Rebeca Negron-Muniz:

Good morning to all.  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  My name is Rebeca Negron-Muniz, and I had a challenging stand that I had to take that impacted my life in changing my perspective.  Before I tell you what that stand was, I want to thank you for this opportunity to receive the MLK Jr. Scholarship.  It’s truly an honor and privilege.

I’m from Toa Alta, Puerto Rico.  I was born and raised there; it was my home for 15 years.  It’s my happy place where I accomplished great things such as in school, sports, music, and dance.  School has indeed been a large part of who I’ve become.  I’ve always been very focused on my studies, so much that I insisted my parents to put me in one of the top best schools in Puerto Rico.  I took the entrance exam and got into University Gardens High School; an AP school specialized in Math and Sciences.  I’ve been proud of myself ever since.  I finished freshman year, the most stressful yet exciting year of my life.  I entered my sophomore year, and something very unexpected occurred.  Her name was Maria, a category five hurricane.  It devastated my beautiful island, leaving thousands dead.  This happened on September 20, 2017; it was the  most exhausting day of my life; we experienced the whole 24 hours of the catastrophic event.  Those 155 miles per hour winds haunted me almost every night for a year.  I was traumatized and triggered by any sound.

The aftermath was the worst part, my family and I were with no water for a month and no power for about three months.  At the end of October of 2017, I had to leave the life I had in Puerto Rico.  That wasn’t exciting at all.  Imagine being forced to leave behind your family, friends, pets, and most of all, the place you call home.  When I arrived in Florida, I felt regret, the regret of not enjoying life and complaining most of the time.

My new life started once I got enrolled in the Villages High School, which was in November of 2017.  It was hard; let me tell you.  I couldn’t concentrate, the sound of the growling winds filled my mind every time I sat down in my classes.  I suffered from PTSD almost every day for months.  I relived that one event that has left me traumatized ever since.  The reason I came here to the United States was because of my grandparents that needed medical assistance and couldn’t receive it in Puerto Rico.  I loved them very much and were people whom I admired greatly.  They passed away in 2-18, may they rest in peace for they will always remain in my heart.

I’m currently 18 years old and a senior at the Villages High School.  My two main goals in life are to remain happy and help everyone in every way I can.  I’be been through a lot; even recently, this week.  I went to Puerto Rico for the holidays to be with my dad and brother and I experienced earthquakes that have also left me traumatized.  They started last year in December and this week they have gotten worst and as we speak it’s still shaking.  Please keep Puerto Rico in your prayers.   When I sleep at night, all I dream about is earthquakes, and throughout the whole night, I eel my bed shaking.  These last two years have been a lot to deal with, but they’ve taught me to enjoy the present and not take anything for granted.  I’ve learned to be grateful for even the little things in life.

For my future, I have in mind studying social work to become a licensed clinical social worker.  I want to get my AA in CF and then transfer to UNF, but from what I’ve learned so far, you never know what the future holds, so I plan to live and enjoy today.

With all this said, I’m proud of myself and am grateful for my family being my constant support, especially my parents.  Most of all, I’m thankful to God for helping me and being beside me through it all.  Thank you, and thank you for being here today and taking the time to listen to what I had to say patiently.  I wish you all a blessed day.