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¿Por Qué No?

Posted by Paul Pham, San Diego State Univeristy

2016 EcuadorPPP Participant

The Ecuador Professional Preparation Program has provided me with a formative and valuable experience that I will always remember. From providing educational support at the local preschools, to becoming king of the chiva buses, I feel that this program has provided me with the opportunities and experiences to develop both professionally and personally. Through years of experience, Tara and Anton have been able to plan the program’s logistics to provide the perfect amount of rigor and adventures. The weekdays were filled with working at worksites and learning Spanish with our Spanish teachers, and the weekends were filled with memorable excursions and deep “charlas” (chats) across Ecuador. Within this month, I was able to provide support to a local preschool, improve upon my Spanish skills, and personally challenge myself to try new experiences by asking myself, “por qué no?” (“why not?”). Furthermore, I was able to learn the stories of my host families, local community, and colleagues within the EPPP; these experiences allowed me to network and form friendships that I believe will last throughout time. Reflecting upon all the experiences that the EPPP provides, I am grateful to Tara, Anton, and the EPPP community for the genuine, influential, and invaluable opportunity!

Fearless in the Pursuit of Trying New Things!

Posted by Chelsea Schwandt, Michigan State University

2016 EcuadorPPP Participant

My experience in Ecuador with the Ecuador Professional Preparation Program was nothing short of incredible and full of memories that I will never forget. It’s actually so hard to put the experience into few words because the program encompasses so much…and in just one short month, I feel like I gained so much from it, personally and professionally. I became more confident in my Spanish skills and had the opportunity to collaborate with health professionals and team members to create a “vacacional” for children in a local community. I lived with the most welcoming host family EVER, formed lasting friendships with everyone in the group, and took advantage of every opportunity I could to learn about the Ecuadorian culture. This only begins to describe some of what I gained from the program. The support of the EPPP directors made me feel comfortable enough to the point where I was able to “push” myself out of my comfort zone and to be fearless in the pursuit of trying new things. The work experience was invaluable, and I left the program feeling inspired and eager to continue learning about how to better serve culturally and linguistically diverse children and families as a future School Psychologist. I truly feel blessed to have been a part of something so amazing. Thank you Tara and Anton for creating such a rewarding, eye-opening, and unforgettable experience! 

Total Immersion 


Posted by Alexandria Khalil, Fordham Univeristy

2016 EcuadorPPP Participant

Participating in the two-week program was the most thrilling rollercoaster I have ever rode! Every day, Anton, Tara, and the phenomenal team leaders made sure that we received the most diversified experience as possible. For the two-weekers, we had the unique opportunity to conduct several consultation seminars with teachers and psychologists at the Eloy Alfaro Military School. As a 1st year school psychologist in New York, I realized right away that Ecuadorian and New York school staff face almost identical challenges. That is what made this journey even more beautiful--we are really not that different. Communicating about psycho-educational topics in Spanish was challenging yet fantastic. Speaking of my Spanish acquisition, I could not have asked for more loving and supportive mentors throughout this trip, from my host family to my Spanish teacher at the Beraca Spanish School. Also, if you are adventurous, Ecuador has plenty in store for you! Bicycling down mountains at top speed, swinging off cliffs, riding into the clouds in the Teleferico was just one weekend! My heart aches until I can return to Ecuador. If you are willing to truly immerse; culturally and linguistically, then this is the opportunity for you!

A Journey of Cultural Competence ​

Posted by Amanda Pollifrone, Kean University

2016 EcuadorPPP Participant

It is not easy to describe my experience in Ecuador accurately, but I can easily say that it was one of most extraordinary and life-changing experiences of my life. EPPP took me on the path of self-expansion and professional growth. Each week opened my eyes to new aspects of culture, education, language, and myself. This program does not let you hide, as it forces you to reach deep within and find the courage to be okay with making a fool of yourself. I do not know how many times I spoke Spanish and received a blank stare due to my horrendous pronunciation! I met such wonderful people along the way, not only from those participating in the program but also throughout the country of Ecuador. I saw some of the most breathtaking views of Quito, waterfalls, volcanoes, cloud-forests, and beaches. I danced salsa and enjoyed some “foga” (AKA yoga). I worked with a wonderful team of educators and implemented behavioral interventions in a preschool. And I learned that the journey of cultural competence is continuous, lifelong, and essential to the field of school psychology. Each day was filled with hard work, learning, laughs, and fun. A lot of fun! Thank you so much Anton and Tara for making this dream come true.

