Class of 2015 Success Stories: A dedication to those in need
Student devotes time to helping local Latino community
By Jen Sobolewski
Adriana Darris is not one to sit back and let others take the lead. The senior is graduating from Bowling Green State University with degrees in biology and Spanish and a lengthy list of accomplishments that span leadership positions to community volunteering.
Her contributions to not only campus, but also northwest Ohio, are truly impressive. The southeast Michigan native is the founder of the student group The Collective, for leaders of marginalized groups, is the former president of the Latino Student Union (LSU), and is the founding student member of La Conexion de Wood County, a Latino community group that hosts events, provides outreach and also teaches English classes.
"you grow so much seeing the ways people can learn and the ways they’ve never been challenged before"Darris is also a Latino Community Center volunteer for Adelante, a Latino and community resource center in Toledo, where she helps to educate pregnant women and created a new youth program; a migrant farm worker advocate. She has also served as a Wood County Hospital volunteer in the BG Welcome Center, and has participated in the BG alternative breaks program, Habitat for Humanity, Not in Our Town and the Martin Luther King Junior Day of Service Challenge.
“I volunteer because I feel able and privileged and it’s a way to give back,” she explained. “It really motivates me. All the people I meet, you learn their stories and learn so much from them. There is a selfish piece as well; you grow so much seeing the ways people can learn and the ways they’ve never been challenged before. That’s what keeps me volunteering even when it gets difficult.”
Darris is African-American and Mexican. She said she grew up learning quite a bit about African-American culture, but hadn’t really explored her Latina side until she came to BGSU. When she arrived on campus she joined LSU and said she really got to explore the Mexican side of her heritage. That exploration drew her to the local migrant worker population.
“As soon as I saw the way migrant workers were treated, I felt I needed to help. Whether it was baking cookies or tutoring their kids—anything I can do to use what I know and help these people is what I wanted to do. The Latino community is so big in northwest Ohio, but so underserved. I really wanted to find ways to first see what the community needed, and then find out how to address those needs.”
Darris works with the First Presbyterian Church in Bowling Green to find resources for local migrant workers and their families. She tutors the workers’ children twice a week while they attend English classes.
While activism is in her blood, Darris hopes to become a doctor, focusing on impoverished communities. She’ll take the MCAT this summer and later apply to medical schools after a stint in the Peace Corps. She’ll head to Guatemala this fall to teach health education in the schools there.
“It was always in the back of my mind—did I want to go in the Peace Corps after graduation? Then I did a semester in India and saw the public health system there and saw the need and decided I had to join the Peace Corps before committing to anything to see how people experience medicine and the different ways to do medicine.”
Darris said her time at BGSU gave her the space to find herself.
“I know a lot of universities where I couldn’t walk up to VP (Jill) Carr and say ‘What you are doing needs to change.’ But, BGSU has those avenues where I can explore my activist side and try to change BGSU, to give voice to the organizations I’m involved in.
“People say when you’re in college you can feel like you can do anything. You start to learn so much and you’re like, ‘What if I told someone how it feels to be bi-racial in BG? Maybe they can do something about it.’”