Growing up in a dysfunctional family dynamic, Valerie’s passion to embark upon higher education was stifled and stripped from her. After being diagnosed with a life-threatening spinal cord tumor, Valerie had no option but to face major high-risk surgery. Thankfully, Valerie’s surgery was a success, but the recovery was long and brutal. After spending one month in inpatient rehab and two years working through neurological deficits, relearning how to walk, use her hands, and retraining her brain to adapt to her new normal, education remained her passion.  While recovering, Valerie knew she could not immediately return to work, and looked into going back to school. In 2020, Valerie enrolled back into school, but after living one week of the freshman college experience, the campus shut down due to the COVID pandemic. Dealing with the financial strains of the COVID pandemic and trying to recover from the expensive and lengthy spinal cord surgery in 2017, the past ten months have been enormously challenging. With the help of the Education Fund, Valerie intends to focus solely on her studies and her first year at a senior college. The Fund would also allow Valerie to set up a proper study space in her apartment and start to build a new home again after a fire that took away all of her belongings.

“My career plans focus on developing investigative multimedia social documentary storytelling, using various media to generate social impact. I use the written word, still, and moving images to tell meaningful stories. Besides exploring the human condition, I am interested in women and human rights, stories of trauma, fighting corruption and abuse of power, social justice, culture, and the arts.” – Valerie Pires