Valeria Lebron Berrios
Valeria Lebron is from Richmond, VA and is a senior in Civil and Environmental Engineering with a GPA of 3.53. She says the best things about being a Virginia Tech engineering student are the different student organizations related to engineering that are available on campus. As an engineer, she thinks it is important to actively interact with others both professionally and socially through different organizations. She is heavily involved in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), Theta Tau, CEED mentoring, and the Sustainable Land Development club. All of these organizations have allowed her to further explore her interests and engage in professional development, all while creating a sense of community for her. Furthermore, these organizations and clubs have attributed to her development of leadership skills and have allowed her to provide extensive support to the minority engineering community at VT.
Ever since Valeria was in high school, she knew that she wanted to get involved within education. She would often joke with friends about how she was going to be an engineer for a few years and then eventually teach high school math. Education, specifically within minority communities can be difficult to access. It can further be challenging to motivate students within these areas to pursue STEM, especially due to micro or macro environmental hardships, such as tough home life and classism. Her dream would be to mentor and support students; to show them that they are valuable and that they are smart enough to achieve what they desire. As a civil engineer pursuing education, she would actively be working to improve the lives of community members and leading them to impact their own communities. Thus, her ultimate aspiration is to teach in some capacity - whether it is at the university level or high school level. Growing up, she did not have many mentors or instructors who looked like her and who had experiences like her. She wishes to demonstrate to the younger generation that the world is a diverse place, and that there will always be someone out there from a similar background who is successful.
Valeria says that if she could change one thing, it would be how countries allocate resources. Many impoverished communities have little to no access to essential natural resources that are necessary to survive. Water, for instance, is abundant for most people in developed countries, yet scarce in other areas for no real reason. If countries who control natural resources allocated them more efficiently and did not over consume, many parts of the world would benefit. This would inherently increase both global health and wealth, while simultaneously decreasing global poverty and malnutrition.
In middle school, Valeria wanted to be a veterinarian since she had always loved animals. However, she realized that she probably wouldn’t be able to handle the less desirable parts of the occupation and now pursues engineering. Valeria first became involved with CEED during her freshman year, where she was a member of the engineering living learning community called Hypatia. Wanting to provide support for rising freshmen, she became a CEED mentor in their AHORA division starting freshman year. She has also participated in some programs to help support rising first generation college students through the Pathways program. In terms of volunteering, Valeria mentioned that in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), they actively participate in different community service opportunities. In the past, they have volunteered in the Montgomery County Animal Shelter and with a local English literacy program. She also performs a bit of community service within her professional engineering fraternity, Theta Tau. They often participate in Blacksburg cleanups, food drives, and fundraisers. In her freetime, she likes to read fantasy or dystopian novels, watch true crime documentaries, or go out and do fun things in Richmond.
Valeria says that her mom is her role model because she has worked super hard to give her and her sister the opportunities she did not have when she was younger. She had always been extremely supportive in Valeria’s endeavors and roots for her every step of the way. Her mom has sacrificed so much just for Valeria to attend Virginia Tech, and she would not be the person she is today without her. Her mom is her best friend and she is so grateful to have someone as strong, independent, and loving as her in her life. Valeria also mentioned that her parents breed English and French Bulldogs, so they have upwards of 30 of them! She does say that her favorites are Ivy and Bently though. Valeria also shared that her favorite film is Knives Out because she loves a good mystery and her favorite genres of music are reggaeton, early 2000s hip-hop, neo-soul, lo-fi beats, and sometimes indie pop. Lastly, she says her favorite cartoon character would probably be Spongebob because she used to watch it nonstop as a kid. She sometimes will even play it in the background as she does homework since Spongebob is so timeless!