Of a farm girl and her big dream
What does it take to follow a big dream?
Chona Galletes believes you have to be ambitious, courageous, determined, and sometimes defiant. “It’s plain and simple: if you want something bad enough, you have to work on it. Pour your heart into it whatever it takes.”
The 22 year old had a big dream: to finish college in an American university. And she got what she wanted and more: she graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in business management from Brigham Young University in Hawaii.
But the journey to getting there was no easy feat.
Simple farm girl
“I was just a simple farm girl in Cagayan Valley. The circumstances looked bleak, and the ultimate question was where will I get the money?” Chona says.
Poverty did not stop her from working hard to get what she wants. At a very young age, she learned the value of hard work and perseverance. Her mother, a teacher, would always take her to clean-up drives, disaster relief, and other outreach programs she volunteered in.
“My mother encouraged me to serve people in my community,” Chona shares. She enjoyed making other people happy.
She considers herself lucky, because a stranger helped her in her schooling. She became a sponsored child of World Vision, and was exchanging letters with her sponsor from the United States.
“My World Vision sponsor motivated me to continue to learn and improve. Even if we were miles apart, I always felt her love each time I received school supplies and a pair of shoes at the start of every school year,” Chona shares.
Learning was not really hard for Chona. She loves to learn. It’s what fuels her, what excites her. She is the youngest of four siblings, and she was inspired by her older brothers and sisters to be great.
Small but terrible
Soon enough, she became a voice for other little children.
“I am blessed because I was trained to be a child leader. I was given a lot of opportunities to encourage other children to speak up and be involved in issues,” she says.
She was elected as the Chairperson of World Vision’s National Children’s Federation at 13. She went around the country as a champion for the kids, showing them that she is small but terrible.
Chona and other child leaders even published a booklet called 50 Little Big Things — a collection of simple things children can do to make the world a better place.
Her experiences prepared her for one of her biggest challenges: being a Filipino college student at a university in Hawaii.
At 18, she was in the U.S., she wanted to be financially independent, and she wanted to help her family out of poverty.
“It was really tough for me to be away from home, and to live with people of different cultures. The school was diverse, there were students from 70 countries,” Chona shares.
Besides that, she worked part-time at night and in between classes to support her education and personal expenses.
“I learned to use my time wisely and make intelligent choices not only to survive but to thrive. It was really hard. I found myself crying most of the time,” Chona says.
“But it’s all part of reaping that reward when you get to the finish line and receive your diploma. Success is something you earn,” she adds.
She endured the heartbreak of being away from home and her family for four long years. She overcame all the hardships, the long nights of studying, suffering from physical fatigue because of working, and struggling to keep her grades up to maintain her scholarship.
In April 2015, Chona started to reap the fruits of her labor. After finishing with flying colors, she is now chasing another big dream. She currently works as an advisory consultant in an internal professional services firm.
Her work requires her to give pieces of advice to corporations, and help them manage their tasks and mitigate risks.
Chona loves her job — she is single, carefree, and looking forward to more adventures that life has to offer.
But she wants to share her journey. She has this piece of advice for other young people who want to live their dreams.
“No paths are the same. You can learn from other people who have taken the long road ahead. But be courageous enough to create your own story,” she says.
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