Orienting a Better Community

by Yuna Kim | 4/17/19 2:10am

 How many times have you had to tell someone a fun fact about yourself? It seems like we are constantly meeting new people, having new experiences or playing one icebreaker game or the other. Having strong support systems on campus helps us ease into the process that is “icebreaking,” and we can form these systems even before freshman year. 

Take Dartmouth Bound, for example. According to the Dartmouth Admissions website, Dartmouth Bound, a multi-day experience for rising high school seniors, gives prospective students an opportunity to learn about both the college application process and the college lifestyle. Dartmouth Bound is aimed toward students from historically underrepresented backgrounds, allowing them to explore the College on the Hill and, hopefully, build some lasting relationships. 

Mariana Penaloza ’22, who attended Dartmouth Bound the summer before her senior year of high school, said that the program provided her “a special opportunity” to navigate the “confusing” college application process. In particular, she shared that workshops covering topics ranging from financial aid, college essay writing and college courses were especially beneficial.  

“Because my parents are Spanish-speaking monolinguals, they don’t really know how to help me understand the college application process,” Peñaloza said. “Dartmouth Bound really teaches students how to apply and when to apply, and it also gives students who won’t be able to do college tours an amazing opportunity to figure out what they’re looking for in a school.”

Another program that aims to help students of diverse backgrounds succeed is the First-Year Student Enrichment Program, which, according to its website, provides resources to help first-year, first-generation college students transition more smoothly into the Dartmouth lifestyle.

Connor Hutto ’22, who participated in FYSEP this past fall, said the program was a defining part of his college transition period because it helped him connect with other Dartmouth students who shared his same concerns and struggles.

“I personally think it’s incredibly important to make sure first-generation students feel less isolated on campus so that they don’t feel like coming to a place like Dartmouth was a mistake,” Hutto said. “So many first-generation students come to college, feel like it was a mistake and then drop out because they didn’t have the resources that most kids just have built in within their families.” 

Similarly, Diana Alvarado ’22 said she found FYSEP to be quite useful in helping her prepare for her time at Dartmouth both academically and socially, especially as a first-generation, first-in-family college student. 

“It took a lot of weighing to decide whether or not I wanted to do FYSEP, but ultimately I realized that no matter how much my family loved me, there were things my parents just ultimately couldn’t teach me,” Alvarado said. “I remember thinking: ‘This is the program that will help me become the best version of myself that I could be in college.’” 

Even after the initial transition period into his fall term, Hutto said that he felt that FYSEP played a role throughout his freshman year simply because it gave him a sense of “perpetual community” on which he could always rely. Furthermore, Alvarado said that FYSEP gave her a sense of tight-knit community and knowledge that other people had gone through the experience she faced. Having that community, especially in a new environment such as Dartmouth, was especially meaningful. 

“I think FYSEP is especially helpful in assuring incoming freshmen that they have a place here, that they’re important here and that they have people who feel the same way that they do and who have been successful in the same shoes that they’re in right now,” Alvarado said.

Once on campus, the fight for inclusivity and community doesn’t stop. The Coalition for Immigration Reform and Equality at Dartmouth is a group of students with the mission of “advanc[ing] the rights of undocumented students at Dartmouth College and in the United States through raising awareness and educating the Dartmouth community on immigration issues and the undocumented experience,” according to its website. 

Juan Quinonez Zepeda ’22, who is a part of CoFIRED, discovered the program through his FYSEP mentor Jesus Franco ’20. He said CoFIRED has given him a meaningful opportunity to finally fight for issues that he has always had interest in but never got a chance to address, such as immigration advocacy and justice. 

“Before coming to Dartmouth, I used to be very scared of how to approach immigration issues and how to fight for undocumented people,” Zepeda said. “Being a part of CoFIRED has truly embedded in me this drive and dedication to fight for people all around the world who might be struggling with these issues.”

Whether it be before we get to Dartmouth, right before we start our time here or after we’ve been on this campus, we continue to break the ice with the aid of the support systems that we cultivate.