Sterling Silva: Camila’s Story
Camila Silva Monroe will graduate with her Associate of Science (Chemistry transfer major) degree from Arapahoe Community College in May 2018. The second of four children in her family, Monroe is originally from Brazil, specifically the rural town of Estiva in the state of Minas Gerais. At the age of 17, she moved to Sao Paolo to attend college upon finishing high school at Conego Francisco Stella State School.
Monroe would go on to work as a journalist in Brazil for five years before making the decision to relocate to the United States. “I worked as an entertainment journalist and movie critic, and I was a freelance writer for Brazil’s foremost science magazine,” Monroe explained. “I came to the U.S. in January 2013 as an au pair to live with an amazing American host family in Littleton – just five minutes from ACC. I wanted to rethink my career choices and learn English.” Monroe relocated alone. She hoped immersing herself into the new culture without a network of support would accelerate a successful transition and a fresh start.
In January 2016, she enrolled at ACC. “I have always been very dedicated to my education,” explains Monroe. “Books were always a way for me to escape a complicated life growing up in Brazil. When I told my parents I was returning to school to become an engineer, they were beyond excited. My mom actually told me she secretly always dreamed of having one of her children become an engineer.”
Monroe became involved with ACC’s Sigma Phi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society during her first semester on campus, earning a Letters of Humanities award that term as a Distinguished Phi Theta Kappa Officer. Subsequently, she found herself gravitating toward then-Sigma Phi President Leah Porter, whom Monroe credits for helping her look within herself to find the leader inside. “Leah was also a non-traditional, non-U.S. born student in search of a new career,” explains Monroe. “She was not only a great inspiration to me, she’s now my best friend.”
Monroe began her leadership journey in Phi Theta Kappa as the Vice President of Research. Her involvement in the chapter’s Honors in Action projects has been substantial, with awareness projects ranging from groundwater scarcity to elderly depression/suicide. In fact, Monroe led Sigma Phi to a national top-ten finish for “Distinguished Honors in Action Project” at the 2017 annual Phi Theta Kappa convention while serving in the capacity of Vice President of Honors in Action.
Language never proved to be a barrier for Monroe when she came to the U.S. The cost of international-student tuition, however, has been challenging. In fact, Monroe and her older sister still, to this day, provide monetary support for their parents during a time of economic crisis in her homeland. Thankfully, she says, ACC has provided her with many opportunities to overcome the financial obstacles. “I have received several thousand dollars in scholarships at ACC, and I am so grateful. I’ve also benefitted from having a great on-campus job as a tutor in the Student Success Center and the Biology 111 Study Lab.” Monroe says.
She served as the president of both Sigma Phi and the ACC Student Government Association during the 2017-18 academic year. Monroe is a member of the President’s Student Advisory Council and the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) honor society, and is active with the ACC division of the Colorado Space Grant Program. Selected as a member of the 2017-18 Phi Theta Kappa All-Colorado Academic Team, Monroe also earned prestigious Guistwhite and New Century Transfer Pathway scholarships this spring. One of just 15 nationwide Guistwhite Scholars, Monroe earned a $5,000 scholarship for baccalaureate studies. Winners of the Guistwhite Scholarship are selected based on academic excellence, leadership accomplishments and engagement in Phi Theta Kappa programs. Monroe also received a $2,250 scholarship for being selected as a New Century Transfer Pathway Scholar. Only one winner from each state is chosen for the honor, with selection being based on academic accomplishments, leadership, activities, and extension of intellectual talents beyond the classroom.
In April 2018, Monroe was selected as one of two ACC Rising Stars. The annual CCCS Rising Star awards are designed to recognize the outstanding contributions of students who exemplify the best in service and leadership at their institution. Monroe went on to earn Distinguished Chapter Officer recognition at Phi Theta Kappa’s 2018 annual convention later that month, an honor bestowed upon just 30 of several thousand officers. “Camila leads Sigma Phi meetings with energy, efficiency and grace,” stated Shari Culver, Sigma Phi Co-Advisor and Career & Transfer Counselor at ACC. “She is accomplished, bright, diligent and resilient.”
Monroe plans to transfer to Colorado State University to study Chemical and Biological Engineering. She aspires to change the way our society creates and consumes food via safer research and development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). During the summer of 2018, she will participate in the Rocky Mountain Sustainability and Science Network Summer Academy, where a select group of attendees work to address regional sustainability issues throughout the intermountain west. “During my time as a writer in Brazil, I found it fascinating to learn about how genetic evolution was a factor in our dietary habits,” says Monroe, who conducts research as a community scientist in the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s Genetics of Taste lab, “We need scientists who are able to properly communicate with the general public and have a solid background of bioethics. I want to become a responsible, thoughtful scientist.” Monroe praises ACC’s faculty, staff and Sigma Phi advisors for helping her to become a successful student and a strong leader. “I’ve received so much support with challenges both in and out of the classroom,” Monroe said. “ACC is a place filled with people who help you become the leader you need to be – you just need to reach out.”