When Adventure Calls: The Spirit of a Bobcat
Bobcats are resilient, and Cynthia Inglett epitomizes the courage, vitality and resolve of Texas State.
An adventurer by heart, it was the call of opportunity that would lead her to Texas State University, where she graduated in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies with a minor in nature and heritage tourism.
Ever the explorer, Inglett joined the Peace Corps after graduation and was assigned to Panama. Her responsibilities revolved around educating locals about sustainable agricultural practices while working closely with Panamanian officials to help solve local environmental issues.
That was until the COVID-19 pandemic began to escalate and she was promptly evacuated from the country.
Though she remained in the nation for only a short time, and not the two years that was originally anticipated, her experiences in the Central American nation — and at Texas State — have proved to be fundamental in her success and desire to do and see more.
The First Step of a Journey
The decision to attend Texas State was an easy one for Inglett. “It was versatile in a lot of areas. Even though I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to work in the environmental field. A lot of other schools offered programs like nursing or business, but few offered programs in environmental studies.”
Her experiences at the university would only fuel her passion for making a difference in the world.
Guides Along the Way
“Student Support Services was impactful throughout my entire college career. They really helped me academically by providing me free, quality tutoring and workshops that taught me how to ‘adult,’ such as study habits and mindfulness.”
As a minority and first-generation student, she found the resources provided to her empowering. This includes her experiences with personal academic coaches. “My coaches gave me a ton of direction and motivation, especially when I felt exhausted after my second year of college. They really helped me get through all the hard classes I had while I was studying in wildlife management, as well as personal obstacles. They really helped to get me above water.”
“[Student Support Services] really helped me academically by providing me free, quality tutoring and workshops that taught me how to ‘adult,’ such as study habits and mindfulness.”
Inglett acknowledges a number of her professors who aided in her development, including Dr. Ronald Angelo Johnson, Dr. Rebekah Fox and Dr. Andrew Sansom. “They all motivated me throughout the years. Dr. Johnson would tell me, ‘Cynthia, you are going to get it.’ They made me want to try again and again. They pushed me not to give up. Even when I had to take a class more than once.”
This resiliency and steadfast determination were pivotal in her success — especially when it came to her joining the Peace Corps.
Beyond Texas State
Dr. Laura Rodriguez Amaya would introduce her to the idea of participating in the Peace Corps program. Inglett, recognizing the inherent value of exposing herself to new cultures and serving others, decided to apply to the agency.
Though the process was arduous and she faced a grueling interview, Inglett was ultimately chosen to become a Peace Corps volunteer. In early 2020, Inglett set out for the adventure of a lifetime, landing first in Miami, where she trained alongside a cohort of Peace Corps enlistees who were preparing to be sent across the globe.
But nothing could have truly prepared her for Panama.
“Panama was a whole new world,” says Inglett.
“I was in this small community called Los Mortales, and my host family was very welcoming. They really were caring and open, and it opened my mind as to how I could become a better person.”
A Resilient Community Breeds Strength
“One thing Peace Corps likes to teach is resiliency, because you’re away from home. You don’t always have the same commodities that we’re used to in the States. For instance, we only had running water on certain days of the week. And we had to take bucket baths with cold water. But it wasn’t tough when you just embraced the situation.”
The sense of community and togetherness of the people also had a profound effect on her.
“The community was so close-knit. If anything happened, whether celebratory or sad, they would share in the experience. One of my favorite things was that the community would come together in the town plaza every evening, and the kids would play soccer or in the playground,” Inglett recalls.
COVID-19 Shakes the World
Inglett was beginning to work with 22 of her peers on a community conservation program when the unexpected happened. By early April 2020, Panama would have its first COVID-19 case.
A meeting was held at Peace Corps’ Panama headquarters, and an extensive emergency evacuation was shared with all Peace Corps volunteers. But the urgency was even greater than expected.
After traveling to El Valle, Inglett returned to a raucous scene in Los Mortales. Volunteers were to leave the following morning; she was scrambling to gather her belongings when a second announcement was made — they were evacuating within the hour.
“Texas State taught me perspective and to stay motivated even when things get hard.”
“That whole experience was emotional and meaningful. With less than an hour to prepare, all the women of the De La Rosa family helped me. The men waited outside [somberly] and we all walked to the bus station under the clearest night sky I could’ve imagined,” remembers Inglett.
In the final moments with her Panamanian family, the community and volunteers all began to sing as they had done many times on the pleasant afternoons in the town square. The starry night would give way to rain just as the bus came to gather the volunteers.
“It was the quietest bus ride I had ever been on,” says Inglett.
The End of One Journey, The Beginning of Another
Though the journey came to a dramatic halt, she recalls the time spent in Panama with joy and pride.
“One of my favorite experiences was the time I climbed up a hill that had a great view of the sunset. We started walking up it, and people just began to join. It was like everyone was family. Once we got to the top, we began to play music and just dance, having a good time. I sat there on the side of this hilltop and as the sun was setting … it was just absolutely beautiful. It was really a great memory of my time there.”
Inglett credits Texas State for helping her to overcome the challenges she faced in Panama, stating, “Texas State taught me perspective and to stay motivated even when things get hard. It may sound cheesy, but if you have success in your head, and you’re motivated about what you want to accomplish, it can lead you far. Even the small victories matter.”
As a young Hispanic who recently uncovered her indigenous roots, she’s even more inspired to make a positive impact.
“I want to be an authentic person in everything I do. I feel empowered to do the things I want to do. To depend on my hard work and determination to get my message across that you can accomplish great things regardless of where you come from. You can do what you want to do.”
Cynthia Inglett’s journey is just beginning, but she is undoubtedly on her way to great things. ⭑
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