My name is Erica Garcia. I am 18 years old. I am currently a student at Concordia University in Irvine, California, completing my undergraduate studies, I intend to apply to law school and focus on corporate law or sports law or both. I then intend to pursue a doctorate’s soon thereafter. I began volunteering with Island Girl Power when I was in my junior year in high school and stayed on as Clubhouse Supervisor for the remainder of my high school career. With that said, I am very ambitious and driven to reach my aspirations, but I have come to reflect, understand, and reinforce the importance of God, family, and friends. They are my support system and without them, I wouldn’t be where and who I am today.
The most important, as I said before, the one lesson that I always got out of Island Girl Power was giving back. You know, it’s always giving back to the community. Because somehow there’s some way you can make a difference in someone’s life, you know? To a girl– especially a girl who goes to Island Girl Power to get away from stuff at home–being able to spend time with her, just have an enjoyable day with companionship and fun and games with the other girls, friendship: it means a lot to a little girl.
I really put a lot of emphasis and importance on mentorship. In the business world that’s what I learned. Especially in the States: we’re minorities, we’re women, and there in business, there’s always the glass ceiling. With the girls, you mentor them to be better, you mentor them to believe in themselves. They can reach their dreams, just like these businesspeople. They can reach that top position, it doesn’t matter if the company [is] all white. So what if you’re a woman in a company of men? You can still reach the upper level.
I owe a lot to my mentors. In middle school, my most important mentor was my English teacher. I was so shy, and we were able to make me see that I have bigger potential than just being a student. I can be a leader. That really meant a lot to me, and it carried me through. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have taken that risk in running for student government and getting involved in school. I’d probably still be shy, not doing anything. Because of her I didn’t settle for secretary [or] treasurer. I made sure I went for the president position, especially in high school. I served my class as president for three years.
Nacrina San Nicolas
If girls don’t have positive role models in their lives, then they don’t really know what or who they want to be. Just helping them with something as simple as cooking gives them a positive experience to go back home with. Otherwise, they would be home probably, and their parents would be working, and they might get into drugs, teen pregnancy, things like that. Just being there--whether it’s for friendship or to teach positive values, then that’s--I think that’s what it’s all about.
Having girls look up to you, it pushed me to be something more than I would otherwise be. I believe I did try harder because these girls are looking up to you. You’re the role model, you’re someone that you want them to look up to, and you want to do everything you can to portray that. I think I became more adventurous, joining more clubs, taking a more active role at school or, you know, with family. I feel like I really stepped up the level of leadership. Also, coming from being a shy person to being an outgoing person, I felt it was uncomfortable at first just speaking my mind or going out in front of people.
I believe the biggest thing about the girls, wherever I go on Guam, whether it’s the volleyball teams I help coach or the girls at Island Girl Power, I believe that they don’t speak up enough. What that tells me is that there’s a lack of confidence, and they’re probably not comfortable with who they are. I think that Guam girls need to learn how to express themselves more and to believe that their opinions, or whatever they think, is important. Because that’s who they are, and a lot of the times, girls on Guam are not supposed to speak up as much as the boys. You know, the boys are the ones who handle the “serious business,” things like that. But the girls are left out, or they feel that their opinions don’t really count. And that’s really not a great habit of Guam girls, because when you grow up, that’s teaching a lack of confidence in themselves. That’s teaching them that what they think does not matter. It affects everything because if they don’t speak out about what they feel is ethical or what they feel is right, and to make good decisions, there’s something missing from the community that would otherwise be there if more collaboration was there, if more girls spoke up. I think Island Girl Power does bring that out of them, makes them feel more positive and outgoing.
Irene De Vera
It may have been two years after I started volunteering, I discovered that I had a real knack for making cookies. One day I was making this big batch of chocolate chip cookies. And I was slaving away for maybe an hour, having the girls come in and out of the kitchen saying, “Are they ready yet? Are they ready yet?”
I kept saying, “No, no, no. Go to the library or wherever. Okay?” When the cookies were done, I arranged them nicely. And then I decided, “Oh, well, maybe I should just go over there and give these to them. I think they’d really like that.” So I get out of the kitchen, holding these plates of cookies. Then I hear this high pitched squeal and I’m wondering, “What the heck was that?”
