April 9, 2024

Class of 2024: My best decision at Earlham

Alexandra Hagerty ’07(right) and Chief MateEmily Bull wave to the crowd after dockingthe MercyShips vesselin Africa.

We asked the Class of 2024 to tell us about the best decision they ever made as an Earlham student. Here’s what they had to say about key moments that changed the way they think about themselves and the world.

Name: Aniqa Ali
Home country: Pakistan
Areas of study: Peace and Global Studies, Psychology

“The best decision was saying yes to (former Earlham professor) Ahmed Khanani when they asked me if I would work with the Center for Social Justice (CSJ). Collaborating with CSJ, where discussions revolved around our collective role in addressing social justice issues on campus and creating a safe space for underrepresented groups, has significantly altered my perspective. Instead of getting frustrated and fighting against the system, I began focusing more on the people and their needs. It changed my mindset from being angry to considering what I could do to help and what people really wanted. Through Ahmed and the CSJ, I learned a lot about kindness and empathy.” 

Name: Katie Zack
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Area of study: Theatre arts

“My journey at Earlham started like many others, a campus tour and overnight stay. At the time, I was a wee little senior in high school, thinking I was at the top of the food chain, but then, being surrounded by dozens of college students made me feel so small. I felt like a tiny mouse observing from the side lines, disjointed and confused. But, I digress, I had a day filled with classes. After one class, a student walked up to me and said, “It’s okay if Earlham isn’t the school you go to, find the place that feels right to you.” And at that moment I knew. I wanted to be around people like this, who encouraged others to pursue their dreams and not be held back by any kind of pressure. I wanted to live with people who were kind, passionate, and overall just plain wonderful. And as I soon take my final bow as an Earlham student, I’d like to think I’ve done just that.”

Name: Rose Abigail León-Alvarado
Home country: Honduras
Area of study: Neuroscience 

“The best decision I have ever made is to seek people out. By people, I mean professors and peers alike. The only way I learned about the opportunities at Earlham was through word of mouth. From finding my first summer internship and deciding what major and minors to do, they were all thanks to someone at Earlham I talked to about my interests and concerns, who cared enough to guide me. Sometimes, we think that to succeed, you must keep others from knowing about your struggles, but this was not the case for me at Earlham. As graduation approaches, I thank my Earlham College professors, advisors, career coaches, peers, friends, alums, and caring partner.”

Name: Cierra Sage Schreck
Hometown: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Area of study: Media and Communications

“The best decision I made on campus was to apply to the Watson fellowship program. Through the program, I spent six weeks interning at a non-profit organization in Bangkok, Thailand. I learned how to navigate new language barriers and thrive in an international working environment. This experience prepared me to work in San Jose, Costa Rica, the following summer and study abroad in Prague, Czech Republic my senior year. Now on the precipice of graduation, I am confident in my ability to thrive in diverse settings and challenge myself to step beyond my comfort zone. These international experiences would not have been possible without Earlham’s support and resources. The college prepared for life beyond academics through experience, tangible skills, and a vast network of opportunities beyond the imaginable.”

Name: Jessica Okomo Ongole
Home countries: Uganda & Eswatini
Areas of study: Global Management (Marketing), Media & Communications

“Attending Professor Womai Song’s Pan-Africanism course was one of the most important choices I’ve made at Earlham College. With his enlightening guidance, I explored the deep-rooted desire for racial emancipation and self-determination that binds Black people together and the complex dynamics defining their relationship. The class also emphasized how important it is for our community to celebrate our cultural history and promote self-affirmation. Having interacted with the ideas and rhetoric of pan-Africanism, I have developed a deep respect and affection for those who have fought for our freedom as a people and for those who continue to do so. In addition to making me a proud Pan-Africanist, this life-changing experience at Earlham has permeated all aspects of my everyday existence and resonated deeply in my role as the Head Convener of the Black Student Union.”

Name: Kiyomi Johnson
Hometown: New York City, New York
Areas of study: Museum Studies with a Biology Focus

“One of my best decisions on campus was joining the Student Activities Board (SAB). I was swept into the world of event planning and logistics, and from there, I found a home. If I had not made the decision to join SAB, I would have never found out how much I enjoy event planning. I would not have risen through the ranks and become the head of SAB. I wouldn’t have had the courage and know-how to start the Student Advisory Council for the Black Student Experience, which is my own event-planning organization on campus that has positively impacted the lives of countless students of all races.”

Name: Elizabeth (Beth) Rakes
Hometown: Centerville, Ohio
Area of study: Biology

“The best decision I have made on campus was my decision to get involved. While that may sound like a resume building or professional development thing, for me it was a lot more. Getting involved gave me the opportunity to interact with a wide range of students and professionals while allowing me to experience new things. I often found myself in situations that were outside my comfort zone, and because of that I have grown exponentially both personally and professionally.  It has given me new perspectives on life and the world around me. All of my experiences in the programs I have been involved in have made me a better person, friend and leader. I am extremely grateful for all of those experiences.”

Name: Tyler Wayne Smith
Hometown: Germantown, Ohio
Areas of study: English and Media & Communications

“At Earlham you always hear that you should get involved, join this club, work for this organization — and more. While getting involved is a common college/university cliché, Earlham is not a common college/university. I got involved on campus by working for Admissions, Residence Life, and the Athletics Department. I host a weekly sports talk show on WECI. I became a Student Government leader, Co-President of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council and a member of the Men’s soccer team. Getting involved at Earlham has been the greatest experience possible. The people I have met and the people I consider a friend is the most Earlham idea ever. From upper-level leadership on campus to a prospective student, the people I can call a friend — I owe it all to Earlham.”

Name: Marlenne Garcia
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Areas of study: Sociology/Anthropology & Spanish and Hispanic Studies

“The best decision I ever made on campus was to leave for a semester! I spent a spring semester in Tucson, Arizona, with the Border Studies Program — learning, volunteering and gaining a new family. I grew an appreciation and a more critical view of the movements and communities connected through border issues. At the same time, I found myself self-reflecting on my own identity and my family’s story as one connected by migration. I returned to Earlham with greater confidence and a drive to engage with issues more urgently.”

Photos by Tsitsi Makufa and Adam Knaub.

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For Good.