WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Being thankful for the opportunities the United States has given her, Senior Airman Nikki Narvasa’s vision to repay her gratitude by helping military members and retirees is closer to becoming a reality.
Born in the Philippines, Narvasa, a health services management technician at the 88th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, flight and occupational medicine, moved to the United States at the age of 15, with her parents Ardo and Nelly and three younger sisters, Avy, Aina and Nicole, with the hope of better opportunities and to live the American dream.
Wanting to provide a better life for his family, in 2003, Narvasa’s father obtained a work visa and moved ahead of his family to California to work as an electrical engineer. Once he was established and had saved enough money, his plan was to send for his wife and daughters to join him to begin their lives in the new country. However, the dream did not begin quite as planned.
“Not understanding the labor laws in the United States, for years my father was not being properly paid for the work he accomplished,” said Narvasa. “The company he was working for at that time had been paying him a part-time salary when he had been working full-time hours.”
Narvasa’s father had to work for five years with that company before he had earned enough money to relocate his family.
“There were many adjustments coming to the United States,” said Narvasa. “Fortunately I knew basic English from learning at the school I attended in the Philippines, but attending the schools in the states was an adjustment. Because of my parents limited knowledge of how things worked in the United States, I had to research everything myself with figuring out how to enroll in college to how to lease an apartment.”
After high school, Narvasa received her associate degree from Riverside City College, a local community college in California, and went on to graduate from UCLA receiving two bachelor degrees, one in Philosophy and the other in Labor and Workplace Studies. It was during that time that Narvasa’s passion to help others and her desire to become a lawyer was realized.
“My father was still working for that same company and continued to be exploited,” said Narvasa. “I wanted to help my father but I did not know what to do. So I gathered all the resources I could find and I learned about labor laws and regulations that protect immigrant workers from exploitation.”
After educating herself as much as she could, Narvasa said she learned that they were able to file a lawsuit to help her father. As a result, he was compensated for all the hours that he was not paid and the company was investigated. As a result of the lawsuit and investigation, Narvasa said the other immigrant workers were no longer being exploited and were being paid the proper wages. After the lawsuit, Narvasa’s father resigned from that company and is now employed with the California Department of Transportation.
Wanting to give back to the country that had given her so many opportunities, Narvasa made the decision to join the Air Force in 2014 and with the support of the Air Force, Narvasa received her United States citizenship upon enlisting.
As a health services management technician, Narvasa is the only administrative support for the 88th Aerospace Medicine Squadron keeping track of pilot’s flying statuses and scheduling physicals and medical clearances. She is currently attending Wright State University and will complete her MBA in April specializing in International Business.
“I met retired Col. Emi Izawa when she was the 88th Mission Support Group commander and as a fellow Asian American, she was a big inspiration to me,” said Narvasa. When I told her about my goals, she motivated me to pursue my master’s degree. She has made a big impact on me and continues to be a great mentor.”
And she is not stopping there. Scoring in the top 25 percent of the test participants, Narvasa passed the law school aptitude test and has been accepted into law school. She will be separating from the Air Force in June to attend law school.
“My goal is to attend law school to become a public interest lawyer, pass the bar exam and return to the Air Force,” said Narvasa. “I want to give back to America for the opportunities that I was given and I can do that by serving as a judge advocate in the Air Force. I can bring the acquired knowledge back with me to the Air Force to help our veterans and service members.”