Our Coordinator of Programs, Alejandra Perez, caught up with two-year scholarship recipient Megan Dorantes and chatted about her experience as a scholar at Washburn and her future plans
High School: Sumner Academy of Arts and Science - Class of 2019
College: Washburn University - Current Sophomore - Class of 2023
Major/Minor/Concentration area: Public Administration
In your scholarship essay you mentioned you are not a first-generation scholar; what kind of guidance and advice did your family share having had their own experience attending college?
The biggest advice or guidance I got from my parents would be finishing College. While both of my parents have a college education, I often felt like a first-generation student because their experience is not typical. My mothers college experience was tackling school, a full-time job, and being a single mother. My father’s college experience was in Mexico, which is completely different from the American college experience. I couldn’t really ask my cousins questions about college because some of them dropped out, never went, or it had been years since they graduated. I relied on my peers, school, mentors, faculty members, and the internet for questions or advice for college.
What’s it like going to school at a PWI (Predominately White Institution)? How did you find “community” to make it your home?
It was a big culture shock for me. You have to understand that I grew up surrounded by BIPOC (Black Indigenous and people of color) people. All my life I was surrounded by people who looked like me, had similar experiences, and who I considered my community. Now I was the only Mexican in my hall, class, and (pretty much) at school. I remember playing a game called “how many minorities can I find”. Though it was a shock, I already expected it and prepared myself for it. I found my community by being involved on campus. Joining different organizations, talking to different people, and If I found someone who looked like me, I automatically would consider them a friend because I knew they were probably experiencing the same feelings that I was. Now as a sophomore, I found my community. I found people who looked like me, and continue to branch myself out to different people and make them feel included.
You are heavily involved in leadership positions at Washburn, what is your favorite extracurricular and how do you balance it with your school work and other responsibilities?
Probably one of my favorite extracurricular activities right now would have to be my involvement with my Sorority Gamma Phi Omega. I knew absolutely nothing about Greek life, nor did I have any intention of joining, but here we are!
During the end of my summer break, I started to realize how busy I was going to be this semester. I would be coming into the semester being a Chairwoman and Senator in Student Government. I was the homecoming Chair and table Chair for the Leadership Institute. I was a member and competitor for the Mock Trial Team. I joined a brand new sorority and became Co-chair of the Treasure and Academic Officer position, plus trying to recruit new sisters. Additionally, I still had my on-campus job, and was a full-time student. On top of all of that, I changed my birth control and was now struggling with depression, weight gain, and insecurities.
It was a lot to balance. How I did it was by putting stuff in my planner, creating time for the things I cared about, and communicating with my peers and teachers what was going on in my life. In the end, I ended up giving up one responsibility, but I kept pushing until I couldn't push any more.
This semester was definitely one that challenged me, pushed me to my breaking point, and taught me so much about myself, life, and how to tackle things in the future.
A lot can change in a few months, especially during a pandemic. I am still a part of WSGA but am no longer a Senator. I went from being a Senator, to being the Chairwoman of the nominations committee, and am now the Director of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. While I am still passionate about Washburns sustainability and making Washburn a more green campus, that is not my main priority.Sustainability is often correlated with the environment, it also correlates with retainment. The reason students stay at their colleges is because they feel at home. They feel included, heard, respected, and that is what I want students to feel. This position means a lot for me, because I make sure that students feel included. I get to help Washburn become a more diverse campus, and for BIPOC students to feel included. This position shows other BIPOC students that you can become Directors and that you can make changes on campus.
Tell me a bit more about the project you mentioned with studying abroad, and where does it stand given the current restrictions with the pandemic?
I still plan on it, but with the pandemic that is not possible at this time. While studying abroad means going to different countries and learning new things, in my head I will have the chance to “study abroad” this summer. In the summer, I hope to be “studying abroad” in Nebraska and living in a community, and work on helping its development. Technically it is not studying abroad, but for me it is. When I was in high school I was adamant on studying out-of-state. I looked at different universities and colleges, asked for informationals, and was serious about leaving Kansas. Well, as it turns out, that didn't happen. I still have that dream of going and living in a different state than Kansas, learning about that community and this opportunity does that for me. I still plan on studying abroad, maybe to England, Japan, Mexico, or Australia, but we’ll have to see what the future holds.
You shared that your ultimate career goal is to be the Mayor of KCK, tell us a bit more!
I decided that I wanted to become Mayor when I was a Junior. It came to me after I had an internship with the Kansas City Kansas Police Department, and I decided that I wanted to serve my community. I’ve lived in Wyandotte County my entire life, and love this community very much. A lot of choices have been made that have either affected this community positively or negatively. I know what this community wants, I know what it needs, and I want to be the one to help it. That's why I decided to attend Washburn. Washburn has an amazing Political Science/Public Administration program, it’s in the Capital of Kansas, and I know that I’ll learn a lot here. I was originally a Political Science major, but switched to Public Administration because I wanted to make sure that I had the education necessary to be successful.
During our conversation, you brought up the issue of gentrification being detrimental to Hispanic/Latinx/a/o communities because they have been historically poorer than their White counterparts.This is a critical issue a lot of our scholars’ families are experiencing...can you share what it looks like for you to make positive change regarding gentrification?
What it looks like for me is taking care of your home, advocating for affordable housing FOR BIPOC FAMILIES, and voting for representatives, legislatures, and politicians that you feel represent you and have your best interest at heart. A big reason why gentrification happens is because the land is cheap, the buildings are cheap, and the community is cheap. Simple things like renovating your home, or taking care of your community's appearance can do a lot for a community.
How do I know this? Because I saw it happen to my own community. I live in Strawberry Hill and it’s easy to point out which house is mine because it’s the nicest house on the block. My parents are privileged to have been able to spend time and money making sure their house looks good. Over the years I’ve noticed that my neighbors are renovating their houses and making them look gorgeous. That draws in people, it keeps people, and it makes people want to move to that area. I’ve done research on Wyandotte County, we have the buildings, we have the communities. All we need is people to believe that their community can look and become better.