In a world of inequality, obtaining a full scholarship to attend UWC ISAK Japan allowed me to experience the most powerful advantage of money: the ability to think of things besides money.
Growing up in Venezuela
The young girl from Valencia (Venezuela), daughter of a needlewoman, growing up in the middle of political turmoil, high criminality rates, and financial instability had a chance to nurture academic curiosity while strengthening core values such as empathy and resilience. I went from listening to the bullets that killed Geraldine Moreno (an innocent student killed by police brutality during the 2014 Venezuelan protests) to sitting in a history classroom where I learned about authoritarians states, including the one I was coming from.
I went from making six hours lines with my mom to get scarce food in the supermarket to embarking on extracurricular adventures with people from all over the world; an experience where the only goal was to learn from each other’s differences and have fun.
How UWC ISAK prepared me
Most importantly, through its unique project-based CAS program and design thinking focus, UWC ISAK Japan equipped me with skills that not only furthered personal growth but also expanded the future impact I am able to have in the place I come from and wherever I go to.
Practicing Leadership in College
Such an effect became evident right upon graduating from UWC ISAK in 2019 when I earned a full scholarship to major in film at Ringling College of Art and Design, Florida, USA. Academically, I have been already included in the college’s president list and I received the best freshman film prize.
In extracurriculars, I have been recognized as the college’s Emerging Service Leader based on my service as the president of the on-campus Sustainability Committee and as a volunteer art teacher in a public elementary school around the area (see fig. 1-3). I also led an on-campus initiative to protect international students from ICE’s 2020 non-immigrant visa regulations, and I was interviewed on the topic for a press release at Suncoast News Network. Through these initiatives, my goal has always been to reverberate educational opportunities since I very well know how it feels to not have those opportunities in the first place.
Using film to empower others
I am currently working on a short documentary about UWC alum Melvin Gomez, a fine artist, who despite physical disabilities, created a non-profit art school in El Salvador to empower young people and prevent gang violence. In the future, I would love to get an MFA in Augmented and Virtual Reality and use the power of digital media to increase educational accessibility regardless of people’s socioeconomic status.
Gratitude for my UWC experience
There is no doubt in my mind that the preparation for all of these accomplishments and the essence of my passions are rooted in UWC ISAK’s education and the values encouraged by the UWC Venezuela National Committee. I am a prime example of how a person coming from a precarious background and a humanitarian crisis can grow to become a changemaker if they get the resources and help to do so.
Mafer Bencomo Arevalo
UWC ISAK Alumni (Class of 2019)
Selected by UWC Venezuela National Committee