An Amazing Support System

Posted by Lyneia Hawkins, Howard University,

2016 EcuadorPPP Participant

I am truly grateful for the opportunity that I had this summer to be a part of the Ecuador Professional Preparation Program. I went out on a limb and decided to apply even though I knew that I could not speak any Spanish. I hadn’t even taken Spanish as a high school or college student. I was so nervous to embark on this journey but Tara assured me that there were other students that had come before me with similar stories, and so I made the decision to go. I went from having team leaders and other program participants hailing cabs for me to within two weeks learning enough conversational Spanish to make my way around the city. My Spanish teacher was amazing and made sure that I felt confident enough to use what I was learning in class. I also had an amazing support system in the other participants and with my small team. We ate, traveled, worked, and most importantly enjoyed the experience together. I even had the opportunity to meet with and learn from renown health professionals in Ecuador. By the end of the trip, I felt like I had accomplished what I set out to do. I was completely immersed in the experience and found myself living, eating, and breathing Ecuadorian culture. And I met some amazing friends along the way. This was one of the best decisions of my life! I can’t thank Tara and Anton enough for having the vision and foresight to provide this life-changing experience. Oh yeah, did I mention I made it to the middle of the world…with my sister.

Strike the Perfect Balance 

Posted by Kelsi Ovca, Fordham University

2016 EcuadorPPP Participant


I came to EPPP with zero confidence practicing Spanish out loud despite years of classes in middle and high school and lots of travel to Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries. I could not have imagined a better organized or more supportive immersion environment. The strong relationships that Tara and Anton have built with the Spanish schools, worksites, and host families in Quito make this experience truly one of a kind. EPPP struck the perfect balance for me between language/culture immersion, valuable and generally applicable supervised work experience, and opportunities to connect with others in the same field outside of my cohort and at different stages in their education/career. There were also much appreciated thoughtful and organized reflections on all of these experiences and of course, travel/photo ops galore. If you like the idea of this program, let me assure you: it is as great as it sounds.

Take the Plunge 

Posted by Krista Muscarella, University at Buffalo

2015 EcuadorPPP Participant


This is a program that is truly meant for individuals with varying levels of Spanish knowledge and for that I am thankful. I was nervous to embark on this four week program in a Spanish-speaking country knowing I hadn't studied Spanish in over four years. Even now, months after the program, I couldn't be happier that I decided to take the plunge and head down to Quito for four weeks. In terms of Spanish classes, I went from having a Spanish inability to having Spanish abilities, actually presenting to teachers in Spanish at my work site with my teammates! We all still talk - every day - and that just reaffirms the lasting relationships that come out of this amazing program. My host family was wonderful, even my very young host-sister helped me learn Spanish as she gave me a quiz on everything on the table every night as we gathered around for dinner. The literal immersion into the Ecuadorian culture has left a lasting impact on me that I will forever cherish, both personally and professionally. Thank you Tara and Anton for everything you do, you're truly changing lives.

Individualized Attention

Posted by Verenea Serrano, Ohio University

2015 EcuadorPPP Participant


When I first found out about the Ecuador Professional Preparation Program, it sounded like a wonderful opportunity to merge my love for traveling with my desire to advance my Spanish abilities. Completing the 4-week program was not only a wonderful, rewarding experience, it also opened the door to forming lasting friendships and gave me the push I needed to continue developing my Spanish language skills once I returned from the program. There is so much work, fun, and learning packed into the 4 weeks, and the program directors and Spanish tutors really work with you to ensure you are able to maximize your experience. Participants are encouraged to push themselves, and there is so much support from all those involved. I had good Spanish skills upon arriving to Ecuador, but with the immersion experience, great individual tutoring, and encouragement from others to push myself, I made great gains in my Spanish abilities and confidence in providing services in Spanish. Further, there are many great sites to visit in Quito and around Ecuador! The traveling was amazing, and I enjoyed being able to visit the beach one weekend then bike to waterfalls another. Everyone involved with EPPP from my host family, staff at the Spanish school, teachers and student at my work site, the program directors, and other participants made my experience truly unforgettable and rewarding. Tara and Anton have crafted a unique experience, and I can’t thank them enough for what I have gained through my participation in EPPP!

