Being sent to military school is often depicted in the entertainment industry as a form of punishment for an unruly kid, but Sofia Amaral, 19, not only felt that being sent to Colégio Militar in her home country of Brazil was one of the best decisions her parents ever made, but she also admired them for doing it.
“I think it is the best decision they have made for my life because they made the decision to provide me with better opportunities, access, and things like that because military school here in Brazil is better than many of the public schools,” Sofia said. “They couldn’t pay for a private school, but Colégio Militar really offered me the skills I needed to compete in society. More than this, studying in a public school showed me the importance to keep fighting to promote education access to everyone”
With both of her parents being the first in their family to graduate from college, Sofia has always looked up to them as role models.
“My parents are two people that I really admire, not just because they were the first generation in their families that graduated university, but because they did two careers that in that time were not really considered valuable, and they always let me follow my path” Sofia said.
Her mom graduated with a degree in psychology and now works at a public university while her dad is a geography teacher at a public school. Sofia was leaning toward teaching too until her bootcamp experience with LALA expanded her horizons.
“I was always really passionate about sports and thought after I graduated that I would want to become a physical education teacher,” Sofia said, “but then going to the LALA bootcamp in São Paulo changed my perspective by showing how sports can impact people’s lives in a deeper way. So I started thinking about how to get involved with social impact through a sports focus because I have seen the tremendous impact it has had on my life.”
Sofia’s passion for sports started when she was a child through judo and soccer. Through those experiences she realized how difficult it can be for women in male-dominated sports, which only furthered her passion for generating impact through sports.
Once she got to military school Sofia started practicing orienteering, a type of complex track contest where athletes are given a map and a compass to navigate through unfamiliar terrain. The sport gave her unparalleled new experiences like getting to travel to Uruguay to compete in the South American Orienteering Championship.
“Through orienteering, I got to travel, compete, and further understand and see the impact that sports can make in peoples’ lives,” ” Sofia said. “By doing this sport at Colégio Militar, I was able to understand that education is more than just what happens in the classroom, it is also about going outside of the box and through experiences.”
These experiences are part of why Sofia was so grateful for Colégio Militar, despite the misconceptions others have about attending a military school.
“What Colégio Militar gave me was more than education,” Sofia said. “They gave me opportunities to follow my dreams and to live things that I could not live if I stayed at my other school. For example, getting to work on the student’s club, which helps represent the student population, gave me the experience of learning to deal with power structures such as the administration.”
Although she pushes back at general criticisms about military school, she does acknowledge that it is not perfect.
“I can recognize what they gave me, but they are not without their criticisms. That’s the main point when I talk about the military system,” Sofia said. “We were not allowed to talk about politics or social movements, and that is what is disappointing about the military: Our behaviors and discussions are censored.”
Sofia is excited to embark on another unique educational experience at the LALA Academy, which she partially funded through a bikini store she created called CORpo, which also relates to a social issue she is passionate about: women beauty standards.
“I didn’t want to just sell bikinis, I also wanted to talk about bodies, about how our society judges bodies and makes you think you need to have a ‘perfect body’ even though it doesn’t exist,” Sofia said. “So, I was able to combine my fundraising efforts with something I am really passionate about.
Sofia hopes to continue the project after the academy ends along with pursuing whatever direction she decides is right for her.