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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

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Valedictorian reflects on time at Notre Dame

Isabela Tasende was named valedictorian of the class of 2024 and will deliver valedictory remarks at the commencement ceremony on May 19. As a political science and economics major, she has maintained a 4.0 GPA and has earned a place on the dean’s list every semester. She has won the O’Donnell Prize for the best thesis in comparative politics, studying the Venezuelan military in upholding the Authoritarian regime. 

Tasende said being valedictorian has “meant the whole world to me.“ 

“It’s a weird feeling because I am so unbelievably grateful and honored for the chance to speak to my classmates and to get this opportunity and this privilege. It’s just a sense of immense gratitude,” she explained. 

Tasende emphasized the challenge of balancing academic work with other time aspects of life.

“Notre Dame says ‘heart, mind, and soul,’ but really taking that to heart and looking at education holistically and trying to prioritize your time to make allow for exploration and fun,” she said. 

Tasende was president of the Latino Honor Society, the director of communications for the pre-law board and the director of casing for Consulting Connect. She also worked as a peer mentor for Building Bridges, a copy editor for the Keough School’s Global Ambassador magazine and a volunteer for the charity Cultivate Food Rescue in South Bend.

Tasende stressed the importance of building relationships at Notre Dame.

“Another piece that has been fundamental to having my college experience has been the relationships I have formed while here. Whether that’s friends, peers or mentors, taking advantage of the incredible opportunity that Notre Dame offers. I found that relationships are what have truly allowed me to take advantage of the resources that are here,” she said.

Tasende explained having a sense of gratitude and a positive attiude were essential for motivating her to succeed.

“I feel like there are two ways to go about it. You can either white knuckle your way through life and just push and grid, and that can work. But I have learned that leads to burnout,“ Tasende said. “I have a good friend at home who says ‘Don’t say “I have to do this homework.“ I get to do this homework.’ I think with that mentality, the privilege of a Notre Dame education will motivate you way more than any type of self-pressure to succeed would.”

During her time at Notre Dame, Tasende also founded Somos Voces, a charity in Panama, to help teenage mothers who could not finish their education get their high school diplomas and establish themselves in the workforce.

“It’s a very big problem in Panama. One out of three pregnancies are from a teenage girl,” she explained.

The charity has “done everything from advocacy to building spaces where the young mothers could finish [their] education and fundraising to give them grants to go to College for the top two in the class.”

Tasende has assisted professor Abby Córdova through the Kellogg International Scholars Program in studying violence against women in Central America. She said that it has “complimented the practice experience of it with what the literature says and what the trends are.” 

Tasende will continue volunteering with women’s organizations in Panama this summer before she starts her job at Bain Consulting.