As a Latina attending a predominantly white institution (48.6% white, 10.3% Hispanic/Latino, 9.64% Black adn 4.77% Asian, according to datausa.com), Gabriella Ramirez (’23) felt out of place during her freshman year at Drew. She was afraid to share her feelings of isolation and self-doubt with her friends and advisors, due to fear of being judged. But Ramirez did not want others to feel this way, and wanted to come up with a way to provide all minority students at Drew with a community to be part of.
“I wanted to change that narrative for future generations of students and create that community that I wish I had when I first arrived at Drew,” Ramirez, who is also the treasurer for Drew’s latinx club, ARIEL, said. She said that she wanted to make a BIPOC mentorship community for students.
Over the summer, Ramirez created the Peer Mentorship Program for Black, Indigenous, Persons of Color (BIPOC), which pairs BIPOC upperclassmen with freshmen to help them adapt to the Drew community.
“One of the big things we spoke about was making sure that BIPOC students had a space to go so they wouldn’t feel isolated or alone here at Drew and that included always having a mentor to talk and go to for help,” Faculty Advisor Rachel Sawyer said. “Our goal was to make this organization inclusive and equitable as possible so students feel they have a sense of belonging.”
Ramirez,who is president of the club, felt that this community was even more necessary in a time of virtual learning.
“I thought about peer mentorship as being a way for incoming students to best integrate into their college campus, especially during COVID-19 when social isolation is taking a toll on many students’ mental health,” she said.
Since they cannot meet in person, general club meetings, generally lasting between an hour and an hour and a half, for BIPOC take place on Zoom. Mentors and mentees are hosting events at least once a month to create relationships, discuss current issues and share experiences.
“I would like for us to be able to make a difference in each one of the mentors’ and mentees’ first semesters being fully remote,” Ramirez said. “I understand that this is a difficult time and is heavy for many of us and hope that this program can serve as an outlet for students to find their safe space with other community members.”
The executive board is planning to host more events once students are back on campus. Ramirez is planning for an event as large as HoBall, specifically aimed at the BIPOC community, although all will be welcome to join in.
Sawyer added, “For the future as we return on campus, our goals will still be creating a BIPOC community, but being in person [has] the ability to expand our reach even further than we have now.”