Indiana University is definitely a family affair. My mom and four or five cousins went here, and I have three more cousins who will graduate with me. Coming to IU was kind of a no brainer.
The first time I visited was so long ago that I can't remember, but I'll never forget orientation. I was so taken with how beautiful everything looked and the number of people walking around. Even though there are 40,000 people on campus, I manage to see the same people over and over again. It's been a great way to make friends and meet really cool people. In many ways, it's a new experience for me.
I come from a rural, conservative Christian community with no diversity. A lot of people have never even realized I'm biracial; they just think I'm really tan. So coming to IU Bloomington and seeing and meeting so many different types of people from so many backgrounds has been really eye opening. It has also been a bit of a relief to be in a place where I fit in.
Another eye-opening experience was the course "Diversity in a Pluralistic Society." It was easily my favorite class of fall semester. It taught me so much about racism, sexism, classism, and other societal issues that a lot of people believe ended in the 1960s. Those things are still happening, and more importantly, they should be taken seriously. It's helped change my perspective on experiences that I've had in the past. Things I thought were normal were actually wrong.
Outside of class, I'm involved in the Read to Succeed program. We went to the Boys and Girls Club twice a week, and let the "buddy" we are paired with read a book or two to us each day. On occasion, we also help with their homework. The program is geared toward children who are struggling to keep up with their peers academically, and I've seen progress with a lot of the kids. I've also noticed how much the children appreciate having someone to tell about things going in their home lives or at school. The club is really like a place for them to just get away and not worry about problems either at school or home.
That same ability to serve as a role model is part of the reason why I started participating in pageants back home. By doing pageants and making myself a very visible person in the community, I can show the other children that they can be anything they want—no matter their skin color, hair style, or body type. I wish I'd had someone like that growing up, so I'm more than happy to fill that role for the kids now.
When I got to IU, I never expected to learn so much so quickly, but I'm loving it. I'm also loving the independence. I think I needed it to become my own person, and my parents have been awesome at making sure I'm okay while also giving me the space to grow.