Be Apart of Something Special

Posted by Carolyn Bordowitz, City University of New York-Queens College

2015 EcuadorPPP Participant 


The EPPP is an incredibly unique and transformative experience. It presents a plethora of options for personal and professional growth. I personally left Ecuador with a tremendous respect and love for the land and people in it. Spanish lectures were interactive and tailored to my individual personality and needs. I exited the program with a greater comfort with and fluency of the Spanish language. The opportunities we had to tour the land were enriching, enjoyable, and character building. I am very grateful to have been apart of something so special. 

We Squeezed Every Minute out of Every Day

Posted by James Forcinito, City University of New York-Brooklyn College

2014 EcuadorPPP Participant


It’s very difficult to describe my experience with EcuadorPPP in a few words as it was surely one of the most dynamic and exciting months of my life. The experience went way beyond volunteering and learning Spanish and was truly about immersing myself into the city of Quito and beyond.  My host family was gracious and welcoming, always eager to share their food, time, and culture.  I also met and shared experiences with amazing people whom I hope to call friends and colleagues for life.  Exploring Quito and (way) beyond was something that stood out to me.  The amount of beauty experienced was immeasurable, in not only the magnificent sites seen, but in the people and cultures that I came in contact with. Throughout the course of the program, it felt like we squeezed every minute out of every day, so my advice to future participants would be prepare to work hard, study hard, enjoy life, and sleep like a baby every night.  Your program directors, team leaders, and fellow participants will expect a lot out of you, and this in turn will cause you to have high expectations for yourself.  I did things that I never thought I’d be comfortable doing, ranging from presenting psychological assessment results (all in Spanish) to a group of about 30 educators, to running around an outdoor museum on the Equator (literally), semi-begrudgingly dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy.”  That dichotomy sums up my experience: unforgettable, unpredictable, educational, and a ton of fun.  It is something I will look back on fondly for many years to come.

Service with a Sense of Purpose 

Posted by Ariel Zeigler, Teachers College, Columbia University

2014 EcuadorPPP Participant


EcuadorPPP was sincerely one of the best experiences of my professional and educational career. Not only was I able to hone by bilingual clinical skills, but also the program provided us with the opportunity to collaborate with inspiring health care professionals and community members in the delivery of direct service to the local population. The Ecuadorian culture was infectious, the opportunity to live with a host family was invaluable, and I truly believe that participation in a program such as this should be mandatory in clinical training. I returned to New York with a stronger sense of purpose and experience that has most definitely helped me to further my psychological career. I now have a strong network of professionals that I feel lucky to call my friends, and if I could do the program every summer, I most definitely would. Thank you to Tara and Anton for establishing a groundbreaking and influential program!


Greater Self Awareness

Posted by Amanda Swithenbank, California State University-Chico

2014 EcuadorPPP Participant


My experience in Ecuador with EPPP was nothing short of amazing!  The amount of knowledge that I gained both professionally and personally has been invaluable to me.  As a soon-to-be helping professional I believe that it is important to consider the cultural differences of those around us so that we can appropriately serve them.  I often find myself referencing my experiences in this program, now that I am interning as a School Psychologist in a community that is very different from my own.  Participating in EPPP gave me new friends, greater self-awareness, and applicable job and life skills that have made me feel more confident as I soon approach becoming a true professional.

Formed Lasting Friendships

Posted by Pamela Murillo, University of Rhode Island

2014 EcuadorPPP Participant


Going to Ecuador with EPPP was a life changing experience for me. I discovered myself and our world in new ways. It provided me with the opportunity to learn more about my own ethnicity and to explore my own identity. It also provided me with the opportunity to increase my Spanish vocabulary and learn how to speak Spanish professionally. I felt an incredible sense of joy every time I went to my work site in Quito because I knew that I was making a small but significant difference in the lives of the students, parents, and teachers that I served. EPPP not only gave me the opportunity to grow professionally, but also in my personal life and relationships. The relationships that I formed with my cohort members, program directors, my host family, the Spanish teachers, and everyone else I met in Quito have become some of the deepest friendships that I have developed. My host parents treated me like their own daughter, and I could not be more grateful to have met such kind and wonderful people. And how could I not mention all the beautiful and breathtaking places that I visited. I went from biking down one of South America’s most famous volcanoes to hiking around multiple waterfalls set in beautiful cloud forests. I am extremely lucky to have gone to Ecuador with EPPP and I wouldn’t trade my experience there for anything in the world. 

