ANA P. BRENESCOTO

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On Common Ground, Attleboro

Mentor Center Coordinator

Age: 27

ABOUT HER: Born in Costa Rica, living there until she was 20; at 10, her family moved to Monteverde, a community of 4,000 people in the cloud forest. Learned English at a bilingual Quaker school, finished high school in Costa Rica and moved to Massachusetts to attend Wheaton College to study sociology. This summer, she’ll start a MicroMasters program on data, economics and development policy. Her father and mother, Humberto and Elieth, still live in Monteverde, and her brother, Pablo, also graduated Wheaton College and will work at the New England Aquarium. She is engaged to Chris Maricle whom she met in college and works as assistant brewer at Skyroc Brewery in Attleboro.

WHY YOUR FIELD? I have worked hard and studied hard, but I would not be here if it weren’t for other people that invested their time, love and money in me. Not everybody is this fortunate. I have experienced firsthand the effects of receiving opportunities that allowed for personal and academic growth, and because of this, I have made it my life’s mission to engage in efforts that assist people living in poverty to have access to socio-economic mobility. My family’s financial status took a downturn when I was 10 and though we never experienced hunger or homelessness, it was often close. When I was in 10th grade, my brother and I were recommended to a friend of our friends, and this extremely generous person became our sponsor- she offered to pay for our college education anywhere in the world. And as a college student, I worked with women recovering from drug addiction in Bhutan, as well as in the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy, where I assisted in the development of a community-mapping project. In 2014, I received a Davis Scholarship to travel to Cape Town, South Africa and work at a nonprofit organization called Wola Nani, where I had the privilege of assisting them in creating crafter profiles, teach (and learn) jewelry making, and dip my toes into grant writing. The research I conducted there informed my Senior Thesis, which explored the role of stigma in the lives of HIV positive women. My position as Mentor Center Coordinator at On Common Ground has proven to challenge me every day. I have met some of the most inspiring, tenacious and courageous individuals, who work hard every day to better their lives. Our mentees have taught me about perseverance and courage.

BEST CAREER ADVICE: Find the intersection between what you are good at and what makes you happy. I am still trying to figure this out myself, although my good friend and ex-professor of sociology Hyun Kim recently told me something along the lines of this: Find out what drives you and work hard, and things will fall into place.

HARDEST LESSON LEARNED: How to find a balance between being empathetic and engaged, at the same time that you make your own physical/mental wellbeing a priority. People in poverty deal with injustice at a higher rate than the rest of us, and when you decide you will not be a silent bystander; it can take a heavy toll.

MENTOR(S): Laurie Sanders, a friend of my family, saw potential in me before I knew I had it. Neither she nor my family ever expressed doubt in my ability to face the challenge of taking full advantage of the opportunities I was given. She has mentored/coached me from the time I was 13, through my college applications/visits, college years and until now.

GIVING BACK: I donate a handmade piece of jewelry to every On Common Ground fundraising event where they get auctioned or raffled. I am a member (artist) at the Attleboro Arts Museum (this is not charity, but its fun), and I volunteered during most winter/summer breaks while I was a college student.

WHAT TALENT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD MOST THAT YOU DON'T NOW?  I wish I could dance really well, it looks like so much fun; don’t get me wrong, I do it anyway, but it’s an embarrassing experience for everyone.

WHAT AWARDS/RECOGNITIONS HAVE YOU RECEIVED IN YOUR CAREER/FIELD? All through Wheaton College: Emily Susan Hartwell Leadership Award ’14; Davis Scholarship ’14; U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic Team Award ’12 and ‘13); and Wheaton Winter Break Stipend Recipient (’14 and ‘15).