We Are Westmont 2012
Our community here at Westmont is made up of a wide array of different experiences, backgrounds, and identities. This session is geared at taking a deeper glimpse within our community to reflect on who we are as a Westmont community. The goals of this session are to encourage awareness about student diversity, to encourage students to be themselves, and to own their stories. We hope to spark conversations around tough issues like race, gender, faith, and history.
Name: Rachel Harril
Major: Communications & Minor in Spanish
Defining moment. Defining moment. My journey to Westmont has been my defining moment. It has been a huge lesson in faith and in trusting God.Initially I was looking at Christian colleges because I felt that I would get lost at a big public university, and though I had gone to church all my life, I didn’t feel I was strong enough to defend my faith against some of the brutal condemnation of anti-religious professors and students. I don’t remember how I came across Westmont – I believe it was an email. I researched the college, and though I had no idea what liberal arts was or what it entailed, I felt drawn to Westmont and knew it would easily be my first choice school. One confirmation that Westmont would be the place for me was a friend (and recent alumni). Through a God-ordered chain of people, I met this young man through a local youth Bible study; he would later become like a brother to me. I was potentially interested in Westmont and he already attended there! – what were the odds? He gave me a real life student view of Westmont before I had even had a chance to visit the college.
I applied early action. I visited during Preview Days. I felt welcome by everyone I encountered during that overnight stay. I was set on Westmont. I even bought a sweatshirt before I knew whether or not I was accepted. I anxiously awaited a decision in the mail. I remember the day like it was yesterday. Wednesday, December 22, 2010 – the only day of the week that it rained. I rushed to the mailbox that day and carried the large rain-soaked envelope into the house. This is it God, this is it. “Congratulations! It is my pleasure to offer you admission to Westmont’s class of 2015.” I couldn’t believe it. I had been accepted by my dream school! I checked my devotional that day and to my surprise, the same theme scripture from the Westmont Preview Days I had attended, was my devotional scripture the day I got my acceptance letter. I knew that that was God and only God.
The lesson in faith was paying for Westmont tuition. My parents divorced when I was nine years old, and I had since been living with my mom on her part time income. My dad wasn’t financially in the picture. Being a first-generation college student without much knowledge of the college process, I thought to myself: how could I ever afford to go to Westmont? But God already had it taken care of. Through Westmont’s generous financial aid, federal aid, and local scholarships, I was able to afford Westmont and only pay a minimal amount out of pocket. I definitely depended on that financial aid to get here. God works miracles and nothing is too big for him to handle. I have learned to trust God in ways that I hadn’t before. He is the ultimate provider and he has blessed me with the opportunity to attend Westmont.
I couldn’t have asked for a more enriching and fulfilling freshman year. I got involved in so much. I’ve made some great friends that I know will last a lifetime. I’ve developed relationships with professors that I know could’ve only happened at a place like Westmont. I’ve been blessed by the opportunity to work in the Admissions Office through the Federal Work Study program. I’ve been humbled at being a Liberal Arts Ambassador, where I get to go out into the Santa Barbara schools and work with other first-generation, minority, lower income students like me who want to go to college but may not know what steps to take to prepare for it.
I also was able to get really involved in the Intercultural Organizations (ICO) this last year. Being a minority at a primarily Caucasian institution, it’s sometimes hard to relate or to fit in with others. ICO is important to me because it allows me to connect with other minority students on campus, build relationships with them, and have fun doing it. It also allows me to learn about and appreciate my own cultures more. Being half Hispanic on my mom’s side and half Black on my dad’s, I was particularly interested in Latino Culture Organization and Black Student Union. I got to be a part of some great discussions, volunteer at some great events, and eat a lot of good food! My favorite event was Dias de Mexico, a day-long celebration of the Latino culture. My favorite discussions were on defining true beauty in the African-American community, and the discussion following the screening of Selma Lord Selma, a film about Bloody Sunday in Alabama. This upcoming year I have been blessed with the opportunity to be President of Black Student Union. I hope to combine my passion for culture and my love for God into BSU, and I hope to be able to share that with the Westmont community.
If I had to give a piece of advice, it would be this: be open. Westmont is a place where you can go to people in your times of struggle and need, and just be open and vulnerable with them, and they will accept you for it! Believe me, I know from experience. When I was struggling, my section mates got together and prayed for me. I had never experienced anything like that before.
Realize that people are different from you, and that’s okay. When things get tough and you get stressed out, go to God. Get quiet with Him. He will comfort you. He will get you through. Always remember you are here because God has a purpose for you, even if you don’t know what the purpose is yet. Trust God. He knows what he’s doing. You are now a part of the Westmont community, so embrace it. We are Westmont.