Villa Maria del Triunfo. It’s a name that rolls off the tongue with the elegance of an upscale Spanish neighborhood – not a shanty town where residents literally lack roofs over their heads. What Aisha Crawford ’13 witnessed while on a service trip to this small Peruvian village profoundly affected her: Two families sharing little more than four walls, a few chickens and a daily jug of water.

Aisha traveled to Peru as part of her Lloyd International Honors College experience. Studying abroad not only exposed her to different cultures; it tapped in to her innate desire to serve others.

“That village blew me away. I was brought to tears. It was the smelliest and dirtiest yet happiest, most fun and energetic place. They were the happiest people I had ever met. I was so humbled.”

Triunfo translates to “triumph”

Aisha and her teammates carried materials to the mountain’s peak, 200 steps up, and constructed homes with adequate shelter. Suddenly the families had more than just walls surrounding them. They were protected by a roof and comforted by the knowledge that others cared.

“I spent most weekends in the village rather than the city [of Lima]. I wanted to get to know the real people who lived there.”

That quality — the desire to engage in all kinds of learning opportunities — is part of what makes Aisha such an outstanding student. She loves to learn. “Education is how I show my appreciation for the people who fought for me to be here,” Aisha says, citing strong support from her mother and grandmother, who encourage her to excel in school.

An honors student and Red Robin Scholar who has a top GPA and the competitive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, Aisha has made them proud. But they are just as proud of her consistent participation in a variety of service and outreach programs.

“Some people knit. Some people run. For me, volunteering is a diehard passion. Once I learned that UNCG stresses service, I knew I was going to get some different opportunities.”

In addition to her academics, Aisha is committed to sharing “UNCG’s brand of service” across campus and beyond. She’s participated in nine UNCG service trips – weeklong volunteer experiences designed and executed by students – and served as the leader for three of them.

Bringing people together

“People tend to put themselves in a box. I like leading the trips because I can help break those boxes down. At the end of the day, we’re all people. No matter whether you are Republican, Democrat or Independent, gay or straight, we are all people who sometimes need one another to get through.”

Next May, Aisha will earn a degree in political science with minors in Spanish and sociology. She will follow that up with a post-undergraduate certificate in non-profit management. “I’m learning how to make changes in the world.”

Before applying to Harvard Law School or pursuing a Masters in public policy, Aisha will see where life leads her. Currently she has applications under review by City Year Americorps and the Fulbright International Exchange Program. One would take her to a year of service in a yet-to-be-decided city. The other would find her teaching English to schoolchildren in Malaysia.

“Taking a risk can be scary. But I like challenging myself.”

Photography supplied by Aisha Crawford