Marciana Castillo sought out ways to serve others from as early as grade school, volunteering for community service at her church and as an assistant instructor at her martial arts school.

"It has become something innate in my life. All of the communities I have served have been something I have been passionate about. Through serving others, I have grown so much personally and professionally and have made irreplaceable connections," said Castillo, the recipient of Virginia Tech's Aspire! Award for Ut Prosim as a Way of Life.

The Aspire! Awards occur five months a year and highlight students, faculty, and staff who exceptionally personify Student Affairs' five Aspirations for Student Learning: curiosity, self-understanding and integrity, civility, courageous leadership, and Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

Castillo grew up in Norfolk, and her move to Blacksburg in the fall of 2019 was the first time she had lived anywhere else. She was drawn to Virginia Tech for the neuroscience program but after her first semester realized she wanted to holistically approach her studies in health.

Castillo will graduate from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise this spring with a degree in human nutrition, foods, and exercise and minors in integrative health and wellness and adaptive brain and behavior.

"I find that the curriculums had a lot of overlap since the nutrition aspect of human nutrition, foods, and exercise was prevalent in integrative health and learning about the brain,” she said.

Some of her favorite classes have been Nutrition Across a Lifespan, Abnormal Psychology, Medical Dilemmas in the Human Experience, and Plants and Greenspaces in the Urban Community.

Castillo's personal interpretation of Ut Prosim is to be a good listener. After all, one can’t best serve without first understanding the need, and sometimes that need is to just be heard.

"Sometimes the simplicity of just hearing what someone has to say can make such an impact. We live in a society that is very hustle and bustle so it is important to take the time to do something as simple as listening," she said.

Her mother’s work as a physician specializing in geriatrics and palliative medicine was Castillo’s inspiration to pursue healthcare.

“My mom’s calm approach to care for people in elderhood, and her desire to improve the end-of-life journey is the epitome of commitment to service,” said Castillo, who received support from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni Organization Excellence Fund in Memory of Dr. Glenn A. Anderson.

Castillo has been a member of the Filipino American Student Association since her first year, serving recently on the officer and executive board for two years. She has volunteered as a notetaker for Virginia Tech Services for Students with Disabilities, as a counselor for the Crisis Text Line, and as an ambassador for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Additionally, she has worked for Hokie Wellness as an IMPACT peer educator and as an advising ambassador with Academic Advising Initiatives. She is also an active member of Delta Epsilon Mu, a co-ed pre-health fraternity, where she is on the diversity and inclusion committee.

"It was so humbling to be categorized with people who are doing such important work in the community," she said about being an Aspire! Award winner. "I am just grateful for the opportunity to be acknowledged for simply serving various communities in my life."

In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, coaching youth soccer, and yoga.

"Earlier this year I participated in a study abroad program in Nosara, Costa Rica, which focused on overall health through yoga practices and community values, as well as cultural competency. Through this, my appreciation for yoga grew, and I have been practicing three times a week at a yoga studio in Blacksburg."

After she learned that only about 29 percent of yoga teachers identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color, Castillo became interested in acquiring her yoga teacher certification. Her goal is to increase yoga accessibility to cultural minorities and spread awareness of its beneficial healing and preventative qualities.

Upon graduation, Castillo will travel overseas to teach public speaking to youth in Hong Kong. Looking ahead, she hopes to earn a joint degree – Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry with a master’s degree in public health – with plans to create oral health education programs for implementation into public school health curricula.

"I am passionate about advocating for others who cannot advocate for themselves," Castillo said.

Perhaps there is no better example of Ut Prosim than this, a balance of both listening to and being the voice of those in need; a simple, selfless, and sustainable act of service.

Written by Nancy Moseley

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