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Rebels Give Back: Mae Javier

Engineering undergrad Mae Javier on the importance of volunteering with Opportunity Village and shattering the stigma associated with people with intellectual disabilities.

People  |  Feb 13, 2013  |  By Tony Allen

UNLV Engelstad Scholar Mae Javier. (R. Marsh Starks) / UNLV Photo Services)

Editor's Note: 

This is the first in a series profiling UNLV’s Engelstad Scholars. For this group of scholarship recipients, lectures and labs are only part of their college experience. They are stepping out of the classroom and into the community to gain insight firsthand into the area’s social issues. 

Mae Javier

Major: Civil & Environmental Engineering
High School: Sierra Vista High School (Las Vegas)
Engelstad Scholar Partner: Opportunity Village

Has your time at Opportunity Village affected your post-graduation plans?

I always thought I would work in a corporate environment and never thought of working for a nonprofit organization, but Opportunity Village has changed that. Everyone there is so nice and cheerful, and it's such a nice environment to work in.

This experience has made me understand the importance of volunteering. Before, I thought my volunteering would stop after college. Now that I realize the importance of helping out the community, I am definitely going to continue volunteering post-graduation.

Has there been a highlight from your time at Opportunity Village?

My favorite experience is the tour they gave me on the first day I volunteered as an Engelstad Scholar. Seeing the clients, meeting some of them, and seeing them work was definitely an eye-opening experience. I saw the artwork that some of the clients made, and they were beyond amazing.

There is a stigma about people with mental disabilities that make other people overlook them, but they shouldn't. The clients have so much potential, and Opportunity Village exists to help them reach their full potential.

How has service learning changed your college experience?

It made me more aware of social issues around me, the role of volunteers, and nonprofit organizations. In high school, I would volunteer for the sake of completing my hours. Now, I volunteer because I know how important volunteering is, and because I realize it's my role as a community member to help out the community. In high school, I never thought about people with mental disabilities and where their lives would be after high school or how talented they are. My time with OV has changed that mindset and helped me grow into a better person.

What should people know about Opportunity Village?

I did not realize just how much work the staff puts in organizing the Magical Forest and their other fundraising events until I started working behind the scenes. It takes a lot of work to pull off Magical Forest, or any of their events, and I am just awed by their dedication and hard work. They choose to work at Opportunity Village where their skills are used to improve the lives of people with mental disabilities.

Related Link: Learn more about Opportunity Village

About the Engelstad Scholars Program

The Engelstad Family Foundation pledged more than $12 million in 2009 to create the Engelstad Scholars program. It funds full scholarships for select undergraduate students who meet academic and financial-need criteria and who perform 100 hours of community service each year. The program is the largest scholarship endowment pledge in the university's history.

Kris Engelstad McGarry, trustee of the Engelstad Family Foundation, describes the scholarship as both an investment in the community and a testament to the generosity of those who came before.

"My father was a scholarship recipient -- someone else's generosity enabled him to attend college and gave him a head start in life," she said during the program's announcement. "Now, in his honor, our family has the opportunity to continue that tradition by 'paying it forward.' Students will learn the importance of giving back and having an impact in the community."

Students receive $5,000 each year for up to four years, allowing them to focus more on school rather than work. They also connect with such community agencies as the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, Boys & Girls Club, Goodie Two Shoes, Opportunity Village and Three Square.