Val Cyphers is a fourth-year double-majoring in English and biology. Outside of her classes, Val is an ADAPT Peer Educator and a former co-chair of the program. Val also volunteers with the Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry; as a patient ambassador with Madison House's Medical Services; and is a volunteer with the Adopt-a-Grandparent program. Val has also served as a member of the University Advisory Committee on Alcohol and Substance Misuse.
How did you first get involved?
I saw service work as a platform I could use to tackle key issues I noticed within the UVA community and the greater Charlottesville area. For instance, I joined ADAPT because I recognized the need to dispel misinformation surrounding substance use and increase the use of safer drinking strategies among students who choose to drink. I also became involved with Madison House to connect with non-student communities.
What has been most rewarding?
It would have to be the conversations I have with others. Volunteering has allowed me to hear incredible stories and make personal, impactful connections with people I would never have otherwise had the chance to meet. Making others feel listened to and cared about through these sorts of interactions is what motivates me to give back.
How do you plan to be involved in the community in the future?
My commitment is to promote a safer, more informed student body with respect to alcohol and other drugs and address aspects of substance use that are most relevant to student life. In ADAPT, for example, we are in the process of creating new educational programming resources and a University-wide initiative about vaping. I see service as a lifelong endeavor for myself, so after graduation, I hope to integrate my passion for health and wellness promotion into new volunteer roles.
How would you encourage others to get involved?
There are so many service opportunities in Charlottesville, so I would encourage people who are looking into getting involved to first reflect on what you hope to gain from service work and what opportunities align best with your interests. Volunteering will be far more rewarding if you are invested and passionate about what you're doing!
What is the greatest class you have taken at UVA?
African American Literature. I took this class as a first-year, and it not only shaped my perspectives on the University and larger social problems but also convinced me to major in English. The novels and stories we read in the course were some of the most powerful and emotionally-charged texts I've encountered, which showed me the importance of writing in expressing and understanding the human experience.
If you could do one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be?
If I had the power to do anything at all, I would make health coverage affordable for everyone. Concurrently, I would increase cost transparency and price regulation within the healthcare industry. These are important steps if we are to truly recognize and treat healthcare as a basic human right.