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Gabriella Nicole Cepeda
My name is Gabriella Nicole Cepeda. I don’t come from a rich background. I’m not half Italian, a fourth German and a tenth Brazilian. My parents are simply Peruvian, and so was the rest of my family before them. Unfortunately, I don’t have a pet llama, and I don’t have a lot of gold, or any gold for that matter. However, I am nevertheless very in touch with my Peruvian heritage. My dad never let us lose our appreciation for our culture; every Sunday for as long as I can remember, he plays salsa music and makes delicious ceviche. Since my parents have come to this country, they have had to make enumerable sacrifices. If it wasn’t for these sacrifices, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
Since first coming to this country, twenty six years ago, my mom has never stopped working since her first job as a cleaning lady to her current job as a Financial Services Representative at TD Bank. She’s worked all sorts of jobs, full time, part time, both at the same time and even managed to get her bachelor’s degree at age forty nine. The one job that I’m not so sure I could ever take on as well as she did is becoming a mother at the age of seventeen, a job you can never be fired from and isn’t so easy to quit. Watching my mom work countless hours to guarantee a better life for us, her children, was when the meaning of “perseverance” was made clear to me. It was the idea that if you work hard and don’t give up, you will make it. By this I’ve learned that failure isn’t something to be ashamed of, but rather something to learn from. I believe being the youngest of 5 has given me an advantage. It’s made me realize what family really means. It’s not only my parents who have contributed to the pursuit of my dreams, but all of my siblings, too, each in a different way. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have the education that I have today.
When I was in the 5th grade, I was able to move from a public school to a Waldorf school. I was at this school for 4 years. You probably don’t know what a Waldorf school is and if you have heard a little about it, you probably have this preconception that I’m a hippie and I believe that there are such things as gnomes and fairies that live in the trees. But no, I’m not a junior in high school that believes in fairies. This school was the place that shaped who I am the most. Although I was only ten years old, I felt as if having to switch schools for the last year of elementary school was the worst idea anyone could have come up with. In retrospect, I now wish I had switched earlier. In this small school, I learned to be curious, to just go explore the beautiful world, but at the same time, respect it and have reverence for it. This is also where I discovered that I love challenges . From taking on day to day challenges, like deciding to draw the most difficult thing I could think of over a simple illustration, to taking on bigger challenges like making an impact on this world. Some of these challenges will take me many years to accomplish, and who knows, maybe I never will, but I most definitely will never stop trying. Challenges are something that my life revolves around. If someone gives me options, I never take the easy way out, and almost always choose the most difficult option. I believe that is why I started running. Like my coach always says, other sports use our sport as punishment.
Not only did my passion for running begin in middle school, but so did my passion for protecting our environment and educating people on environmental issues. If you were to ask me to give a lecture on plastic and its effect on our health and our planet, I probably could. When I first learned about this, I was overwhelmed. How can such a big problem be fixed by just a few people? If I try to cut down on my use of plastic it wouldn’t make a difference. However, what I realized was that if everyone thinks this way, the problem will never be solved. I also learned that it’s not just cutting back on the use of plastic, but it’s also important to educate the people around you about the issue. The way I was introduced to this problem was by watching a documentary on all the harmful things plastic can do. Watching documentaries has not only educated me on pressing issues, but it has also taught me how important it is to verify that the sources which put out information are reliable. Just because something is online or in a movie doesn’t always make it true.
Through the opportunity to go to South Dakota to help on an Indian reservation and having the privilege of being an Agent of Change, I finally feel like I am starting to work towards accomplishing my dreams. I want to dedicate my life to leave the earth better than I found it, and hopefully continue the initiative I create.