The mission of the PAANC is to preserve cultural heritage, foster education and social exchange, and provide humanitarian assistance and services in the wake of natural or economic disasters regardless of geographical location, but especially in North Carolina and the Philippines.
PAANC aims to implement cultural, social, health, and educational support and initiatives to improve the resilience and general quality of life of vulnerable and underserved communities in North Carolina and in the Philippines. It also strives to meet the growing and ever-changing needs of its members and of those in dire need of assistance.
WHAT SHE SAYS
Shareen El Naga has been awarded PAANC’s North Carolina Scholarship for 2021. She is currently majoring in social work and will graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2023. A Tarheel through and through, Shareen graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2021 with a degree in public policy and political science, and a minor in Hispanic studies.
Q: What did you spend your summer doing?
Resting! I think that rest is something that many of us lose priority of, and after four years of undergrad I felt like I needed a breather. That meant many days of me sleeping in and taking long naps, but it has helped me feel rejuvenated and ready to start my master’s this fall. I also recently began working as a server at a restaurant in Chapel Hill called Glass halfull. This has been a great opportunity for me to build community and roots where I will be continuing my education during the next two years.
Q: How does it feel to be this year’s PAANC North Carolina Scholarship recipient?
I feel extremely grateful to PAANC and to my community for believing in me and supporting me in this next degree. Sometimes it feels daunting to be a first generation master’s student, but accolades like this remind me that I always have support and community at my side. For that, I thank you.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time for fun?
I love writing poetry, singing, spending time with family, friends and pets, gardening, painting, and watching movies.
Q: What are you most looking forward to this school year?
I am most excited about working in communities this coming school year. My specific field placement in social work will allow me to work with refugees and mental health, both of which I am very passionate about.
Q: What’s the biggest adjustment you have had to endure as a student during the pandemic?
As someone who loves people and interacting with them, the isolation that the pandemic brought forth was one of the toughest things that I had to adjust to both as a student and as a human. It did teach me, however, that I can also find sanctuary in myself; and I did so knowing that near or far, I was loved, and I loved my community regardless of distance.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
I really hope that I’ll be able to spend some time traveling after graduating since I didn’t get the opportunity to do so after undergrad. I am unsure where my degree will lead me, although I would love to continue working for and with marginalized populations and supporting mental, public, and spiritual health initiatives throughout our communities.
Q: What advice would you give to incoming college freshman?
Diversify your learning! As a first year, I did not imagine myself to be doing what I am now, and I couldn’t be happier with that. I wouldn’t have been able to find my niche and passion, though, if I didn’t take a variety of classes that gave me a diverse understanding of the world around me as well as myself. I found myself taking language classes, political science classes, STEM classes, economics, comparative literature classes on horror movies, and more. All of these classes inspired my ability to trace my own path in academia to the point where I am now. I think as a first year, many of us feel the pressure to know exactly what it is they are doing, but who does? What they don’t tell you is that the most important thing is not that you know what you want right away, but that you feel joy in what it is that you are doing. Follow your joy and let it lead to your passion rather than picking something you think is good for you (and is often what others have encouraged) and letting it lead you.
Q: How have you dealt with the anti-Asian sentiment and violence?
I have realized that what I consume (I.e. media) —and how much of it—is very important these days. Although it is important to be aware of the world, I also find importance in protecting one’s mental space; with so much violence in our world right now and against so many communities, it’s hard to avoid. That is why it’s important to be intentional about what we allow ourselves to consume day in and day out. Also, I feel that by protecting my mental space and energy, it’s a form of resisting the violence the world might otherwise want me to feel. Each of us matter, and so does our health and well-being.I have realized that what I consume (I.e. media) —and how much of it—is very important these days. Although it is important to be aware of the world, I also find importance in protecting one’s mental space; with so much violence in our world right now and against so many communities, it’s hard to avoid. That is why it’s important to be intentional about what we allow ourselves to consume day in and day out. Also, I feel that by protecting my mental space and energy, it’s a form of resisting the violence the world might otherwise want me to feel. Each of us matter, and so does our health and well-being.