“I got to know new worlds through other people’s worlds.”

The number of times you can be surprised and smile during a conversation with alumni Laura Neves, 20, is proportional to the number of qualities she possesses. Born and raised in the countryside of São Paulo, Laura is responsible for creating our Opportunities Team, is a dancer, and was recently accepted at the University of Florida.

Among her many passions and interests is ballet: “I often say that ballet is not what I do. It is who I am,” says Laura, who has been practicing and participating in festivals since she was a child. It is to ballet that she attributes most of her qualities: “I learned many of my values from ballet: discipline, respect, persistence, and resilience.”

As one of our oldest students, Laura came to LALA through BSCUE (a support group for students applying to college in the USA) and participated in BLB7, an experience that, according to her, was challenging. “I had never been anywhere that I didn’t know anyone, so I threw myself into it,” she says.

The vulnerability she learned with LALA transformed her expression of herself and her vision about meeting new people, an action that Laura says she loves and always wants more of. For her, experiencing different realities and cultures provided not only personal growth but also gave her a chance to get to know projects and opportunities that she had never even dreamed existed.

The access to opportunities that we have so easily available at LALA today was only possible because, in 2019, Laura joined the Harvest Team and saw in it a chance to share something she had always had to search for on her own: opportunities. She suggested the creation of a “bank” of opportunities for the LALA community, and this team initially consisted only of Laura and Jess Kenny, and Laura was responsible for researching – alone, it should be noted – all the opportunities that would be sent to alumni by email, whether they were in Portuguese or Spanish.

I’ve always been very much about seeking challenges and being persistent,” says Laura, who, after losing two family members to cancer, decided she wanted to go into medicine to develop something that would prevent more people from suffering. After two Gap Years, Laura leaves for Florida in August to begin her degree in Biomedical Engineering, a field that combines her love of engineering and her desire to revolutionize medicine. She wants to make clear that her interests are wide-ranging but that she wants to “make an impact for good wherever I am, in whatever profession I choose. I want to use my knowledge to change something.

Laura is currently the Coordinator of Inspira Sonho’s mentorship program – which will work by pairing mentors with mentees who want to apply for different opportunities – and participated in the Global Citizen Year Academy, where she had access to notable world figures, various opportunities, and met young people from all over the world. “For me, it was a continuation of LALA because it’s pretty much the same mindset,” she says.

In the future, Laura wants to continue chasing her dreams and advises, “you already have a no, It won’t change anything in your life if you get another one.” LALA is grateful to have Laura as one of our alumni, and we root for her in and out of the community.

These stories are written and edited by the Storytelling Team, an alumni-lead team that collects stories with the objective of recognizing and celebrating the wonderful work that volunteers, staff, and alumni do for LALA and also to show how the organization has impacted their life.

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