Alumni Spotlight: Gayla Olvera

Gayla spoke about her experience as a Golden LEAF Scholarship recipient at the Foundation’s 20th Anniversary celebration on December 4, 2019.

Name: Gayla Olvera
High School Attended: Hunt High School
Home County: Wilson
College(s) Attended/ Years Attended: University of Mount Olive 2015-2019
Major(s): Psychology
Minor(s): Healthcare Management
County Now Living In: Wilson
Employer: Pride in North Carolina, LLC’s day program Pride Within Psychosocial Rehabilitation Program
Title: Direct Care Staff
Years Working for Current Employer: 4 years (3-year internship, 1 year full-time)

What are some of your major accomplishments during college?

During college, I was able to try out several extra-curricular activities and get involved at my university in order to give back. For example, I was involved as a Resident Assistant, Student Ambassador, University Tour Guide, and Receptionist all of which I served for three-four years. I also had the opportunity to grow in my psychology major as I served as the president for our Psi Chi (International Honor Society in Psychology) chapter. Additionally, I was a Research Assistant/Manager and Research Intern in the University of Mount Olive Psychology Research Lab. My research examined “Predictive Variables for Future Mental Health Issues for Immigrant and First Generation Children” which I was able to present at the Southeastern Psychological Association Conference thanks to a Psi Chi Travel grant. I was very fortunate to also be a part of the University of Mount Olive Honor’s program in which I was able to present my research at the North Carolina Lloyd International Honors Symposium. I am deeply grateful for all of these opportunities that have shaped me into a better leader and scholar. I am also thankful for the professors and many people who helped me along the way with my accomplishments.

What would you tell someone interested in applying for the Golden LEAF Scholarship about being a recipient?

I would tell them without a doubt in my mind to apply no matter what! This scholarship is life changing in all aspects. The scholarship and leadership program helped equip me for my future by giving me an opportunity to pursue my educational dreams. If you apply, you will have ZERO regrets!

What helped you decide to live/ work in a rural area?

After graduating, I felt led to go back home and apply the knowledge of my education to serve my community. I also found a new appreciation for my home county, as I saw the severe need for mental health professionals thanks to my internship. I wanted to be able to contribute back to the community that raised me.

What kind of leadership roles are you serving in currently?

I currently am a part of the Golden LEAF Scholars Professional Alumni Network (G-SPAN) Advisory Council, Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program Coach, and Wilson YMCA Marketing and Membership Committee. I am also involved in several networking groups in the community.

What would you like to share about your personal or professional philosophies?

I firmly believe that everyone has a purpose and a calling for their lives. I believe that by using those unique gifts of purpose, we can all contribute and make a difference in our rural and urban communities. I also believe that with determination and passion, you can make your dreams come true. I want to give thanks to God for all of the things He has done for me because it would not be possible without Him.

What did you learn through Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program?

I learned about how to develop your own self-awareness about who you are and how to use those traits to build your own style of leadership. I also learned about how to use those unique leadership skills to be able to make a difference in rural communities through applied learning such as the community projects all over NC. I also would like to take the opportunity to give a sincere thanks to the Golden LEAF Foundation for making all of these things possible and for allowing my dreams to pursue my education come true.

What internship experiences did you have?

I had an internship for three years at Pride in North Carolina, LLC in Wilson, NC which is the company I work for now. During this internship, I was able to shadow different clinical services such as outpatient therapy sessions, clinical comprehensive assessments, and intensive-in-home sessions for children. I also accompanied community support team staff in the adult patient homes. Furthermore, I worked directly with medication management patients by taking their medical vitals under the supervision of nurse practitioners. These clinical settings allowed me to interact with a diverse population of patients such as children, teenagers, and adults. The patients came from rural counties and all had different backgrounds such as a wide range of socioeconomic statuses and various ethnic backgrounds.

Did your experiences help shape your decision to live/ work in rural areas? If so, how?

Thanks to these valuable experiences, I have found a deep love for making a difference. There’s often a misconception that you have to travel to other countries to be able to make a difference when in reality, you can make a difference in your own backyard. Therefore, I desire to give back to those around me and to my community, because I want to challenge others to discover their own resilience and overcome adversities. I also saw the deep need to serve rural communities because of the demand for services that are not as readily available as urban cities.

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