about working with different types of people: They can make your day better.

Who are some other people you have learned from?
My dad always told me, “Hey, you’d better go to college, better get a degree, because I didn’t have that opportunity, and I want you to have it, for a better life.” He wants me to be that person, to be a professional. And I want that, too. I don’t want to just do it for him, I want to do it for myself. So I always had that mindset of going to college.

He started taking some programs that would help him progress in his work. He keeps studying. He’s like, “I just want an opportunity to go to college, too.” 

I used to make fun of him. I used to say to him, “Hey, Mr. Google,” because I could ask him whatever, and he would always have an answer. Even if it wasn’t right, he always had an answer.

What are your career goals?
I want to become a nurse practitioner. I love everything related to the human body, how every system in our body has a different function, and how they all work together. I believe our creation is so fascinating.

For a nurse aid class this fall, I’ll be at a retirement community. I’m excited to learn about caregiving in that setting.

What has been your experience with SLI?
SLI has given me many opportunities to grow

I applied to SLI at the end of my freshman year. I was afraid to speak in public, and I remember the first year. [SLI program director] Dr. Alemán was always asking us many questions about different topics. He was always pointing at people, saying, “What do you think about this? What do you think about that?” I was always so nervous, like, “Oh my God, I don’t want him to pick me.” But Dr. Alemán has helped me to be more confident in public speaking.

SLI has created for me a vision for college, how to get into college, how to be a college student but also how to be a better college student. It has also given me a lot of opportunities to be around brilliant people who teach many good things including how to be one of them.

It has also given me opportunities to work with my community, the Latinx community. I’m so thankful that I’m in SLI, and I can’t wait to see all the amazing things we will do this year.