For some students, it may be difficult to come out of their shell during freshman year of college. Uncertainty and confusion about things such as identity and the “real world” plague newcomers as they adapt to this environment and find their niche. Residence Life, CAP Scholars Honors administration, professors and other people on campus recommend joining clubs, organizations, athletic teams and other groups to assist in this transition and support other UIS students. Lopez Medrano, a genderqueer CAP Scholars Honors freshman this year, is going above and beyond to ensure that diverse students are represented, welcomed, unified and supported on campus. They are a member of the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), African Student Association (ASA), LGBTQIA+ Mentor Program, Alternative Spring Break (ASB), Fluidity and SHADES as well as the student coordinator of InQueery. “I feel pretty good with my accomplishments,” Lopez said. “I like really getting a chance to connect with people…continuing to deconstruct the biases I have and taking continuous action to stop myself from perpetuating the oppression of others.”
For this year’s Alternative Spring Break, Medrando and the rest of the volunteers are going to Puerto Rico to provide hurricane relief, since the struggling country still has yet to receive proper aid from the US (for two years thus far). Fluidity is a closed “safe space” for people to come talk about gender and sexuality, fluidity and any other queer-centric topics.
Medrano says it is a space to talk openly and empathetically about anything, focusing on the gender binary, exclusion and the isolation of queer youth. SHADES is a program honing in on intersectionality and how every person’s consolidated identities interact to provide unique perspectives and experience. Privilege, contradictory or dissonant identities, social justice and cooperation between people and groups of people are discussed.
Medrano emphasizes that they enjoy being able to give themselves and other people the opportunity to speak freely without fear of judgement or derision. They can represent individuals or groups that may not be able to speak for themselves, even if it is just because they are not in the room at the time. Prospectively, they aim to keep following this path to make waves at this school and eventually around the world: “What I hope to do in the future is continue to grow, get rid of all of the limitations I place on myself. I want to connect with as many people as possible and really make their lives easier, earning the privilege of getting to see a person as all that they are while understanding their reality in all its complexities.” Eventually, they plan to join the Peace Corps at least once, whether that be in the medicine sector or the youth development sector. They want to give what they can to a needful community while discarding Western assumptions about these people. Medrando states that all too often US citizens worry about other countries during tragic times for only about a week at most (depending on the severity of the issue) and then move on to the next news piece.
Other prospective undertakings that they consider pursuing are trauma surgery, Doctors Without Borders, social work and general activities to help improve inter-community relationships. All students should be encouraged to step into the unknown and pursue what they are passionate about within the community -it all starts with one small action.