A member of the Leo Club for four years and president of the District 50 club, she was heavily involved in student life and was focused on gaining as much leadership experience as possible before beginning her college career.
Angelica hoped to attend Concordia University, a private Lutheran university in Portland, Oregon, where she wanted to study psychology and continue serving others. “I looked for a school with a mission to prepare leaders for society,” she said.
But as Angelica sorted her way through club meetings and college applications, her health started to decline. She began losing her hair and, soon, her appetite. Soon after, she started experiencing joint pain in her knees and developed a rash on her face. After a week-long hospital visit and numerous tests, doctors diagnosed Angelica with lupus, a genetic disease that had also affected one of her cousins.
“It was a really difficult time,” said Angelica. “It was hard on my parents, because I’m their youngest child. It was just overwhelming—we had to learn how to come together and process together.”
As her family began to cope with their new normal, Angelica’s pediatric rheumatologist approached them with the idea of a wish. They didn’t know much about Make-A-Wish Hawaii at the time, but they proceeded with the referral, hoping it would be an opportunity to refocus on Angelica’s future and to shed light into their lives at a particularly dark time.
Angelica knew immediately what her one true wish would be: to visit her top-choice college, Concordia University. “I was really excited to see if I could go visit my dream school,” she said. It was just a few months before graduation, and visiting Concordia would be the perfect reminder that there is life beyond illness and hope for the future.
Making her wish even sweeter, Angelica found out on her 18th birthday that she had been accepted to Concordia. Her dream school was no longer just a dream—it was coming true. And her wish would allow her to explore the site of what would soon become the start of a new chapter in her life.
When the plane touched down in Oregon, Angelica and her family wasted no time. “We did a lot on that first day,” said Angelica. “We got to the school, sat in a psychology class, and went on a tour.” But the biggest surprise was when Concordia staff, students, and faculty surprised Angelica and welcomed her to their family. “They were standing there like they were opening a red carpet for me,” she said.
Angelica looked around at her future classmates and professors holding #AlohaAngelica signs and leis; teary-eyed, she listened to their cheers and felt her heart swell with pride. “It was just so much aloha from Oregon,” she said. “I really felt like I was home, and I couldn’t wait to be a Concordia Cavalier.”
Angelica also sensed that the wish was a sign from God that everything was going to be okay: “I noticed all these different signs that God was still there trying to give me a sense of hope that it’s not over; it’s just starting.”
When Angelica returned home, it felt like a weight had been lifted. The wish had relieved and inspired her family during one of their darkest times. And soon, she was using her experience to inspire others.
On the last day of high school, Angelica spoke about the power of a wish and the role it had played in her life. As dancers from a creative dance class interpreted her words through movement, Angelica shared her story with her classmates and embraced the support of her community. “I was hesitant at first—not wanting to expose what I had been through,” she said. “But experiencing this community helped bring back the hope that I needed.”
While Angelica was not able to complete her undergraduate career at Concordia due to medical complications, her experiences there, both during her wish experience and afterward, continue to inspire her in service of others. She is an active volunteer in the community and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in public administration at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu while also working for the city and county. Someday, she hopes to return to Concordia for a graduate degree.
“My wish really changed my life a lot,” she said. “It was a stepping stone for me to learn how I could light my way through darkness. I learned that it’s not always about what the situation is, but what’s in front of you and how you can use that as a blessing.”
Read more about Angelica's wish here.