WSU Pullman student receives governor’s award for civic engagement

McNair scholar Areli Orozco presents at SURCA. Photo by Bob Hubner, WSU Photo Services.

McNair scholar Areli Orozco is the recipient of a Governor’s Student Civic Leadership award from the Washington Campus Coalition for the Public Good (WCC). The award highlights student leaders for their work in civic engagement, community leadership, and social entrepreneurship. 

 “I was kind of shocked,” said Orozco, a first-year student at Washington State University who researches anxiety among first generation students that are people of color. “I thought the recognition was cool, but at the same time, I feel like there are other people who do a lot more.”

Ben Calabretta, director of the Center for Civic Engagement, says a large part of the reason why he nomintated Orozco for the award is her tendency to uplift and direct the spotlight onto those around her.

“Areli stood out because she has demonstrated her commitment to creating positive change through her engagement in the community and in the connections she’s made with other students,” he said. “She has truly made an impact on others during her time at WSU.” 

Since day one in Pullman, Orozco has spent a lot of her time participating in multicultural student organizations, such as her sorority, Alpha Nu Multicultural Sorority, Inc., of which she is the current president. Orozco found her place of belonging in the cultural centers on the fourth floor of the Compton Union Building where she got more involved in community engagement and service.  

“As someone that is a person of color, it is hard to advocate for yourself because a certain audience may not want to listen to you,” Orozco said. “I shouldn’t be advocating for simple rights. It should already be a given to treat everyone equally. It doesn’t matter [who I’m advocating for], as long as I have time, I’ll do it.” 

In March 2023, Orozco helped facilitate the César Chávez Blood Drive. The event was organized by WSU’s College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) in honor of Farmworkers Awareness Week.

“[It’s] in my background and is part of my culture,” Orozco said of the blood drive. “A lot of Hispanic people come to the U.S. and work in the fields and that is something that my family has been through and still recurring, so I really wanted to do that.” 

Additionally, Orozco assisted in the programming of the Children of Aztlan Sharing Higher Education (CASHE) leadership conference through MECHA de WSU, a program that helps high school students of Chicanx/Latinx backgrounds to pursue higher education. 

“[It was] cool to see and help high schoolers reach higher education, especially minorities, because it is really hard to get help and resources because you don’t know what you need,” Orozco said.

Fueled by discrimination within the criminal justice system, Orozco says moving forward she wants to obtain her Ph.D. and transition to work in the FBI. 

“Everything I do, I do it with intention,” she said. 

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