UHV junior encourages students to give back

Savannah Bernal

With a spirit of volunteerism and an enthusiasm for helping others, Savannah Bernal, a University of Houston-Victoria student, is making a positive impact on those who cross her path.

Bernal, a 19-year-old biology junior from San Antonio, and her dorm roommate, Sharron Varghese, a 20-year-old psychology major, started SMILE, an organization poised to “spread motivation in lives everywhere.”

“I just like helping people and being there for people,” Bernal said.

Still a year from graduation, Bernal already has a job offer at a lab in San Antonio. She hopes to attend medical school to become an obstetrician. This has been her dream since second grade.

“I have one brother and one sister,” she said. “My aunt was pregnant and visiting, and our teachers asked us to write a paper on what we wanted to be. I didn’t ask my mom where babies come from. I asked how they get them out.”

When she returns to Victoria from her summer break, Bernal will start a new job as a resident assistant in Jaguar Village.

Although she was anxious about the interview process, she is thrilled at the opportunity. She’s counting on her experience as a camp counselor – helping peers work through homesickness and stay on track – to help her as a resident assistant.

“I enjoy being a leader and someone who can inspire people,” Bernal said.

Bernal graduated from Travis Early College High School in San Antonio with an associate degree already in the bag. Since enrolling at UHV, Bernal has overcome her shyness and is on the path to greatness. Her key to success is time management and making an effort, she said.

“You don’t have to be the smartest person in the world; you just have to show that you’re trying,” Bernal said. “Teachers really care, especially when you show that you’re making an effort.”

With her volunteer organization entering its second semester, Bernal is eager to recruit more UHV students and reach out to at-risk children in the community.

“It’s growing,” she said. “At last count, we had 23 members. We had a recruitment party at the last meeting, so we have high hopes for next semester.”

Already the group has been involved with the Boys and Girls Club and volunteered for an Easter egg hunt for hearing-impaired children.

“Whatever I end up doing, I want to be able to help people,” she said.

I am a Jaguar is an online feature highlighting the exceptional students who attend the University of Houston-Victoria. To nominate a student, contact Paula Cobler, UHV director of marketing and communications, or call 361-570-4350.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.