And then I hear a little bit of rumbling and then I hear, like, pitter patter of feet. And then I look down the hall, thinking, Oh my God! It’s a stampede of little girls. And so they’re running towards me, jumping and squealing. They gathered around me in a circle: “Cookies! Cookies! Can we have some now?!”
I was like, “Yes! Here! Take it! Take it! Please, don’t kill me.”
When I first came here, I was too shy to show my face, and I kept this god-awful green fisherman’s hat over my head every time I came here, and I would not take it off . . . That was my security blanket. And well, I wore that hat for maybe... a year? two? I forgot. That awful green hat. That awful green fisherman’s hat. It basically kept me hidden from the volunteers and the girls.
It was the best way to spot me. It was like, “Hey, do you know where Irene is at?” “Who?”“The girl in the green hat.” “Oh, she’s over there.” Ahh! Okay, sure. Green hat girl. Thank you. [Eventually, Irene moved on to three other consecutive hats.]
The day I stopped wearing hats is when I finally got my hair cut to try a new style. I got the haircut because my little brother went off-island; I didn’t have to worry about him anymore for at least a month. When I finally cut my hair I felt like there was a really big weight off my shoulders. I felt so liberated. Never mind the hat. I’m gonna walk in here with a new outfit too and my new haircut. I’m gonna go swagger in. That’s when I stopped wearing it, because I got a little bit more confident in the way I look. It felt really different but amazing. When I walked in without my security blanket I felt liberated.
Melanie “Sereia” Galimba
Capoeira was created by African slaves that were brought to Brazil about 500 years ago. They created the art to basically fight for their freedom. Capoeira was illegal so they had to disguise it as a dance, and they incorporated instruments, music, and their stance looks like a dance. But the thing that got me interested wasn’t the movement, it was the actual music.
Capoeira was illegal back then. So one way to protect each other was to give each other nicknames. Like me, my name, my Capoeira name is Sereia, and it means mermaid. The reason why I got that name is because back then I had hair that went past my waist. So it reminded my instructor of a mermaid.
The necklace I’m wearing is called a berimbau. It’s similar to the belembaotuyan which was introduced by the Portuguese to the Chamorros on Guam. But then it’s played very differently. It’s a smaller version of the belembaotuyan. It’s basically like a one- stringed guitar. It’s used in the roda to control, it’s basically the heart of the roda. And the roda is the circle we play in. It tells you how fast to go, how slow to go, what type of game to play, whether to fight.
Teaching? I slowly grew into it. Teaching the class part was really hard for me ‘cause I was good friends with everyone. But you should have respect for the instructor. People should ask you to get water, to take a moment to rest. When you’re cool with the group, then they’ll think, “Oh, it’s okay if I fool around for a little bit.” But at certain times, I had to raise my voice and they didn’t expect that from me ‘cause I was really down to earth with these guys. It’s just two different roles I think I play. When I’m in front of the class, I’m the instructor of the day, but then when we’re outside of class, I’m still everybody’s friend. It’s a different experience being in front of the classroom and being in class. It’s really hard to adjust to that... it’s getting there.
If it wasn’t for Island Girl Power introducing me to Capoeira I would not know what my life would be like right now. Like some people who are really into their sports and stuff, Capoeira is my passion right now. I sacrifice a lot. I do a lot to achieve my responsibilities. It keeps me focused in school. It pushes me to do more things.
My freshman year and my friends, they were asking me, ‘Hey Mel, let’s go smoke.’ Then I was like, ‘No, I don’t do that stuff’, and they’re like, ‘No come on, just take it with us.’ ...
”I was really close to them and I just told them, ‘I don’t want to.’ Just hearing all those different things from Island Girl Power about drugs and stuff. I guess it [was just] in my head and I was like, ‘Nah, nah, I don’t want to end up like you guys. Most of them, they’re already like—their grades are dropping and I was like, no, this is my freshman year.
I don’t want to screw up now. I don’t want to screw up at all. So yeah, I just walked away.