Joe and Helyne Victor Memorial Scholarship Recipient
A first-generation Indian American, Talia Menezes’ parents immigrated to the United States before she was born. With no family in their new home, they built a new community – one that led them to becoming Independent Business Owners.
“Amway has been such a big part of my upbringing,” Talia said. “The way I think about relationships is because of the business. From my parents, I saw and understood what it meant to connect with others. To hold a conversation, to be engaged with people and to learn about their interests.”
Talia also wanted to learn more about herself, her passions and her culture. That’s why at age 19 she volunteered as a public health intern for the Young Women’s Christian Association in her mother’s hometown of Bengaluru, India. “I spent my summer teaching hygiene practices and developing nutrition education,” she said. “It was an opportunity to do service work with a community that was facing disparities. To be present with them. And to experience my family’s roots.”
Talia also volunteered at a nearby clinic helping people with brain and nervous system issues. As a student studying neuroscience, it showed Talia how important such care was and how hard it can be to get.
“I returned to California with worrying examples of health inequity and was determined to explore social determinants of health,” Talia said. “I realized that people didn’t have the option to pursue opportunities or even to dream if they didn’t have access to basic health care.”
Back at Santa Clara University, Talia added a public health minor to her neuroscience undergraduate degree. “My classes gave me hope by providing tools to discuss the health disparities I had seen in Bengaluru,” Talia said. “I learned about how to go into communities to really understand people’s needs and build with communities.”
Now Talia is earning her Master of Public Health at Columbia University. Her goal is to help create sustainable programs for underserved people. She knows there will be challenges, but she calls herself a “hopeful realist.” Talia explained, “If my goal was to solve everything, I’d feel overwhelmed. The goal of helping to improve health care is much more achievable.” Her Founders Memorial Scholarship helps it feel attainable, too.
And Talia’s not alone! “I’m just one part of a bigger movement toward progress and equity,” she said. “With everyone I’ve met who is passionate about public health and lifting people up, it gives me hope that we can do this because we’re all doing it together.”
Talia also continues to focus on the real people affected by these challenges, not just data and statistics. “The people I’ve met have left a lasting impression on me because they humanize the consequences of social determinants and social injustices in health care,” she said. “Their resounding resilience inspires me.”
IBO Founding Family
JOE + HELYNE VICTOR
We are pleased to award this year’s Founders Memorial Scholarship Award in memory of Joe and Helyne Victor to Talia. She epitomizes the leadership and empathy for humanity that Joe and Helyne always displayed throughout their lives. We know we will hear great things from her going forward.
– Jody and Kathy Victor
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