Rachel Esparza was a student at Joliet Central High School where she participated in the JROTC program. Through this program, she taught nearly every elementary JA program at area schools. Her favorite activities in any JA program are the board games. “The kids get involved and each person has a role,” she says, “It’s fun to teach and to see them enjoy it!”Her favorite moment from volunteering was when a group of students were sad to see her leave and received permission to sing a Justin Bieber song to her in front of the class! Rachel remembers that moment fondly; “it shows I had an impact on their lives” she says. From teaching, she learned to be confident speaking in front of groups and leading students. Rachel says having the JA guidebooks is helpful, but volunteers need to be ready to adapt the program to the classroom’s needs and interests.
She uses the skills she learned from JA in college. A senior biology and pre-med major at the University of St. Francis, she often leads her peers in activities. As a Colonel Henry Crown Scholarship recipient, she has interned the past three summers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago helping physical and occupational therapists in a variety of units. During her internships, she has learned a lot and had the opportunity to network. Through her network at the hospital, she was able to go on rounds with a physician one summer and conduct research in the aphasia lab.
Rachel is currently in the process of selecting a medical school and hopes to be a surgeon.