A Committment to Social Justice

Posted by Meroudjie Dennis, Texas Women's University

2013 EcuadorPPP Participant

As I echo my colleagues’ sentiments, my experience with EPPP was exceptional. The EPPP offered me a plethora of opportunities. While working at a medical clinic, direct services included providing individual and family consultation, as well as leading relaxation and social skills groups. Participants were also given the chance to present short “charlas” (informational presentations) to parents regarding a variety of topics, and provided consultations targeting behavioral, developmental, and educational concerns. The opportunities to expand both clinically and linguistically were infinite. While my time in Ecuador was priceless, for the many reasons stated above, to me, the invaluable aspect of this experience has been the support my EPPP family has given me beyond the Ecuadorian boarders. Dr. Raines has become a friend, mentor, and trusted advisor who has readily supported and motivated me in my many endeavors, years following my training with the EPPP. After my journey in Ecuador, Dr. Berzins guided and encouraged myself and a group of colleagues to prepare a manuscript for publication, which was featured on NASP's website.  Furthermore, during the data collection of my dissertation, I called upon past participants to help disseminate my survey. The EPPP family grows every year and knowing that I have a group of skilled, intelligent, like-minded colleagues, spread across North America, is a blessing in itself. My experience with the EPPP did not end after 4 life-changing weeks in Ecuador. It has resulted in a lifetime commitment to myself and my colleagues to continue to be a global citizen, a culturally sensitive and culturally informed clinician, and a defender of social justice. 

Educational Connections

Posted by Scott Franzblau, Principal -Denver, Colorado

2013 EcuadorPPP Participant


Ecuador PPP opened up opportunities for me to meet and connect with people in the public and social service sector of Ecuador that I could not have otherwise.  I learned a lot about my field of education in Ecuador – the similarities and differences to the US – through these interactions.


Highlight of my Clinical Training

Posted by Sarah Gray, University of Toronto

2013 EcuadorPPP Participant


Participating in the Ecuador Professional Preparation Program was a definite highlight in my clinical training.  I left with an awesome network of friends and colleagues, a renewed clinical and research focus and much more Spanish then I would have thought possible!

Invaluable Experience

Posted by Natale Manes, Nova Southeastern University

2013 EcuadorPPP Participant


I loved my experience in Ecuador!!  I particularly enjoyed how friendly, chivalrous, and appreciative the Ecuadorians were toward me.  I highly recommend this program; especially to school psychologists!  Clinically, being able to help children and families while immersing myself in another culture was truly an invaluable experience that I will never forget!


I Pushed Myself!

Posted by Jennifer Joly, Northeastern University

2013 EcuadorPPP Participant


EcuadorPPP was an amazing experience where I was encouraged to push myself academically, professionally, and physically.  I learned through experience the importance of cultural awareness in education.  I left with great friends, a new family, many memories, a strong passion for a community based approach to education, and a desire to go back.

Beyond Books

Posted by Angelique Snyder, Loyola University Maryland

2013 EcuadorPPP Participant


EcuadorPPP was an amazing opportunity for me in numerous way. As a student clinician, I was able to bear witness to the cultural nuances that I had previously read about in books. I was given the opportunity to live and work with the people of Ecuador and to understand mental illness from a new perspective. This experience was an important piece in my on-going cultural journey.

Consultation Skills–in SPANISH!

Posted by Rachel Stein,  University of California-Santa Barbara

2013 EcuadorPPP Participant


EcuadorPPP provided me with the opportunity to work in an environment that would have been unavailable to me in any other contexts.  Not only did I get to use my knowledge of school psychology to work with preschool students, but I got to practice my consultation skills–in Spanish!  Even though I entered the program with limited Spanish I was encouraged to practice throughout the program and learned a lot in a short amount of time.  It was a wonderful learning experience that I could not have had any other way.

