Flávia Iespa was only eleven when she realized she wanted to attend one of the best schools in Brazil, Colégio Militar do Rio de Janeiro, which also happened to have one of the most difficult entrance exams in the country. The journey she and her mother had to embark on to make her dream come true would not only result in Flávia reaching her goal, but also in discovering new passions, a new community, and a group of lifelong friends, mentors, and supporters.
Just taking the first step of studying one year for the entrance exam presented Flávia and her mother with the hurdle of the eventual cost of attending such a prestigious school.
“I told my mom that and she was like, ‘Oh, so I have to do whatever it takes to put my girl in a better school and she has to prepare herself to get into this harder school,’” Flavia said. “But I remember that the prep school I had to got to take this entrance exam was really expensive, like really really expensive and I think that was one of the first memories that I have of my mom just putting herself out there and doing everything she could to raise the money, fighting through a lot of difficulties...My mom is my hero.”
Everything seemed to be firing on all cylinders once she reached her dream school. From the education she was receiving, to her classes, professors, peers, and friends, Flávia was happy. Though a time came when she realized her hyper focus in the classroom and in school competitions essentially revolved around “wanting to win or be the best” rather than having a guiding principle or goal that was leading her to chart the path that would most help her accomplish them.
In a sense, she got caught up in the school, at first having to adjust to being surrounded by people from the upper class which she had not been exposed to as much before.
“It was great for a while, I was like ‘Yeah, this is my life,’ it was like the best school, I was making my mom proud, everything was working out, I had the best friends ever, I was in extracurricular activities, but then when I was in the ninth grade I sort of had a realization,” Flávia said.
“One of the projects my school got involved in was helping a retirement home. I felt like people were not caring enough about it though and not working hard enough to support the elderly that were counting on us. Then, I noticed that, before that, this was exactly what I was doing. I was oblivious to people’s necessities and realities and not doing enough to help and support them.”
While she had oftentimes criticized people for living inside of a bubble and not interacting with or helping those outside of the bubble, Flávia realized she was doing exactly that.
“I was living in my own bubble. Honestly I used to judge people that did that, living in a bubble not helping anyone. And then I thought, I have to do something,” she said. “I started googling places that I could go to do volunteer work, where I could fundraise for the less fortunate for special dates like Easter and Childrens Day and I was just like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna help.’”
Her passion to give back kept on growing, leading her to teach English in her community as well, which then pushed her into finding more leadership and education opportunities, leading her to the Latin American Leadership Academy where she attended a bootcamp first as a student and then as a coach, both of which happened at an important time in her life.
“When I went to the bootcamp as a participant I wasn’t that happy, bubbly person anymore, I was like, constantly sad,” Flávia said. “But then by really listening to the staff and their teachings I was able to start transitioning back. I started to be happy with myself and I started these new healthy habits with the help of all the mental health talks and activities. Then getting to go back as a coach I felt was my opportunity to rescue the old Flávia and put her back into action.”
Flávia continued to grow and blossom both personally and with LALA, even helping other students see their beauty when she was a coach, and eventually leading her to the LALA Academy.
“I didn’t know exactly what I want to do but LALA is able to light a flame in us when we sometimes can’t find our purpose and it allows us to explore as much as we can within ourselves and outside of ourselves,” she said. “One of the things I’m more passionate about is empowering people, propping them up, and I think the only way that’s possible is through encouraging them, through education, and through mental health support.”