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Junior Eliza Velasquez is paving her own path at Olivet College as a visual arts major with a concentration in studio art. She’s proud to be the first person in her family to earn a college degree and even more excited to celebrate the adversity she’s overcome to reach her goals.

Read more about Eliza’s college journey.

For me, coming to Olivet was more than just making a college decision. It was the difference between striving for my dreams or remaining stagnant. When I came to Olivet, it was my scheduled graduating year. I should have been a senior. I should have had things figured out. I was constantly told what and where I should be. One thing they don’t tell you about college is how many times you’ll fail. You will fail, but you also get back up. I wish someone told me that it’s okay to fail, and it’s okay to take your time. College is always presented as quick, amazing and the best four years of your life! In reality, it’s long and difficult, and it’s not a straight path from high school to college. And that’s okay! I’ve grown from these struggles and thrived in a way I never thought was possible for me.

My parents are the number one reason I’m even going to college. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. They’ve sacrificed so much for me and my siblings to have a good high school and college education, and that is the reason that I’ve tried so hard to be my best. I want to make them proud.

I chose Olivet because of its community. The relationships between professors and their students are strong and personal, and the relationship between peers is friendly and intimate. I could see myself thriving in a small college a lot easier than I could see myself standing out at a big university. I felt safe at Olivet. I didn’t feel like I was the ‘diversity statistic’ that I so often was forced to be. I was amongst people who shared similar backgrounds.

I am a visual arts and studio art major. I want to become an art professor, then start a nonprofit for high school students that want to go into the arts but have no connections to the art world. It’s something I wish I had when I was figuring out what to do for college, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. It’s important to me that students — no matter what background they come from — have the opportunity to freely pursue and be supported by the art community.

As an art major, we get to go on field trips to various museums as part of our seminar class. This is a great opportunity for someone like me as I haven’t had  opportunities to spend a good amount of time studying and learning about art and artists in person. Being able to go and see people who are passionate about art and talk about a piece inspires me to work harder on my own art.

Aside from field trips, professors Thia Eller and Gary Wertheimer of the art program have been influential in my growth as a student and a person. Their love for their students and their craft is apparent through their actions. Seeing them come in every day and teach us about something they’re passionate about makes me want to learn more!

My art professors aren’t the only ones who have had a big impact on me. Though I am an art major, I did have to take a math and science class at Olivet. For me, math and science classes are incredibly difficult. My brain doesn’t think that way, and I can’t seem to retain information as well as others can. So when I had to sign up for these classes I was terrified; however, professors Erin Pavloski and Dr. Blake Reed were some of the best professors I’ve had. Though I was scared (and very bad at these subjects), I could see that they both cared about their students and wanted to see them succeed. This attitude helped me to ask questions and care about my own learning a bit more. A great teacher will change your life, and I believe that mine has been changed because of the great teachers I’ve had at Olivet.

This spring I even earned Visual Arts Department Honors and the Multicultural Academic Achievement Award. If you would have told young Eliza that she would actually be able to pursue art on a collegiate level, she would have been shocked. If you would have told her that on top of pursuing her dreams, she would also maintain a high GPA, she would have said you were lying.

Being able to pursue art and succeed in this way academically means everything to me. A lot of people take it for granted that they are able to work and study freely for a degree in a field they love. I fought long and hard to be where I’m at now, so receiving these awards — no matter how small they are to someone else — means the world to me. It means the sacrifices my family and I have made growing up weren’t wasted. It means that one day I’ll be able to show my dad my diploma and say ‘we did it’ because I will be the first in my family to receive a degree.

Learn more about Olivet College by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800-456-7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu.

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