Depending on the power grid in the countryside of Ukraine, Chaminade sophomore Victoria DelaCruz ’25 may or may not be able to teach American culture, environment and English to Kate (not her real name to protect her identity) through a volunteer role with ENGin, a nonprofit group that offers a unique opportunity to make a difference in a Ukrainian’s life. It’s a volunteer role that she pursued during her freshman year in 2021.
What she didn’t anticipate, though, was the Russian invasion of the second largest European country in February 2022. Still, the Saipan native persisted and persevered to maintain contact with Kate at least once a week to this very day.
“She wants to improve her English, and I’m trying to help her do that,” says DelaCruz, who opted to major in Data Science, Analytics and Visualization. “I am provided with class lessons, but I tailor them to fit with what I’m comfortable with.”
Growing up in the largest island in the Northern Mariana Islands, DelaCruz has always felt comfortable with helping her community, following her mom to work at KARIDAT, a not-for-profit, social service organization under the Catholic Charity Diocese of Chalan Kanoa. In 2018, when Super Typhoon Yutu, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to impact the Mariana Islands and the second-strongest to strike the United States or its territories, slammed into Saipan, DelaCruz was there.
“She was doing basic intakes and helping out in the food pantry,” recalls mom Elaine DelaCruz, a Chaminade alumna who earned her bachelor’s degree in 1999 and her M.S. in Counseling Psychology (MSCP) in 2003. “She has always wanted to serve her community ever since she was a young girl.”
DelaCruz personifies the Chaminade Scholar, defined as a student who strives to discover his or her life vocation, to be a servant leader and to use God-given gifts and talents to pursue the common good. “Her reflection on service and the path she traveled to earn her internship with Aloha Harvest are inspiring,” says Bro. Ed Brink, a member of the Mission and Identity Committee that selects Chaminade Scholars. “She’s truly a remarkable young woman who exemplifies the Marianist education and values.”
While searching for a service project to fulfill one of the mandatory requirements of being a Chaminade Scholar, DelaCruz came upon the AmeriCorps Vista program and decided to become a member. The objective of Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) is to provide needed resources to nonprofit organizations and public agencies to increase their capacity to lift communities out of poverty. It just so happened that Aloha Harvest was registering to participate in the VISTA program and looking for someone to work in its office.
“I started as a volunteer in late September 2022,” DelaCruz recalls. “At that point, Aloha Harvest was in the process of creating an AmeriCorps VISTA position (Program Data Evaluation Specialist), and found out I was a Data Science student. So, they asked me if I would be willing to fulfill that position, and that’s how I was recruited. My official first day as a full-time service member with Aloha Harvest was January 17, 2023, and I will be there until January 17, 2024.”
In addition to being a Chaminade Scholar, DelaCruz is also in the Experiential Honors Program, and she serves as vice president of the Chaminade Sustainability Council, the design manager for the Chaminade Student Programming Board and an Alliance Research Intern with the National Science Foundation.
DelaCruz credits her Chaminade Scholar status, not only for her monetary scholarship, but for helping her grow and commit to community service, which she plans to continue in Saipan after she graduates in 2024.
“When it comes to data science, there’s a great demand for it in Saipan, from the medical to the educational field,” DelaCruz asserts. “Saipan usually has to bring in people from the Mainland but it never lasts too long.”
And if you had told DelaCruz that she would be pursuing a degree in data science a year ago, she says she would have thought you were lying. “I never considered technology, and now I’m learning to code and use data,” she says. “I’m really glad I changed my major to DSAV because the skills that I have learned can be applied to so many fields. And I can use the knowledge that I gained and my passion for service to help my Chamorro community.”