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Monica Aleman Learns to Lead at UST

Senior Monica Aleman has built quite a solid résumé for herself in the short amount of time she has been at the University of St. Thomas. Her involvement in various activities not only reaches the immediate UST community at UST, but it has also made an international impact. And it has kept her schedule pretty full, too.

Aleman serves as the District Rotaract Representative for her local Rotary International group; organizes the events and operations of the nonprofit Peruvian Foundation for the Arts and Education; volunteers with the Peruvian Education Project, which was founded by the late Dr. Gustavo Wensjoe; interns with the UST MicroCredit Program for the Yucatan Initiative; is an active member of UST’s Campus Ministry and recently spoke as a panelist at a luncheon for Women in Philanthropy. And don’t forget her academics. She took on a full load of six classes this past semester.

Though it may seem like her plate is a bit too full, Aleman said she loves every aspect of her volunteer work. She was among the 305 undergraduates and 320 graduate students who will participated in the University’s 60th Commencement Ceremony on May 15.

“I really want to be involved, and I try to do everything,” she said. “It is a lot to do, but I enjoy it all. And I’m learning so much.

She attributes her success to her experience at UST and working in a Catholic atmosphere that shapes students to become more well-rounded individuals.

“St. Thomas has had a big influence on my life,” she said. “It has made me a better person. I’ve not only become a better leader but also a better follower. And I believe that to be a good leader you have to be a good follower as well. My experience here has helped me be more professional in my work.”

When Aleman first moved to Houston from Peru seven years ago, she found the transition to be difficult. Not only did she have to get used to a new home and a new language, but she also had to find a university that fit her academic goals. She started out taking basic classes at Houston Community College before transferring to UST in 2008. She found her niche at UST and became more involved in the Houston community.

“As an international student, it was hard for me because I was so used to being with friends and being familiar with my surroundings,” she said. “I realized that I could either stay at home and be uncomfortable, or I could get out and see what I could do that I enjoyed. So I started volunteering a lot, and I pushed myself to do other things.”

Under the guidance of Wensjoe, who Aleman says was an influential mentor, she became involved in the Peruvian Education Project. PEP provides assistance to Peruvian students of promising academic ability to enable them to obtain a secondary education. The organization pays for the children’s school fees, uniforms, field trips, tuition, books and supplies as well as two meals a day, five days a week.

Since Wensjoe’s passing in March 2009, she contributes to the project’s ongoing development, which is now working to build a high school for children in Peru. Aleman also became a founding member of her Rotary youth group, working on various different projects on both a national and international level.

An international development major, Aleman said she plans to pursue a master’s degree.  First she wants to spend the next year gaining experience in both for-profit and nonprofit organizations to ascertain a  career direction. She’ll also continue pursuing her passion of volunteering and growing the Peruvian Education Project.

“Passion is really important, and that’s what keeps me going. I love being involved in community service,” she said. “I’ve been very blessed with everything that’s happened to me since I came here. I’ve had opportunities to meet some really great people in my life. So I feel that giving back to the community is my duty because I’ve received so much.”