With another school year coming to an end the search was on for someone whom I could spotlight for the months of June and July. Didn’t take long as we were kind of called out on social media of the already amazing effort put forward by a young lady who just graduated from TCU and already has the pulse of the United Nations and Peace Corps at her finger tips. After just briefly taking with this young lady I have no doubt, we will have an update alumni watch from this young lady in the immediate near future as she goes out into the world to try, and I truly believe, will make it a better place even if it is one person at a time. For the months of June and July, I give to you the Sunkin Duarte Alumni Watch.
What year did you graduate ma’am?
I graduated Trimble Tech in 2015.
What was your major at Trimble Tech?
My major was business information management.
Did you participate in any sports, groups or clubs?
I was involved in orchestra, the speech/debate team, National Honor Society, Link Crew, and the environmental club.
How does it feel to know a current friend, Edgardo Salas, asked that you be considered for the spotlight of Alumni to watch? In his words “So it’ll only feel right to share my thoughts about someone who I think is a key to alleviating humanity’s turmoil.”
He’s a wonderful friend and someone I admire for being so intelligent so I feel honored that he went out of his way to ask for me to be considered. I must say, though, I do not think I am a key to “alleviating humanity’s turmoil.” It’s a large task but I do think we can all try to make a difference, including myself, even if it is small.
What teachers/friends stick out in your memory as being influential in helping you become the person/professional you are today?
Mr. Alexander’s geography class was one of my favorite classes that made me fascinated with the world and traveling. Mr. Wooddell’s French classes made me incredibly passionate about languages and exploring issues in France as well as other Francophone countries. I advanced so much in the language that I was able to get a head start on my French degree in college, which gave me room in my degree plan to add an Italian minor. Mrs. Cabello made me realize that writing was one of my strengths. This made me look into a degree where I would do plenty of writing and analyzing. Mrs. Boston made me confident in my speaking and writing abilities and how to apply it to the political world. After taking these things into consideration, I realized that I wanted to learn about politics, global issues, and languages.
What is your favorite memory from the days you were here at Trimble Tech?
My favorite memory was when I went to the UIL district competition for speech and debate in my senior year. I was anxious that day because it was the day that they were going to announce the Community Scholars Scholarship award winners back at Trimble Tech and I was not going to be present. After my first debate round, my team members (and friends) and Mrs. Boston were outside my room waiting to tell me the great news. I cried when they told me that I got the full-ride scholarship to TCU and then later that day, I placed third in the district for extemporaneous speaking and second in the district for Lincoln-Douglas debate. I went on to compete at regionals and I was excited on becoming a Horned Frog!
You graduated from TCU recently, Congratulations, what was your best memory while you were there?
I have two favorite memories. One of my favorite memories was attending the Model United Nations conference in New York City. On my last day, we adjourned in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations Headquarter. My second favorite memory was studying abroad in France, exploring the country, living with a host family, and working with refugees in non-profit organizations.
What were your plans immediately after graduation? Did that include college?
My plans after graduation always included attending college.
When you graduated from college, what was your degree(s) in?
My first bachelor of arts was in political science with a minor in international relations. My second bachelor of arts was in language studies in French with a minor in Italian.
How hard was it to graduate with two distinct and what appear to be hard degrees to achieve?
It was pretty difficult. During my first semester at TCU, I sat down and planned out my entire four years which included the majors and minors I wanted, the classes I had to take, and the research classes and opportunities I needed to take advantage of to prepare me for graduate school. I had to balance my course loads, research, scholarship requirements, extracurricular activities, traveling, interning, and graduate school applications. I can definitely say that I am burned out because I left little room in my past four years to breathe. It was difficult to focus at times but I found friends who kept me calm and would take me out to have fun when they saw that I needed to get out. I would also visit my family to rest or talk. My professors and mentors at school would push me to be confident in my abilities whenever I felt insecure about myself.
What are you planning on doing now? How does that compare to your plans after high school?
My plans are pretty similar because I am planning on furthering my education by attending graduate school at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University to pursue a master’s in public service and administration.
How did you find out you have received the Graduate Diversity Fellowship? How excited were you about it? Can you explain just how great of an opportunity this is?
I found out through my acceptance letter into their master’s of public service and administration program that mentioned that I was awarded their prestigious Graduate Diversity Fellowship. I was immensely excited because I had been accepted into many of the top programs in the nation but my concern was being able to pay for my master’s degree without being in too much debt after I graduated. Therefore, when I learned that I was awarded this fellowship, I started crying. It is a “nomination-based competitive fellowship awarded to high-achieving and service-minded graduate students across the entire university.” When I read those words, I felt as if my hard work for the past four years had truly paid off. I also wouldn’t have to worry about being in debt or working because the fellowship contract mentioned that I would not have to work to maintain my fellowship because the aim of the fellowship is for me to focus solely on my studies and research.
