EPISD Student Spotlight: Mia Cadena, Burges High School
(BURGES HIGH SCHOOL -- May 17, 2021) — When senior Mia Cadena graduates, she’ll leave a lasting legacy for future students through the second-hand store she and her sisters launched at Burges in 2018. Bella’s Bargains started as a place to help lower-income students access school clothes, but quickly became a hang-out for students to mingle and be themselves. Community Engagement sat down virtually with the future Wellesley College freshman in this edition of the EPISD Student Spotlight to talk about Bella’s Bargains and what she’s doing to make the most of her senior year.
EPISD: Tell us about Bella's Bargains and why you and your sisters started it?
MIA CADENA: Bella’s Bargains is a nonprofit store on my high school campus that my sisters and I founded in 2018. Our high school has a large homeless and low-income student population and through Bella’s, we have been able to help students in need. The intent of the store is multifaceted. It provides students free clothing and toiletries, as well as a and judgment-free space to share their stories. My role as co-founder and president is to maintain strong community relations to ensure a constant stream of donations. I also oversee the student officer board and facilitate their yearly required projects to improve the organization.
EPISD: What has it meant to you to be able to help the community through Bella's Bargains?
MC: In the short 55 minutes of lunch, Bella’s becomes a melting pot of students; the debaters in the suits section, the theatre students in the costume section; and athletes in the athletics section. Each day students from all across campus stumble into Bella’s and end up sharing a part of themselves with our organization. A community is usually built from those with common interests, but the opposite is true with Bella’s Bargains. Our community is made up of students with different backgrounds, social circles and passions. The ability that Bella’s has to bring people together is what makes it so meaningful. Unlike my other activities, Bella’s has impacted the lives of hundreds of students and has cemented itself as a permanent fixture at my school.
EPISD: Why was it important for you to start up the project again during the pandemic? What have you done to expand Bella's Bargains and/or maintain it?
MC: We have struggled very much to get Bella’s back up and running. The fall semester, we weren’t allowed on campus and because Bella’s operates from Burges it was difficult to receive approval. It is unfortunate that we weren’t able to provide support to our community during this difficult time. Our organization is ready to make up for lost time and get back to work. Bella’s will absolutely continue once I graduate, it will be left in the hands of our underclassmen officers and amazing advisor Nancy Priego.
EPISD: Do you have any advice for students who want to launch something similar to Bella's Bargains?
MC: Simply put, do not hesitate to act. If you are passionate about community service work don’t let anyone or anything stand in the way of reaching your goal.
EPISD: How are you thriving in school during the pandemic?
MC: I’m so thankful for being a senior during these turbulent times. My course load is very small and flexible. I have been able to thrive in school by adapting and utilizing the flexibility of my classes to my advantage.
EPISD: How are you staying involved in school – especially extracurricular activities?
MC: I currently hold leadership positions in three of my extracurricular organizations. I’m the president of the Burges Speech and Debate Team, copy assistant for the Hoofbeats Yearbook, and President of BECHS Buddies. All of which have kept me busy this year.
EPISD: What are you doing to make the most of your senior year?
MC: Since I’ve been home all year, I have been able to spend more time with my grandparents who live with me. I’ve been able to learn so much about their lives and appreciate where I come from before leaving for college.
EPISD: What are your honors and achievements in high school?
MC: Yearbook: CSPA Crown Winner 2019-20, NSPA Pacemaker Winner 2019-20, UIL Press Conference: First Place Academic Feature Story. Debate: National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA): Top West Texas Competitor(11th,12th), NSDA National Qualifier (10th,11th), Texas Forensic Association (TFA) State Qualifier (9th,10th,11th,12th), TFA State Impromptu Speaking Finalist- 2 Place in state (12th), TFA Impromptu Speaking Semifinalist (10th,11th), UIL Congressional Debate State Qualifier (11th), UIL Cross-Examination Debate State Qualifier (9th), UIL Regional Qualifier (9th,10th)
EPISD: What extracurricular activities are you involved in?
MC: Bella’s Bargains, speech and debate, yearbook, Student Council, BECHS Buddies, mock trial, National Honor Society.
EPISD: Where do you plan to go to college and will you study?
MC: have officially committed to Wellesley College, which is amazing because it was one of my top choices. I will be calling Massachusetts my home for the next four years and have the privilege of walking the same halls as notable alumni like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Madeleine Albright. I will be going in undeclared but am a prospective International Relations major.
EPISD: What is the first thing you plan to do when the pandemic is over?
MC: It will be a while until we stop feeling the effects of the pandemic, but I’m excited for the little things like having people over, going to the movies or going to concerts.