Santa Clara University

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Santa Clara University

SCU Stories
Leyva photo

Cynthia Leyva '12

Psychology and Ethnic Studies Major, Spanish Minor
At a glance:

A recent graduate channels SCU coursework with the community into post-graduate endeavors

Finding an inspiration

Cynthia Leyva first became involved with community-based learning in her freshman and sophomore courses. As a psychology and ethnic studies double major, she often enrolled in classes that took her outside of the classroom for two hours each week. She credits those experiences working in various nonprofit agencies and schools with sparking her interest surrounding community issues.

"Community-based learning allowed me to discover what I wanted to do in life, while also letting me learn more about social justice issues facing our community. It forced me to immerse myself in the surrounding community to confront issues that as college students can be so easily forgotten." The community placements available through Arrupe Partnerships, which enhance students' academic experiences through involvement within the greater community, enabled Leyva to apply her education to real-life situations.

Going Deeper

Beyond her schoolwork, however, Leyva "felt the need to develop deeper relationships." Having enjoyed her multiple course placements, she applied for an internship with the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education on campus, which coordinates the Arrupe Partnerships. She describes her experience as "the perfect opportunity to grow individually and to become more closely involved at a community organization." 

For the 2011-12 school year, Leyva worked with Sacred Heart Community Service, a nonprofit organization based in nearby San Jose. As an intern, her close work with the agency left her with lasting connections with the community. She recalls that some of the most rewarding aspects of her first-hand experienced involved helping with employment assistance and teaching English as a second language. "Seeing my group of students graduate and knowing that I had made at least a bit of a difference in their lives made me feel blessed to have gotten such a wonderful opportunity."

Making a career

Following her internship, Leyva reflected on how much she enjoyed working with the families that benefit from the services Sacred Heart offers. "This experience encouraged me to continue my education and attempt to get a Marriage and Family Therapy Master's Degree and work in nonprofit agencies where I can work with parents of families," she says.

Building on the foundations of service and community she uncovered during her first community-based learning experiences, Leyva now looks forward to starting a career in nonprofit agencies.