December 21, 2012 - 12:00am
At the Monterey Institute's 2012 Winter Commencement, the elected student speaker was Maria Luisa Olivarria. The honor of giving this address was a fitting end for a student who has taken such a long and sometimes arduous path to graduation.
Maria's journey started a few years ago in Venezuela, where she was part of a student movement protesting the country's government.
"I fought so hard because, for the first time in my life, I felt my rights and freedom were in danger," Maria said. So she packed her bags and came to the United States to attend MIIS.
"I came to MIIS...because I saw that there could be hope for a better future," said Maria, who graduated with an MA In International Policy Studies. "Learning about the issues in other parts of the world helped me understand more clearly the issues in Venezuela."
While at MIIS, she focused on her three biggest passions which are disarmament, development and peace-building.
"I believe it's exactly the three things my country needs right now," she said. "Disarmament to lower the armed violence and criminality, sustainable and achievable development that will boost the national economy, and peace-building to mend to broken ties in society."
Sadly, Maria does not see a lot of hope for Venezuela at this time. But, she is drawing inspiration from her father, a former politician who also had to leave the country on several occasions because of the political situation.
"He taught me how to give a good fight, even when odds are not in your favor," Maria said. "I know that one day there will be more grounds for hope and change."
And when that day comes, count on Maria to be there leading the charge.