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Student a force in motivation, volunteering for community

From+left+to+right+are+United+Way+representatives+Veronica+Garcia%2C+Lindsey+Campbell%2C+Ayra+Cirilo%2C+Summer+Menchaca+and+Tiffany+Gresham.+Cirilo%2C+standing+center%2C+displays+her+award+from+United+Way+as+Volunteer+of+the+Year.+
From left to right are United Way representatives Veronica Garcia, Lindsey Campbell, Ayra Cirilo, Summer Menchaca and Tiffany Gresham. Cirilo, standing center, displays her award from United Way as Volunteer of the Year.

From left to right are United Way representatives Veronica Garcia, Lindsey Campbell, Ayra Cirilo, Summer Menchaca and Tiffany Gresham. Cirilo, standing center, displays her award from United Way as Volunteer of the Year.

From left to right are United Way representatives Veronica Garcia, Lindsey Campbell, Ayra Cirilo, Summer Menchaca and Tiffany Gresham. Cirilo, standing center, displays her award from United Way as Volunteer of the Year.

Ana Ruth Lugo Mejia, Managing Editor

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It seems like we talked for five minutes because time went by so fast but we actually had a 45 minute conversation. If you ever meet Ayra or you know her, she’s a very amicable, sociable young woman, always open for conversation and always with a smile on her face.  

I have known Ayra since we both participated in last year’s Chinese class but we had never had a real conversation, just normal talk. That is until I discovered how involved and committed she was with school. I interviewed on her role in the Student Senate and later I found out the many activities she is part of, not only on campus but also outside of campus in the form of volunteership.

It is admirable to find a young woman with a sense of purpose at such a young age. So often young people don’t necessarily make the right decisions or are still unsure of what to do with life. But not Ayra.

Ayra Cirilo is originally from the Philippines but she came to the United States when she was nine years old. She is now a sophomore double majoring at the University of Texas the Permian Basin in Kinesiology and Communications. She is a Resident Assistant for student housing, secretary of Student Senate, the vice-president for Theta Eta Sorority, and she is part of Students of Philanthropy. She also happens to manage to volunteer in the community once in a while.

Facebook can be a great source of news on peers and that’s how I found out that she received an award for Volunteer of the Year from United Way. Last summer she logged about 300 hours helping in many important ways. She said volunteering is something she started while attending high school. She recalls that the first thing she did to volunteer was making T-shirts. But soon she started being part of fundraisers in school and it went pretty well. Thus began her career in volunteering for a nonprofit organization. It is obvious from talking to her that it has made a great impact in her life. One thing she has learned (and was a wakeup call) was that: “It isn’t just fundraising and giving the money away but you have to make sure that the money that people donate is going to where you want it to be.”

So it became a habit that whenever she needed volunteer hours she would go there and so it became something serious. This all led up to this past summer when they needed an administrative assistant and she got a call asking her to help them just for a few days to run the office, to “answer phone calls.” She accepted. She ended up doing it for the whole summer where she learned more of how nonprofit organizations operate. She says it was a very fun experience. The biggest lesson she’s learned and probably the toughest it’s what every nonprofit organization deals with every time someone asks for money and that is to say “no” either because they file the application wrong or because there are giving it to someone else.

She is at a point where she is torn after graduating by her desire to be a professor, starting a family and forming a nonprofit organization. She already has an idea, something that has always concerned her and that is how to resolve homelessness. If there was something that bothered her it is the negative connotation about people that were homeless “Like, don’t give your money to people because they will probably spend it on drugs, and I think that is something I’m learning right now, and it is better to give people the benefit of the doubt. Because then you will start thinking cynically about everything and everyone.” She adds that she would like to form a program where homeless people can become self-sufficient, “People say ‘Oh, they can just find a job,’ and it is not easy to find one. If it’s hard for someone with a [an academic] degree, it’s even harder for them.”

Conversation leads to sorority and her role in it. Like everything she talks about she is passionate about everything she’s involved in. Cirilo likes to think of sorority as a place where girls foster and empower each other. With so many things on her plate there needs to be a balance so she makes sure to update her google calendar. She says it’s about priorities. She recommends also to not multi-task, it’s better to do one thing at once [and get it done].

So at 20 years old Cirilo foresees herself in five years enrolled in graduate school somewhere in Texas, maybe “married in everything goes well, I would love to keep working with nonprofits.” She dreams of traveling the world, building a house close to the ocean, and to be a “cool grandma.”

Cirilo concluded: “It’s what you do in the dark that keeps you in the light.”

Ayra Cirilo is currently running for President for UTPB Senate.

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Student a force in motivation, volunteering for community