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A Reflection on the Lessons Learned from an Unforgettable Teacher

A mere 20 minutes after I submitted my application to work as a development intern at MADRE, I received an email response from a woman named Roxana who, unbeknownst to me at the time, would change my life. I remember being startled by her immediate interest. I am from a small town in Ohio and had never had any real internship experience, let alone an internship at a major nonprofit organization in New York City. However, what I lacked in experience, I made up for in enthusiasm, and Roxana recognized that. She saw something in me and hired me on the spot. It was the first lesson I learned from her; don’t sit there waiting for something to fall into your lap, make it fall there.

The first day of my internship was a whirlwind of facts and passwords and logins. Though Roxana was challenging me with a constant stream of new information, she regularly paused to ask me how I was doing. She asked me not as a protocol or as a pleasantry, but because she genuinely wanted to know the answer. This was the second lesson I learned from Roxana; if you sincerely care about the people you work with, not only will they respect you, but they will work their absolute hardest for you. And I did both.

Throughout the following weeks I helped Roxana finish reports, file papers, write thank you notes and complete many other development-based tasks. Though some responsibilities were more of a learning experience than others, I was constantly learning from her about the value of being a perfectionist. Every spelling of a name was quadruple checked, every thank you note was read over multiple times. The third lesson I learned from Roxana is that no task is too trivial, no job too small; the smallest details are the most important.

My relationship with Roxana ended as abruptly as it had begun. When I received the phone call about her tragic death I was stunned, heartbroken and selfishly saddened that I would no longer be learning from her anymore. I had only been working with her for six short weeks yet the lessons I learned from her will stay with me forever. Despite the devastating circumstances, I would not trade my experience working with her and the MADRE team for anything. Through Roxana’s life I learned the true meaning of hard work, and through her death I learned the true meaning of a working family. All of the women at MADRE came together to support one another in the most unbelievably positive way. I have the entire MADRE team to thank for an unforgettable experience, and I have Roxana to thank for making that experience possible.

August 1, 2013