When most freshman first come to Penn State, they are on the fence about what their future career will look like—but not Diana Villagomez. When Diana was a freshman, she knew that she wanted to be a Physician Assistant. As a junior biobehavioral health major with a Spanish minor, she is doing it all—social chair of MASA, a member of Latino Caucus, a global brigade member and she has two volunteer trips under her belt—the third one is in the process of being planned.
Villagomez, who lives in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania when she’s not at school, gets the drive and inspiration that got her to hit the ground running from her hard-working parents. She’s seen how much they have sacrificed for her and her brothers and it has taught her many valuable lessons that she will carry with her for the rest of her life.
“I’ve always been taught that whether it is a high-end or a low-end job, you always have to try your best. The work ethic my parents taught us was to never take anything for granted and if you want something, you have to work for it and be independent,” says Villagomez.
“I was driven to pay my way for school trips and other expenses. I learned that from my parents because I didn’t want them to pay for anything if I could do it myself. I am always willing to help them out finance wise. I am not afraid to give them money and it brings me joy that I am able to repay them for what they have done for us, even if it’s nothing in comparison,” Villagomez adds.
While most students go to Mexico or Florida for their spring break trip for some fun in the sun, Villagomez spent her week off of school to volunteer at an interim clinic in a local schoolhouse in Honduras with the Global Brigade organization here at Penn State.
“I knew I always wanted to go on this trip, even as a little kid,” beams Villagomez. “The kids in Honduras really opened my eyes and helped me become a better version of myself because they go through hard times and yet they still find a way to smile. It has taught me that I need to push through the hard times and love more, especially in this society. Honduras taught me that making people happy and healthy is what I want to do in life.”
Feeling inspired by what was occurring in our country last semester, Villagomez and a group of students from MASA and other volunteers from around the world, went to the Tijuana-San Diego border in California during State Patty’s weekend to do a water drop, which is when you leave blankets, water and other resources for travelers to find them for their journies. Villagomez and the group of MASA members left gallons of water and blankets throughout the six-mile-long Jucumba Desert for travelers ranging from Mexico to Central America who want safety and better opportunities for their families.
“Despite what was going on with our government at that time, I wanted to do something. The water drop wasn’t a matter of politics, it was a matter of saving a human life. No person deserves to die because of these hard circumstances so being able to provide them with some type of resource and prevent even one death, makes me know that the world is going to be okay. The six-mile hike through the desert for the water drop was nothing compared to the three-to-five-day hike the travelers have to go on for safety. I knew that this organization spoke for something and hopefully in the future, there will be more water drops and it will help thousands more,” Villagomez tells VALLEY.
Villagomez has achieved so much in only three years of her Penn State career, and she has still managed to keep her grades up and volunteer at a local children’s hospital in Delaware while taking summer classes — talk about multitasking at its finest.
“Volunteering at the hospital this summer made me figure out what I want to specialize in — pediatrics. Spending time with the kids and helping them with their medicine, made me realize that they have such pureness and innocence to them that working with them will be hard but it will be rewarding by knowing that I will be able to take some of their pain away even if it is just for a short amount of time,” says Villagomez. “When it comes to balancing priorities, you just have to manage your time and know that the sacrifices you make will pay off in the end. I want to make the most out of the opportunities that I have. I had to prioritize each task and make sure that I do my best to follow through with my responsibilities and still be able to give myself a little nap here and there,” she jokes.
Although she’s only a junior, she already has her mind and heart set on Physician Assistant school. She has taken measures into her own hands by researching the types of GPA, academic requirements, and volunteer hours she would need to apply to her list of PA schools, since she is the first one in her family to want to continue education beyond college.
“There is no major here at Penn State that gets you ready for PA school, so I had to go out of my way to find the classes that are needed for it, while also taking my major classes. I have done my fair share of research for each PA school that is on my list and what school needs what prerequisites and GPA. I want to take a year off before PA school so I can continue to volunteer at different hospitals to get the most hands-on experience I can to become the most qualified candidate in a pool of very competitive applicants,” Villagomez tells VALLEY.
When VALLEY asked what advice she could give for those who are trying to balance school, work, and internships, she said, “Since my freshman year, I had to learn how to manage my time wisely for the simple fact that I am also a guilty procrastinator. Make sure to prioritize each task and that you do your best to follow through with responsibilities. It’s hard, but it can be done.”
Villagomez has her eyes on the prize, but like any self-motivated person, she understands that life brings different opportunities and challenges each day.
“In all honesty, you don’t really know what life holds for you. Although I may have plans set in motion, life can throw some obstacles that can set me back but I know that I can accomplish what I need to accomplish. I am never going to feel discouraged because we all have our own pace. When my time comes, it will come.”