An Experience Like No Other

Posted by Ramona Patillo, Psy.D., Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

2013 Ecuador PPP Program


The EPPP program was truly an experience like no other! Being fully immersed into a new and exciting cultural experience was priceless.  The program offers you the opportunity to live with a family and get an inside understanding of the familial practices of the native culture which is priceless when you actually get to work with families and children professionally.  The staff members of EPPP have certainly taken much time in preparing a program that enhances your professional and personal practices. If you are able to take advantage of this program, it is an opportunity you would not want to miss!

Mind and Heart Opening

Posted by Leah Houk, Alfred University

2012 EcuadorPPP Participant


EPPP is a gem of a program. As a participant and as a small team director, I enjoyed the opportunity of working with children, parents, and teachers in an applied setting. Here, we developed and implemented math and reading interventions for at-risk students, and we also presented to the teachers about how to progress-monitor the children's reading and math. 

Another piece of the program that I enjoyed very much was the explicit emphasis on gaining cultural competence. The readings and discussions about all sorts of topics, from bilingual education to white privilege to why stereotyping is harmful, were mind and heart-opening, and for me, reading them in Quito had an especially deep impact, because I was immersed in an unfamiliar culture. EPPP gave me the experience I was hoping for and more, because I was able to gain so much knowledge about myself, while giving back to people in a tangible way. The directors have a clear intention for the program to make a difference to the people of Quito, while also giving the participants knowledge and skills and a wide-open perspective with which to return to their studies and careers as psychologists. This program is not a vacation, although it is so much fun. It is hard, wonderful work, and I came away feeling more confident in myself and my skills, more resilient, and more compassionate. I recommend EPPP to anyone adventurous enough to stretch outside their comfort zone and take full advantage of the opportunities that this program affords.

Opportunity of a Lifetime

Posted by David Cheng, Saint Johns University

2011 EcuadorPPP Participant

The Ecuador Professional Preparation Program is the opportunity of a lifetime.  Whether you’re a first year grad student or have years of experience as a practitioner, the program has so much to offer. I was a part of the program after my first year of graduate school and it was a great opportunity to apply my developing skills into a cross-cultural setting.  People never stop learning and this program is a great reminder of that!

Me Encanta

Posted by Rashmeen Nirmal, The University of British Columbia-Vancouver

2011 EcuadorPPP Participant


Participating in the Ecuador Professional Preparation Program was an opportunity of a lifetime. With the growing emphasis on graduate students and psychologists to be competent in working with culturally and linguistically diverse individuals, I felt the work experience in Ecuador definitely enhanced my sensitivity and skills in working with diverse groups. I met amazing and talented colleagues, who have no doubt become life-long friends. I was able to explore the beauty of Ecuador and immerse myself in the language, culture, and traditions of the Ecuadorian people. The EPPP has further motivated me to participate in global learning and engage in knowledge transfer- sharing my experiences with other students and colleagues in hopes of encouraging more international practice. Not only was the EPPP a professional experience of a lifetime, it was indeed a personal one as well. MUCHAS GRACIAS EPPP! ME ENCANTA!

Sharing Cultures with an Open Heart

Posted by Ryan Kelly, University of South Carolina

2011 EcuadorPPP Participant


Regarding the EPPP administrators, they are not only exceptional psychologists, but also outstanding, fun-loving and warm people with rich hearts and academic prowess.  The program itself is structured with a perfect ratio of natural professional experience and evidence-based instruction.  Each member is encouraged to be autonomous, yet supervision is always around (formally and informally).  I will say, it's hard to sum up my experiences in Ecuador in a few simple sentences.  What is important is the life-long relationships I formed with my cohort members, the invaluable experience I gained as an aspiring bilingual psychologist, and the honor of having shared cultures and hearts with the people of Ecuador.


Memories that will last a Lifetime

Posted by Jenna Chin, University of California-Santa Barbara

2011 EcuadorPPP Participant


What I loved about EPPP was the wide breadth of opportunities the program provided.  Over the course of the month, I counseled students at a semi-private school, provided family therapy in a university clinic, presented research to university faculty, helped lead a parent education group (all in Spanish, of course!), and explored the culture and beauty of Ecuador.  The Spanish-speaking opportunities are very helpful for any professional striving to be bilingual – especially with the tailored, individualized, one-on-one daily Spanish lessons.  My favorite Spanish lesson was when my teacher and I spent the three-hour lesson discussing American traditions (important things like “s’mores” and “Black Friday”), and she told me about Ecuadorian traditions (ask about New Year’s Eve).  What a fun way to learn Spanish!  Lastly, I gained great personal and professional connections and memories that will last a lifetime (I still can’t believe I jumped off that darn bridge).

