Prairie Stars on The Move: Areli Calderon


Sexual assault is a horrible crime and a major issue in American society. Areli has made it her mission to support the victims and survivors of sexual assault in any way she possibly can. She is a member of many organizations that actively support the survivors of sexual assault as well as being an advocate on her own time.

Several years ago, Areli attended Take Back the Night, an event dedicated to fighting sexual assault and domestic abuse. While there, she saw members of the Gamma Phi Omega sorority on stage, supporting each other and all survivors. As a survivor of childhood sexual assault herself, what she saw inspired her to join the sorority. Since then, she has become the secretary of the organization. The sisters of Gamma Phi Omega supported her as she spoke out against sexual assault at an event held at the since-closed Black Sheep Café and as she stood blindfolded with a sign supporting assault survivors on her 20th birthday.

She helps new, first-generation students acclimate to college life in her role as student mentor in the Necessary Steps Mentoring Program. When she started her college career, the people within this program were the support group that encouraged her to succeed, despite the disadvantages that come with being a first-generation college student. As a student mentor, she uses her experiences from her first years of college to help students in similar situations. By serving as a role model that offers emotional support and academic help, she makes beginning college far less intimidating for these new students and offers them an improved chance at success.

Areli’s advocacy goes beyond UIS organizations. She is a Certified Sexual Assault Advocate at the Prairie Center. The Prairie Center is a nonprofit sexual assault crisis and mental trauma center. This organization offers treatment to victims of sexual assault and offers educational programs that aim to prevent sexual violence. Areli’s role is to be the liaison between the Prairie Center and campus organizations at UIS. She reaches out to campus organizations working on events that fight sexual assault to give them the ability to team up with the Prairie Center and benefit from the expertise that the nonprofit offers.

There are several plans that Areli has for the future in her fight against sexual assault. Creating a sexual assault support group to help the survivors as well as lessen the stigma that comes with being a survivor of sexual assault has long been a goal. She also plans on putting teal ribbons on trees around campus in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month to raise awareness at the university.

Areli has dedicated years of her life to helping the survivors of sexual assault and preventing further incidents. She wants to use her story as a way to help and empower other survivors. She wants every survivor to know that they are believed and that assault is never their fault.