For Itza Valdes ('18), community service wasn't just another prerequisite for graduation. It represented a passion that has propelled her to great heights. And her whirlwind ascent is far from over.
On December 5th, Valdes will take part in her third Purdue University Dance Marathon, an event that raises money for pediatric research.
A recent "Miracle Madness" blitz yielded $13,000 for her committee alone.
Overall, the organization brought in just over $45,000 for Child Life programs, the Tyler Trent Cancer Research Endowment, and the Herman B. Wells Center for Pediatric Research. That sum will provide for a laundry list of items: 780 light projectors for patient comfort, 13 years worth of supplies for Art Therapy ceramic projects, 50 Nurture Smart crib mobiles for Pediatrics and PICU, and 26 seasonal parties for 50 patients in the Child Life Zone at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, a place that has left an indelible impression on Valdes.
Marquette caught up with Valdes this past week to talk community service, the lessons she still carries with her from Marquette, and college life.
MQTT: Is this your first year being involved with Miracle Madness/Purdue University Dance Marathon (PUDM), and what served as the inspiration for you being a part of it?
Valdes: This upcoming marathon in December will be my third marathon, and the second year on my committee, Morale! I think volunteering during my time at Marquette helped me venture out in different organizations at Purdue. I joined PUDM on a limb, but I stayed in PUDM to make a difference in the lives of the next generation!
MQTT: Part of the money raised goes to the Tyler Trent Cancer Research Endowment. His story was one that captured a national following and touched everyone. What was the atmosphere like at Purdue while this was going on?
Valdes: Tyler Trent still continues to be a huge part of Purdue. During my first marathon in 2018, they played a video of him and his journey. Unfortunately, he could not be there due to what he was going through. When he passed in January of last year, I think it struck everyone at Purdue hard, whether you knew him or not. The university held a memorial for him when we got back from winter break, and it was so beautiful seeing so many people in support of Tyler and his family. While I did not get the chance to meet Tyler, his parents graciously spoke at PUDM 2019, and we know for a fact he was there in spirit. Tyler's legacy lives on, though. Tyler Trent is now part of PUDM forever, alongside John Romine, David Feltner, and Ben Harmon - Boilermakers who lost the fight to cancer, but not the war.
MQTT: You're wrapping up your sophomore year of college. Has the reality of college life matched up with your expectations?
Valdes: I thought taking six classes in college was going to be like taking six classes in high school. I was so wrong. Also, I'm not sure how I got up for classes at 8:30 throughout all of high school - I could not do 8:30's in college!
MQTT: Did you feel prepared (academically, socially, etc.) coming from Marquette?
Valdes: I definitely feel prepared academically and socially. I had a lot of dual-credits coming in from Marquette, which helped me save thousands at Purdue. I am ahead in my major since I got a lot of prerequisites out of the way.
MQTT: What lessons or memories of Marquette have stuck with you on a regular basis?
Valdes: Mr. Burke taught us to "tell someone you love them," and Mr. Schaefer taught me that you never needed a reason to have a cookie.
MQTT: Have you declared a major and, if so, do you know what you want to do in a few years?
Valdes: I was originally a dual major in Elementary and Special Education. But somewhere in the middle of my fall semester, I realized how unhappy and disengaged I was with my classes. After doing some research, I decided to switch over to the Early Childhood Education and Exceptional Needs program in Purdue's Health and Human Sciences. It doesn't seem like a big change, but it made such a difference. My plan is to go to grad school after finishing my bachelor's at Purdue to become a Child Life Specialist at a hospital like Riley!
MQTT: Social media makes it pretty easy to stay connected, but are there any Marquette alumni on campus that you can keep in touch with?
Valdes: Yes! I am still close with a lot of people that were in my graduating class. I'm lucky to see Jim (Thomas), Evan (Chambers), Natalia (Castillo), and Nadia (Flores) on campus a lot!
MQTT: What advice would current-day Itza give to, say, junior-year-at-Marquette Itza?
Valdes: I would tell her that whatever is meant to fall in place will.
Interested in helping Itza and the Purdue University Dance Marathon? Click here to make a pledge or to learn more.
Do you know of a former Blazer making an impact in their community? We'd love to hear from you! Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.