Juana Perez Mandujano

A service trip helped me see my hometown in a new light

NAME: Juana Perez 

CLASS YEAR: 2021

HOMETOWN: Immokalee, Fla. 

MAJOR: Engineering science

CAMPUS INVOLVEMENT: Spanish and Latin Student Association (S.A.L.S.A.), Service Trips

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE WARTBURG: I wanted a small campus, and I found out Wartburg offered engineering, which is rare for a small college. I never thought this community would have a college that I fit into. I really liked the engineering department and all of its resources for us.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE ENGINEERING SCIENCE: I’ve always been interested in solving problems, knowing how the real world acts and understanding why things work. I want to do environmental engineering. There is agricultural engineering, water management and renewable energy, which is maybe what I want to do.

WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT: Service trips, definitely. But also helping the campus and students feel welcome. I’m the vice president of S.A.L.S.A. and helping our Hispanic and Latino members create connections with other students who are willing to learn more about our culture and break stereotypes that they may have is something we struggle with at Wartburg. I’m passionate about getting more people involved and getting the club moving forward so all of us can work together and be friendly to each other. If people don’t feel welcome, they’re either going to transfer or have a horrible four years. We want to make that transition easier and let them feel like they’re welcome.

WHAT SERVICE TRIP DID YOU GO ON: We worked with children in my hometown and also did some hurricane relief since we went right after Hurricane Irma. It was one of my favorite experiences so far at Wartburg. We helped with damaged homes and a soccer program where we were mentors for the children. It was interesting seeing my hometown from an outsider’s perspective. When you live somewhere, you’re used to everything, but then you move to college and realize that your hometown looks very different than your reality at Wartburg. Seeing how bad things actually are—education issues, farm workers’ rights—I realized that we’re really struggling in Immokalee. We have some organizations, like the Guadalupe Center, which works with kids after school, that provide some help. A lot of them have parents who don’t speak English so they don’t know how to get that extra help they need. The Guadalupe Center helped me figure out FAFSA, apply for college, and how to take out loans. Now, I see that I can give back to my own community, even from Wartburg.  

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU NEVER THOUGHT YOU COULD OR WOULD DO BEFORE COMING TO WARTBURG: I feel like my whole perception of what college was like is different than what it is. I thought I was going to struggle so much with classes, but the amount of help I get from my professors and the connections that I’ve built because of them has been a really good experience for me. I never thought I was going to do an environmental science minor. I never thought I would have the connections I do or get to go to conferences. I’m part of the IINSPIRE Program that is for minority STEM students. It’s good to have those conferences where people look like you and you can actually relate to other students. They also provide funding for research opportunities.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO AFTER GRADUATION: I might go back to Florida, but I’m not sure yet. There’s definitely a lot that I could do there because they have a lot of issues with the environment and also really good graduate schools. If I don’t end up going to graduate school right after college, I will either stay here in Iowa or do engineering abroad through the Peace Corps.

WHY IS WARTBURG WORTH IT: The amount of help you get from your professors is so worth it. Here, you can actually make connections right away when you need help. Professors are there for you and patient and willing to help you. If you want to learn something new, get an internship, or anything, they will make it work for you. From my perspective as a STEM major, Wartburg is worth It.