Amazing Experience

Posted by Kevin Scully, Chapman University

2010 EcuadorPPP Participant


WOW, what an amazing experience! Highly recommended to those looking to broaden their cultural lens and put their change making ability to use internationally! The EPPP introduced me to the incredible country of Ecuador and gave me the opportunity to work at a school in Quito; a once-in-a-lifetime experience I had once dreamed about. Thanks EPPP for making it a reality!

I Heart EPPP

Posted by Lindsay Jolley, University of Delaware

2009 EcuadorPPP Participant


Looking back on my experiences with the EPPP program always brings a smile to my face. Whether I am reflecting on the vital information passed along through the charlas we created for subcentro, the daily mind challenges that come with conversing entirely in Spanish, or the end of summer chivas ride (CHIVAS!), I look back on my time with fondness and appreciation. Appreciation for the beautiful country and people of Ecuador, my talented and compassionate EPPP group, and the endless possibilities of life. I heart EPPP.

Quito, Psychology, & Beyond

Posted by Stacey Plain, Fordham University

2009 EcuadorPPP Participant


As I reflect upon my participation in the Ecuadorian Professional Preparation Program (EPPP), I cannot help but feel a bittersweet sensation when I think about the meaningful relationships I developed with a small group of Ecuadorian girls. Every Monday through Thursday, I would meet with these girls whose ages ranged from 7 to14 for counseling sessions. We would work together and utilized the strategies my fellow interns and I planned for, in order to build self-esteem, self-respect and respect for peers. The first few sessions were spent getting to know one another with the intended purpose of developing a sense of mutual trust, respect, and understanding. After all, the harsh life experiences these girls had endured were a far cry from my relatively comfortable and secure upbringing. Most of them have little to no contact with their parents. As a result, they turned to themselves and each other for guidance, nurturance, and support. At times, as one would expect, negativity set in and feelings of hopelessness pervaded their thoughts. Still, the children welcomed me graciously and I tried to help them transform their despair into confidence by teaching them coping strategies such as yoga and deep breathing. By the end of my stay, each girl had taken away something meaningful and positive from these sessions – something they could use everyday to make each others lives a little more tolerable, even enjoyable. The EPPP was an experience that I will never forget and I will bring from it everything that I learned as I start my professional career.

Exceeded Expectations

Posted by Arlene Ortiz, Fordam University

2008 EcuadorPPP Participant


During the summer of 2008, I had the privilege of participating in EPPP.  I didn't know it at the time, but this program would change the course of my professional life. I started out the program wanting to gain clinical experience working with Spanish-speaking children and their families while also learning about a different culture. EPPP offered me so much more, including individualized Spanish instruction, field-based trips to local mental health agencies and universities, networking opportunities with mental health professionals, didactic trainings on culturally and linguistically diverse training practices, and working with a research team.  During my summer in Ecuador, I worked with other participants to develop a school readiness screener which ignited my interest in research. As a result, I decided to apply to a doctoratal program to continue my training in research and clinical practice for culturally and linguistically diverse children and their families. My experience with EPPP continues through the yearly reunions and continuous communication with members of the EPPP family.  The relationships forged through EPPP have led to collaborations in presentations, research, and mentorship.   

Stepping Outside of my Comfort Zone

Posted by Traci Ceccherini, Northeastern University

2008 EcuadorPPP Participant


I was fortunate enough to spend two summers with EPPP, first in 2008 as a participant and again in 2014 as a Small Team Director. Both experiences fostered immense and deeply fulfilling personal and professional growth. Upon returning to the states on both occasions, I felt inspired by my fellow participants, the EPPP directors, my host family, and the staff and students with whom I had the opportunity to work. My experiences offered me unique opportunities that stretched my comfort zone and fostered increased confidence, which ultimately transformed my professional practice back in the states. I have increased my insight and understanding of how to effectively work with fellow staff and families as a school psychologist, and have set new professional goals for myself as a result of my most recent experiences with EPPP that have already proved to be incredibly fulfilling and meaningful for the community within which I work. 


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