A life-changing experience in the GSMP

By Cecilia Vales, GSMP 2015 Alumna December 23, 2015

Cecilia Vales was a member of the 2015 class of the Global Sports Mentoring Program. You can learn more about Cecilia and her mission to empower girls in Mexico through sports and educational exchange programs on her GSMP 2015 Emerging Leader page.

As people living in this fast-paced, modern world, we often find ourselves so absorbed in our everyday routines, trying to solve the problems directly in front of our faces, that we hardly notice the bigger problems affecting our societies.

On those occasions when we do notice the deeper issues, from the violence overseas to the hatred and discrimination in our own cities, we convince ourselves that we lack the resources to make any real difference. Instantly, we create a list of excuses for why we can’t move out of our comfort zones into action. We believe we are insufficient to create human contact, insufficient to understand others, insufficient to create role models, insufficient to be heroes…

Some months ago, I received an invitation from the United States Embassy in Mexico to apply to be an “emerging leader” for a five-week exchange program taking place in the U.S. this past September. The selection process, or “competition” for those of us who prefer sports terminology, was between 70 women in different countries around the world. After interviews, countless emails, surveys and paperwork, 16 women were chosen.

The name of the program is the Global Sport Mentoring Program (“GSMP”). The objective: to create a better world by empowering emerging leaders that are using sports as a tool to change the lives of girls and women in difficult situations in their communities.

It sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Well, for me, it wasn’t just amazing – it was life-changing.

The GSMP made me see the world with a new set of lenses and reminded me how thankful I am for the work I’m doing in a spectacular country like Mexico. The program not only gave me the tools to develop an “action plan” that will change the lives of girls and young women in my country through sports and education, but it also showed me that I have the strength within me to pursue it to completion. It taught me the importance of reconnecting with people, reminded me of my own capacity to dream and turn those dreams into realities, and showed me the richness and beauty we can find in diversity. The GSMP pushed me to push through my fears and turn the monsters in my head into smoke.

Now, I am back in Mexico after five amazing weeks in the U.S., more sure than ever that sports and education are the tools that will make our world a better place. I’m more convinced than at any time in my life that sports can empower women personally, professionally, socially and economically. And I’m more sure of my own role in this process; how I will work to mentor girls in Mexico to access the same kind of transformation and opportunities that I’ve had.

No words are enough to express my gratitude for the U.S. Department of State, espnW, my mentors Karen Morrison and Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak at the University of Central Florida, and the unique, loving, and brilliant UT Team. Without you, none of this would be possible.

Now, I have a question: If the 15 amazing women I am proud to call my new sisters can work every day to make the world for a better place, couldn’t you?

Could you start doing something special to empower others in your neighborhood, city, and country? Are you still waiting for life to happen while you sit in your comfort zone? Or are you ready to move?