This article is provided to us by Venessa Cerda, an remarkable young Latina who is proudly serving her country and obtaining an amazing education and traveling the world in return! We will follow Venessa’s progress as she continues her studies and service.
I grew up in a Hispanic family with descendents from Puerto Rico as well as Mexico. My Great Grandfather on my mother’s side, Tiberio Franceschi was born in Juana Diaz Puerto Rico and my grandfather on my father’s side, Victor Hugo Cerda Sr. was born in Michoacán Mexico.
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a soldier. Not because “soldiers blew stuff up or killed people” but because I wanted to serve my country. It did not matter that I was a female, or that I wasn’t the strongest person, I was dedicated and willing to give up my life in order to defend our nation. My understanding of the military is that the United States military is the military of the world, and we are one nation under God. Therefore if there is injustice going on anywhere in the world, it is our duties as Americans to interfere, even if it means putting our soldiers at risk.When I started high school, I joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program. JROTC is a military sponsored program designed to motivate young students be better citizens. At first, it was hard being in JROTC. For one, there weren’t many females involved with the program, in addition my mother did not support the fact that I wanted to be in the military and because JROTC was affiliated with the Army it was a struggle to seek approval from her. It wasn’t until a few months later when my mom realized how my attitude, grades, and overall moral was succeeding because of JROTC. Throughout my four years in the program, I was able to climb up the rank structure from being a PVT (the lowest rank possible) to LTC, the battalion commander (the highest rank, and position possible that can be upheld by only one cadet at a time). JROTC opened up many different doors, including competing for a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at the university level.Around the time of graduation, I decided that I did not want to go to college; I was going to enlist in the Army and fulfill my dreams. Therefore, I stopped my college application process and began speaking to an Army recruiter. I was extremely excited; I was finally going to be able to do what I thought God wanted me to do. Because an eye exam gone bad, I was declined from joining the military. When I heard the words that I was declined my heart dropped. That was literally the only thing I wanted in life, I wanted to serve my country so bad, and I did not have any second choices.
The first month after my high school graduation I fell into a slump and became very depressed. My mood was not only affecting myself, but It was also affecting the people around me. But I didn’t know what to do; I had just found out that I wasn’t good enough for the military and that had really hurt me. My mom finally had it and said lets go, we are going to go to California State University San Bernadino and you are going to apply for the spring semester (fall semester was only two months away so we thought it was pointless applying for fall because spots would be full). After talking to a counselor, to my surprise I was accepted for the fall semester! I couldn’t believe it because my application was so late. So in my mind I thought I was said, I said to myself ok this is where I am going to go to school. As my mom and I were walking back to the car, my mom said, “well lets try California Baptist University (CBU)” keep in mind that I had heard of CBU and I had no interest whatsoever to attend school there. I told my mom, “no there is no way I would ever go to that school”. But my mom wasn’t convinced. Literally the second I stepped foot on the campus of California Baptist University, I fell in love without saying or hearing a word, I knew that was the school for me. In my surprise I was also immediately accepted for the upcoming fall semester. Also to my surprise was the fact that the school had a ROTC program and scholarships were available and I met ALL of the requirements. It honestly could not get better then that. My sophomore year in college I was awarded with a ROTC full tuition scholarship meaning that ROTC would pay for my school, and what was even more awesome was that CBU pays for the room and board for ROTC cadets with scholarships. So not only was my tuition being paid as well as room and board, but I was also going to receive a stipend every month as well as $500 every semester for books. Considering I didn’t even want to go to college, it pretty much fell into place so perfectly, too perfectly, I realized there was no way everything fell in to place so easily. And I realized the only explanation was that God was controlling my life, He was putting me on a path that only He fully understands. In July 2011 I dedicated my life to Christ and it has only made my life at CBU and in ROTC so much easier and so much more enjoyable.
Being in Army ROTC has not only open doors for me in regards to my career both Military and civilian, but it has also given me opportunities to travel in order to further my understanding of cultural awareness. I grew up in a Hispanic family with descendents from Puerto Rico as well as Mexico. My Great Grandfather on my mother’s side, Tiberio Franceschi was born in Juana Diaz Puerto Rico and my grandfather on my father’s side, Victor Hugo Cerda Sr. was born in Michoacán Mexico. However I never really understood or even knew much about my culture. This summer I will be going on a trip to Costa Rica for 31 days through a ROTC program called CULPP (Cultural Understanding Language Proficiency Program) which includes working with the elderly at a retirement home as well as working with children in a orphanage. Through this program my hope is that I will be able to help citizens in Costa Rica but also to learn more about myself and my Hispanic heritage.