Freshman Amerika Armenta hasn’t looked west since she came to The University of Olivet, not even during the coldest winter days. A native of Mexico, but a resident of Arizona for the past 10 years, Amerika had anticipated that she would attend a local community college after her graduation from high school. That is, until a current student introduced to her to The University of Olivet and Provost and Dean Maria Davis, Ph.D.
From there, Amerika eagerly applied to Olivet and connected with admissions representatives. Because every student at Olivet receives a form of financial aid, that allowed Amerika the flexibility to attend a private, liberal arts college at an affordable cost. “It might seem crazy that I came all the way from Arizona to go to Olivet, but everyone at the school showed me that they really cared about me,” explained Amerika. “Not just me as a student, but me as a person too. The faculty and staff have taken time to understand the type of individualized attention I need and have worked with me every step of the way.”
Amerika is majoring in insurance and risk management, a program that boasts a near 100 percent job placement rate for graduates. In addition, she has joined the Alpha Alpha chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS), the college’s professional insurance fraternity. In just Amerika’s first year, she had the opportunity to travel to a national insurance convention and attend career workshops, job fairs, service projects and fundraisers. Through these experiences, Amerika learned that she had a passion for fundraising and has been elected to serve as a fundraising officer for GIS during the 2017-18 academic year.
“Gamma has been a great group to be involved with and to launch my academic and future professional career,” said Amerika. “I’ve really enjoyed these opportunities to act as an adult for the first time in my life.”
In addition, Amerika joined the Black Student Union (BSU), a group that has a strong commitment to recognizing and fostering the diversity on campus. Amerika valued the work BSU does, and was inspired to create something more specific to her Mexican heritage and raise awareness of Hispanic Culture. Olivet is home to more than 60 student clubs and organizations and welcomes students to create their own group if they prefer, so that’s just what Amerika set out to do.
Amerika and other interested students developed the concept for the Xicano Club, a term sometimes spelled and pronounced “Chicano” that represents Mexican-Americans. The Student Government Association regulates campus groups, and to begin five students with two advisers must form a club. With the support of several fellow Xicano students as well as Jason Meadows, associate dean for student life, and Lelio Casola, an adjunct professor who teaches Spanish, the Xicano Club was officially formed at the beginning of the 2017 spring semester.
“I’m so happy to have even more diversity recognized at Olivet,” said Amerika. “The Xicano club has big plans to not only make Olivet feel more like home for current Hispanic students, but also to attract more diverse students to campus.” In addition, the Olivet Xicano Club has made connections with Alsame, a Michigan-based non-profit serving to make education more accessible to Latinos and Hispanics by providing college scholarships to high school students. The Xicano Club also aims to connect with other similar student groups from around the state.
The club spent the first few months electing officers, planning community service outreach, holding regular meetings and shaping the future of the club. Amerika has served as president since the founding and will continue through the calendar year. Goals to hold events, travel to conferences and recruit more students are at the top of the list. In the fall, be on the lookout for Spanish-speaking concerts and Mexican cooking workshops.
As for Amerika’s educational goals, she looks forward to furthering her professional skills and identifying her insurance and risk management specialization. She is also excited to continue building relationships through her participation in extracurricular activities and might even try out for an athletic team. One thing, however, is certain, Amerika isn’t going to let Michigan winters keep her from enjoying being a Comet.
“Olivet’s campus is so beautiful and the people here are very friendly too,” said Amerika. “Dr. Davis even dropped me off and picked me up at the airport over Christmas break. I don’t know anyone else who can say they have that type of support at other colleges.”