By Sandra Castro
Sandra Castro is an office assistant for the ASUO Women’s Center and a Ford Scholarship recipient. She credited the importance of self-care in relation to academics, anxiety and depression. You can read her powerful speech below:
"Good evening everyone,
I just want to start with a little disclaimer: I have no experience in public speaking so if I freeze up suddenly, just pretend it’s a dramatic pause.
Born and raised in the beautiful coastal city of Mazatlan, Mexico, I never imagined that a future, like the one I am experiencing now, existed. The second child of an incredibly strong and tenacious single mother, I learned from a young age that hard work and determination is the key to accomplishing your goals. That theory has been put to test several times throughout my lifetime. Most prominently, it was put to test when my mom, my sister and I moved to the US in search of a brighter future. Learning a completely new language and adjusting to a different culture was excruciatingly challenging, but we persevered nonetheless.
As I got older and started thinking about college, I was met with a new challenge: how was I going to pay for college. My family could not afford to pay for my education; my only hope was getting scholarships. I applied for as many scholarships as I could and received many rejection letters. Just when I thought all hope was lost, I got a letter in the mail that changed my life forever. That letter was from the Ford Family Foundation.
I arrived to The University of Oregon, which I have considered my home ever since my sister enrolled in this institution four years before me, with a special kind of con dence that only being a Ford Scholar can give you. As a first generation college student, however, I was unprepared for the academic challenges that came my way. Keeping up with the elevated academic standards of college seemed an impossible task, so I did what I do best; I worked tirelessly until I accomplished my goals. I reached out for help and utilized some of the resources available on campus such as the Teaching and Learning Center, and the Accessible Education Center. Not to mention, the numerous advisors I spoke with from various departments including the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence, the Human Physiology Department, and the Pathway Oregon Program.
With their help I was able to focus on other goals. Most recently I had the opportunity to participate in an internship abroad, which was by far one of the greatest learning experiences of my life.
I have always appreciated challenges in a sense, because there is always something that can be learned from them. I have learned a lot over the years, but there is one major lesson that I had yet to learn. This time, the challenge was in the form of depression and anxiety and what I am continuously learning from them is a lesson in self-care. All my life I have worked hard to accomplish all of my goals because giving up isn’t an option for me. While this may not be a bad trait to have, when it is not met with adequate self-care techniques, it can have lasting impacts on your mental health.
In my case, it did. Mental health is something that is always left out of conversations yet almost every person in this room has gone through, is going through, or will go through some kind of mental health problem in their life. Acknowledging this is important, and what is even more important is not being afraid to reach out and ask for help.
I look around this room and I see so much potential. As Ford Scholarship recipients we will go out into the world and accomplish amazing things. I personally know many scholars who are already doing incredible things and helping to create change.
My message to all of you tonight is this: while you are working to maintain the legacy that the great Hallie and Kenneth Ford established many years ago, never forget to take care of yourselves too. It can be really easy to forget about yourself when you are so focused on helping others, but always remember that your ability to help others is reliant on your own well being. To quote Carl Bryan, 'Taking good care of you means the people in your life will receive the best of you, rather than what’s left of you.'
I want to take the time to say thank you to all of the people that have supported me through the years and helped me accomplish my goals and grow as a person. To my sister, who happens to be with us here tonight and who is a former Ford Scholarship recipient and now an academic advisor at the UO, thank you for being my rock and for always being there during the rough times. No words could ever fully express how much I love and appreciate you. To the Ford Family Foundation, thank you for believing in me and for investing in my education, but most importantly, thank you for your unyielding support and for being a constant reminder that I always have something to be thankful for."