It seems you have done quite a bit on interning for several fairly large and important organizations, were you ever nervous or intimidated? Can you describe the different intern positions you had and maybe your favorite of these?
I was a facilitator for the Fort Worth Sister Cities Leadership Academy where I worked with students from the sister cities. This was mostly educational and involved cultural exchanges. I worked in Montpellier, France with the French Red Cross and a local refugee organization.
This was one of my favorite places to work because I helped refugees learn French, translated in three languages, and helped individuals attain their bare necessities. Later that year, I lived in Washington, DC for a semester where I interned with the US Peace Corps with their executive secretariat team.
I essentially drafted letters and correspondence on behalf of the director of the Peace Corps and learned about the inner workings of a federal agency that accomplishes humanitarian work across developing countries. My last internship was last summer in Dallas in the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth in the protocol and international business department. I learned about protocol, flag etiquette, drafted briefings for the mayor of Dallas when international visitors came, and coordinated international events at City Hall. I don’t really have a favorite position because each one reinforced my passion for international affairs and helped me understand different fields I could pursue in this realm. I was nervous when I interned for the Peace Corps because quite frankly, I was surprised that I was accepted for the position with little experience in international affairs at the time (I had just finished my sophomore year) and I was handling high level correspondence so I felt like I had to sharpen my writing skills which I did with the help of my supervisor! I was also nervous when I went to work with refugees in France because I was not fluent in French and was still trying to become a more advanced speaker myself but I was proud to know that I made a difference in their assimilation into French society.
What was it about these positions that made it want you to try a 38 page honor thesis?
Working and studying abroad in France inspired me to write my honors thesis on exploring French citizenship and the role of NGOs in refugee integration. I chose this topic because it encompassed everything I was passionate about: global issues, languages, culture, migrants, and politics. The refugee crisis in Europe is also a major issue that countries cannot agree on, especially those in the European Union. Therefore, I was able to work on a project that was not only unique but was also a culmination of my academic career at TCU and I was able to do research in another language!
When did you know you wanted to become a humanitarian, were there ever thoughts that it wasn’t going to happen?
I knew I wanted to work as a humanitarian when I became involved with the Global Elementary Model United Nations program. I was a delegate when I was 13 and I continued being a part of the organization through their leadership/secretariat team in high school. My last year (senior year of high school), I served as the Secretary-General and realized that I was capable of running an organization of that size (roughly 300 students). However, I had learned so much about the UN’s work that I became so enamored with their ideas, even if they sometimes failed and were not perfect, the idea of working together across both, visible and invisible borders, felt like a purposeful job and inspired me to decide on my majors and minors before arriving to college.
In life in general, what has been your best moment?
I think my best moment was graduating from TCU with two degrees.
Going into the humanitarian profession, what would you like to achieve in your career before you retire? Is there a dream goal?
I would like to open some type of non-profit organization here in Fort Worth and give back to my community, especially migrants and people with disabilities.
Have you thought about life after helping others? What would you like to do with your life or will you always be helping others?
I like to combine service and traveling, however, if there comes a time where I am not able to serve communities, I will just stick to travelling the world.
If you had to give advice to seniors getting ready to graduate or underclassmen, what would that be?
Find your passion so that you can find the direction you want to take your life. And when you do, do everything you can to immerse yourself in that passion because you will find more and more opportunities that will take you farther than you ever imagined. Don’t be frustrated when you work so much that you feel as if you aren’t enjoying life. The results come later; be patient.
Whether to former teachers, mentors, coaches, sponsors, family members who have supported you through your career to this point. . . . Is there anything you would like to say to any of them?
Thank you for believing in me and encouraging me to go beyond my own expectations. Thank you for seeing my potential when I had so much self-doubt. Thank you for your dedication and love in what you are doing; it has sparked passion in me and many others.
This is a young lady who I wish I had gotten to know better over the years while she was here at Tech cause it seems I am the one who could have done the learning as she would have been the teacher! Trimble Tech is very proud of you young lady and look forward in the not so distance future when I can reach back out and give an amazing update of your progress or you can come back as a guest speaker. When that day comes I know I will be in the audience. Best wishes with the Graduate Diversity Fellowship and please keep in touch to let us know how things are going!
Again, with summer coming up I will be out of office for the most part but will be checking my email (Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org) from time to time. If you know someone whom you would like to nominate for possible Alumni Watches, please email me with the subject line “Alumni Watch Nominee” with a way to get in touch with him/her and a little about what they have been up to and we will hopefully get them featured in the future.