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IPFW grad reaches world of students

September 11, 2018

It was official. Anita Henestrosa quit her corporate sales position, donated all of her belongings and gave up her apartment.

She had one backpack as she set off to take on her new dream of becoming a motivational speaker for 30,000 students in 30 nations in the span of 330 days.

While the idea, Mapit30k, was terrifying to the 27-year-old, it was worth it.

“The mission of the project was to inspire kids so that they would believe in themselves, and create, and set up a future that they like living,” Henestrosa said.

The nonprofit project started in August 2017, but the road to Mapit30k wasn’t easy.

Growing up in Switzerland, Henestrosa’s goal was to play tennis and receive a full athletic scholarship at a top American university.

However, she was constantly bullied for her height (she’s 4-foot-10) and bad grades. After learning how to stick up for herself and working hard in school, she attended IPFW (now Purdue University Fort Wayne) in 2011, and earned MVP and Player of the Year honors for tennis.

Soon after graduating, Henestrosa became interested in volunteer work and traveled to Brazil to work in the favelas, or slums, of Rio de Janeiro for four months.

There, she was able to work with children and teach them English, which provided them the opportunity to have a better life outside of the favelas.

“Helping others and helping kids really fulfilled me and really inspired me,” Henestrosa said.

Once she came back to America, she accepted a corporate sales position and moved from Fort Wayne to San Francisco. While she was doing a little volunteer work on the side, she felt the need to do more.

“I wanted to impact other people, especially kids, that aren’t as fortunate,” Henestrosa said. “So that’s really where my inspiration came from.”

After one year, she quit her job and began planning Mapit30k. Henestrosa had one backpack and 33 items to her name. With mostly clothes, a small laptop and camera, she purchased a plane ticket for her first destination: Iceland.

But her first speech was a little discouraging, with only seven students in attendance.

Low attendance was common while visiting Europe. After three to four months on the road, her attendance was just over 3,000 students.

“At that point I was really discouraged, because there was no way I could ever get to 30,000,” Henestrosa said.

There were other obstacles along the way, the biggest being Henestrosa wasn’t a known speaker. Many schools turned her down, and even getting her foot in the door was a challenge.

“I wasn’t known in any of these countries, so I had to start from scratch in every single country, which means I had to start from scratch 30 different times,” Henestrosa said.

The 27-year-old also experienced self-doubt, and in many of the countries she visited, it was dangerous for a woman to travel alone.

Things began to turn around when Henestrosa visited Nepal. From there, more schools became interested. She became experienced in adapting speeches for different cultures.

“Typically when we have speakers, I always see some students talking or disengaged, but when Anita came, it was different,” said Rajan Raj Pant, IT coordinator of the International School of Management and Technology College in Nepal. “All students were listening, attentive and extremely engaged. She has an incredible way to connect with students.”

Henestrosa’s speeches revolve around inspiring students to create a future they enjoy living.

Most of her students are between 12 and 19.

She teaches them life skills as well, including how to establish goals, how to build a growth mindset and the importance of a strong support team.

“I share some of my stories of when I was struggling in life, and I hope it gives them inspiration, so that they can have confidence in themselves and that they can do and accomplish whatever they set their mind to,” Henestrosa said.

Megha, an orphan living in Nepal, attended one of Henestrosa’s speeches. While Megha wants to continue going to school, she can’t afford to buy books or pay for college.

“Sometimes I feel discouraged because I don’t know how to continue and I want to stop trying,” Megha wrote to Henestrosa. “Your speech gave me confidence and inspired me to always keep trying and to do my best.”

In June, 30,000 students became a reality as Henestrosa wrapped up her travels through the Americas, Europe and Asia in 323 days.

But she’s not stopping there. Henestrosa wants to write a book to help students practice the life skills she teaches about.

“What I saw traveling to all of these schools and speaking to students is that in schools, they teach academic things, which is great,” Henestrosa said.

“But a lot of times, they don’t teach important life skills.”

cstefanski@jg.net

Events

• Back-to-school nights are planned this week at these Fort Wayne Community schools: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Bunche and 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at St. Joseph Central.

• Indiana Tech’s College of Professional Studies will host an open house from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Andorfer Commons, 1600 E. Washington Blvd. A light dinner will be served. Go to ind.tc/openhouse for more information or to RSVP.

• Celebrate Bishop Luers’ 60th anniversary during homecoming Friday. The schedule includes Mass at 4:30 p.m.; a tailgate dinner at 5:30 p.m.; the football game at 7 p.m.; and a party from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. at Bishop Luers West at Paulding Road and Noll Avenue.

• U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, will host a Service Academy Day at the Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sept. 22. Learn about the process and requirements to apply for nominations to the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. To expedite security, those attending should RSVP by Sept. 20 to RepBanksAcademies@mail.house.gov. Provide the driver’s license number, state of issuance, birth date and full name of all attending.

Scholarship

• Questa Education Foundation announced Morgan Smith, Nicole Coleman, Aubrey Brinneman, Amanda Holland, Mary Podlaski, Kendra Amaya, Celina Jones and Samantha Luick are the fall 2018 recipients of the Virgil J. and Mildred C. Roy Nursing scholarship. The award is for nursing students pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

Students and parents who have a favorite teacher can nominate the individual for Teacher Honor Roll. Send nominations to The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802; fax 461-8893 or email asloboda@jg.net.

To submit an item, send a typed release from the school or organization to Education Notebook, The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802; fax 461-8893 or email asloboda@jg.net at least two weeks before the desired publication date.