In looking for a school, Esmeralda Alejandre knew two things: she wanted to stay close to her hometown of Cedaredge, Colo., and she wanted to live in a small town.
Her high school principal had attended Western, and he encouraged her to apply.
“Also, I wanted to stay close to my family since I was the first generation to go to college,” she says. “I didn’t want to go somewhere where I didn’t know people.”
Still, Alejandre, a senior majoring in Sociology and minoring in Spanish and English, had a tough first semester. She missed her family and made the two-hour drive home almost every weekend. That is, until she discovered Western’s Multicultural Center.
“I’ve received so many opportunities here, and it’s just home away from home,” she says.
Through the Multicultural Center, she got involved in Amigos, the Latin American culture club, of which she is now president. Her trips home became less frequent as she adjusted to life as a Mountaineer.
Besides leading Amigos, Alejandre serves as a student ambassador, an orientation leader and a Student Government Association senator, and she has a work-study position at the Multicultural Center. Off campus, she volunteers with a Latina group at the Gunnison Middle School and is completing an internship at the local nursing home.
“I feel like, here you have your own voice, you can do so much — whatever you want to do — you have so much support,” Alejandre explains. “You have the faculty, you have (Dean of Students) Gary Pierson, you just have unconditional support. You do count.”
Though she considered transferring to larger school, she decided that Western’s small class sizes and her close relationships with her professors gave her opportunities that she wouldn’t have had at a larger school.
“I wouldn’t be who I am right now basically because I’ve gained so many skills,” she says. “I’m a leader here and I’m not sure I would have been the same leader if I was in a bigger school.”
Photo and story by Laura Anderson, University Communications.