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Student Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight: Valentina Suarez

“It’s okay not to have things figured out, no one really does. You build your life by living it and learning from it, so be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Through curiosity, creativity, and connections, Valentina Suarez, now an alumna of IYA’s Class of 2020, believes in making the most of every moment. As she prepares to move to Denver to work as an associate consultant at Adobe, Valentina reflects on her four years at IYA and offers some advice for incoming freshmen.

Tell me a little bit about your journey to the Academy? 

I went to a magnet art school from sixth to twelfth grade. I learned how to push my creativity in film photography while learning calculus at the same time. I went to a school where students’ goals ranged from becoming an artist or ballerina to being a veterinarian or accountant. [The school] pushed us to really hone in on what we wanted for ourselves and not sacrifice any part of who we were. I felt the same thing when I learned about the Iovine and Young Academy. The Academy pushed us to bridge our different strengths and bring those unique perspectives to homogenous groups. We can be and do anything we set our minds to.

How have you evolved over the years? Any unexpected twists or turns in your journey?
Over time I’ve come to terms with the fact that although I think I know a lot, I don’t. There’s always something I can learn from the moment, experience, or person. Honestly, much of my journey was unexpected – most of my opportunities have come up by chance and I seized that chance. Especially living in LA, at USC, and studying at the Academy, there are opportunities at every corner. It’s just up to you to find them and use them to learn and grow.

Something that I also learned unexpectedly is it’s the people along the way that make the most difference in your life, more than any class or internship.

What are some of your goals post-graduation?
I’ll be working as an associate consultant at Adobe in Denver, Colorado! But one of my ultimate goals is to create and run a cafe in Medellín, Colombia where I’m from. I love the atmosphere of cafes and you can’t beat the culture and people of Medellín.

Describe a passion project you’re currently working on or interested in?
I’m starting to create a children’s book that promotes healthy living. What inspired the project? I’ve always felt drawn to nutrition – I grew up with a dad and two older brothers who lived and breathed sport. Even during quarantine my sister and I go out on runs with the dogs and play volleyball. Sport is the way we connect, and being active is how we stay healthy, mentally and physically. Now that I have young cousins and a nephew, I want to be able to pass on something that shares the story of how staying active brightens us individually and brings us together communally. For me, making a book bridges my love for reading with my creativity and with my passion for healthy living. Storytelling is such an integral part of how we learn and absorb information, I hope this motivates kids to have fun by being active.

Is there a leader or mentor who inspires you?
My family, and particularly my parents, who gave up their whole world for my siblings and me to have a better one. My parents’ passion, dedication, and spirit are what inspire me every day.

Is there an inspirational quote you live by?
Have courage and be kind. What advice would you give to a freshman? It’s okay not to have things figured out, no one really does. You build your life by living it and learning from it, so be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Describe one thing most people don’t know about you?
I’m left-handed! What the one thing your parents taught you that you’d like to share? My dad taught me the power of knowledge and how infinite curiosity can take you very far in life. I think that’s why I love learning new things ¬– it makes me feel powerful. My mom shared with me the importance of connecting with the people around you and making the most of the moment. It’s something that I’ll forever be grateful for because I’ve made the best memories and friends.

Fun Facts

What are the essential things you always keep in your backpack?
A book to read, a Hydro Flask, headphones, phone, computer, my hard drive (has my whole life on it), Glossier coconut-flavored lip balm, hand sanitizer, and Muji pens (they’re the best pens I’ve ever owned).

Favorite app or website?

Favorite class at USC and why?
Social Innovation Design Lab (BAEP 471) with Abby Fifer. It's a great class to learn the true impact of human design and from day one you learn that helping one person through design makes all the difference. 

Favorite way to de-stress?
1-minute dance party

Guilty pleasure?
Dystopian novels (this is embarrassing)

Thanks, Valentina and best wishes in Denver!