Meet the Class of 2020: Dulce Saldana – Silencing The Mental Heckler

Dulce SaldanaDulce Saldana
Temescal Canyon High School
Lake Elsinore Unified School District

Dulce Saldana’s senior year has been a challenging one. Like many seniors, she is saddened by missing prom and all the other traditional senior year and graduation traditions.

But, one of the highlights of her high school experience was attending a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) camp as a junior. The lessons from the camp have left a lasting impression that have carried her through the finish line of high school and prepared her for her next race to college.

RYLA camps help high school students in the Inland Empire develop life and leadership skills. In 2019, Rotary District 5330 invested in the lives of 1000 students like Dulce by sponsoring a chance to go to camp—an investment of nearly $375,000.

Camp Lessons Apply To Life

At the time, Dulce didn’t realize the importance of building her mental strength to deal with challenging topics. The day she returned from camp, she learned that her mother had been diagnosed with cancer.

“Those of us who attended, entered camp as strangers, but left as lifelong friends,” Dulce said. “We discussed tough topics like violence, cancer, suicide, and others, and the things I learned at camp helped me cope.”

Her mom’s health has remained steady over the last few months, but during the school closures, Dulce has had the opportunity to spend time with her mom and observe her indomitable strength.

“She’s very strong, and most people wouldn’t even notice that she’s going through anything. She doesn’t let anything bother her,” Dulce said. “Honestly, it makes me look up to her even more and I realized there are no excuses for me. I can do anything with enough emotional, physical, and mental strength.”

Life In Quarantine

During the stay-at-home orders, Dulce has helped her sister with babysitting and hasn’t had much schoolwork beyond extra credit assignments.

She did take an AP test from home and was one of the many students who experienced difficulties with the online submission and her test was not received.

“I took it calmly considering how many other reactions were possible. I just took a deep breath and will take the make-up test in June,” Dulce said.

Exercising that type of mental strength is a skill that Dulce has had plenty of practice with over the last six months.

“Sometimes I focus too much on what’s going on in my head and listen to the mental heckler,” Dulce said. “At the RYLA camp, the speaker used to talk about the danger of letting the mental heckler bring you down and that we have to take that person off our shoulder and stop focusing on the things we don’t like about ourselves.”

First In Her Family To Attend College

After Tuesday’s drive-up and virtual graduation ceremonies from Temescal Canyon High School in the Lake Elsinore Unified School District, a small family gathering to celebrate Dulce will take place at the family home.

“It will be a real graduation party because we told our family that the attire is cap and gown—for everybody,” Dulce said.

In the fall, she will attend UC Riverside and begin her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in mathematics—yet another new challenge to face in 2020.

“It’s kind of nerve-wracking knowing that I’m the first in my family to go to college, but I’m excited,” Dulce shared. “But, it’s just one more new thing that my family and I are going through.”