In May, I was awarded the June Erreca “Honoring the Heart of Volunteering” Award. June was a charter member of the Soroptimist International of Los Banos since 1962. She held the honorable title of past Governor of the Sierra Pacific Region of California as well as office in the Federation Level.
Over the years, June was involved with numerous and varied non-profit, charitable organizations. One such venture, “Care About People,” was established by June, and was premised on critical and immediate needs of individuals not being met in other community programs.
June’s dedication helped raise much needed funds. Medical assistance, transportation, and housing were donated to help alleviate the problems.
June also recognized a lack of quality medical care within the Los Banos community, went and sought Doctors and their families, asking them to consider relocation for the purpose of establishing their practice.
Many to this day still live and work within the medical community that she helped relocate. Another area June was heavily involved, was the Milliken Museum and Historical Society, as both member and volunteer where she learned of local and surrounding area history.
Receiving this award that was dedicated to June, made me feel honor and gratitude beyond the expression of words. Growing up, I was exposed to many diverse types of people and cultures that I have learned from and been inspired by. I’ve lived in the heavily populated suburbs of Los Angeles, visited India every summer, and moved to a rural town.
Ever since I was one year old, I would spend my summers in India. My grandma would find time to teach me the cultural and traditional background of henna art while she would do henna on me.
I would wait hours for the moment I got to sit on the stair steps with my grandma and she would intricately design my hands. Whenever summer was over and I had to come back to America, the moments I’d miss the most were the ones where I got my henna done.
Being in a small town, I started to practice henna on myself. When I started going to school, my peers expressed a lot of curiosity and interest in learning more about henna and if they could get it done on themselves as well.
I started my henna business, which I named “Prishaa’s Creations,” in the 6th grade. Being self-taught, I found that henna allowed me to feel close to my heritage while being able to teach my community about my culture.
I was able to use my experiences growing up to share a different perspective in my community. I was able to inspire, educate, and portray diversity in my small town by participating in community events such as Street Fairs, Maker’s Markets, and school events to fundraise for clubs.
The curiosity of my peers in elementary helped me grow my entrepreneurial skills while being able to express myself and my heritage. Even being in a small town, Los Banos helped me feel closer to my culture than ever.
Over the years, Los Banos High School and clubs such as the Future Farmers of America gave me a platform to share my voice with my community. I became highly involved in my community.
I began advocating through public speaking and my writing. I placed first place in a state level public speaking competition at UC Davis, and even became a correspondent for the local Westside Express Newspaper to ignite new ideas within my community.
I was able to creatively take the initiative to write in the newspaper to be part of a greater movement that would promote cultural awareness, self-expression, unite people together, and inspire our society to flourish.
By learning more of my abilities and the outreach that I can achieve, I began my volunteering journey.
Throughout high school, I became absorbed in extracurriculars such as Varsity Golf all four years of high school, Soroptimist where I helped donate to women’s shelters, Academic Decathlon, Environmental Club, National Society of High School Scholars, California Scholarship Federation, Volunteerism, and Advocacy through Public Speaking.
I also became President of Mu Alpha Theta National Math Honor Society where I tutored students of all math levels to help them develop their confidence in math and achieve higher academic excellence, and was elected Treasurer of Rotary Interact where I organized fundraisers, donated to shelters, and worked toward improving the town by painting fences and picking up trash around parks.
These endeavors enabled me to connect with my community members and have a taste for the outreach I am striving to achieve as a future Lawyer with a background in Business, Economics, and Ethics.
Los Banos has left an everlasting impression on me by empowering me to be a better version of myself – not just through its support and the love this town has offered me such as through its June Erreca Award, but through its opportunities where I have grown and become the person I am today.

Prishaa Vala