Without the students that attend the University of Colorado-Boulder, the campus would not be what it is today. In particular, I’d like to tell you about a woman who balances a life between her academics and activism.

Valerie Contreras is a fifth-year Ethnic Studies major who is a part of various groups and organizations including UMAS y MEChA, Sigma Lambda Gamma and CUSG as the Liaison for Underrepresented Students.

In UMAS y MEChA she spearheaded the People of Color Potluck in response to hate crimes, and to bring the different underrepresented communities together since she noticed that these communities only gathered “during bad times.” To her surprise the potluck was a success and lives on today as one of the most diverse and collaborative events for underrepresented students.

Valerie is also a part of Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, Inc. which she says has given her “leadership skills” that have helped her throughout college. She has also contributed to the Genesister program that focuses on teenage girls and pregnancy; members of her sorority give tours, have discussion panels and ultimately provide these young girls with role models.

Now in CUSG Valerie has begun working as the Liaison for Underrepresented Students, and her goals, with her position, are to continue an activist archive that was the project of a previous diversity director. Creating an accessible database of past leaders and their work is important to her since other student leaders can discover and learn from historical actions that have happened on the campus. Valerie also intends to work with the diversity commission to make sure bills can be passed to help diversity as well as create an underrepresented student council where representatives from the various underrepresented student groups can “open the doors of communication” for collaboration and so much more.

Beyond the work she has done, Valerie shared her own story of struggles through college with me for SORCE Spot. During her sophomore year at CU, she was taking a U.S. history class. Immigration came up in a class discussion, and she remembers the remarks classmates had about immigration. The things they said frustrated her, because these remarks directly related to her father since he was an immigrant. “My father works so hard and he has nothing to show for since he is an immigrant,” she said. Feeling unwelcome and isolated she found support through the organizations like UMAS y MEChA and Sigma Lambda Gamma Sorority, Inc. and ultimately gained the drive to make a difference here on campus.

From these memories and experiences Valerie has taken it upon herself to really do something since she sees herself as “privileged” to be at a university like CU. She believes in the voice of the students since “students have the power to change” and when she was asked why she does what she does she answered, “My community is why I do what I do.”

Here’s to the unsung student heroes on campus.

Ben Nguyen is a Junior studying Molecular Cellular Developmental Biology and is SORCE’s Inner-Campus Liaison.

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