Ruta Faifaiese, a second year student at Oregon State University, is a change agent and student leader active in advancing educational equity and inclusion and belonging for all on campus. Over the last two years, she has worked in a myriad of capacities to support students' academic success at OSU. She actively works to support retention of underrepresented students through her roles as a tutor, instructor, and peer mentor within the Educational Opportunities Program and Academic Success Center. Ruta is also diligent in building coalitions and community through her work with the Black Student Union and Circle K. Ruta utilizes spoken word and poetry as a primary avenue to create spaces for her peers to build empathy and understanding for each other's experiences and identities as well as reflect critically on structural inequities. Ruta's efforts to build a better world center on improving pre-teacher education and the support and access that students of color receive in K-12 education systems. Ruta is a dynamic civic leader who has consistently sought out ways to utilize her skills, passions, and talents to improve access to quality education for all.
My 7th grade AVID class is when I was introduced to the issues of creating equal educational opportunities for everyone. AVID stands for Advancement via Individual Determination, and it was a program offered at my middle school that focused on helping students prepare for college and think of career paths beyond high school. I was fortunate enough to take AP classes, however, I noticed the great number of minority students at my schools, but there was always a small number in Honors, or AP classes. At times there was a lack of encouragement from both peers and staff for minority students to challenge themselves in taking upper level courses, which gave me more motivation to teach math, specifically at the high school level, as I want to set the example that wasn't present during my K-12 experience. On campus, I work as a tutor and intern for the Educational Opportunities Program, and I am an academic coach for the Academic Success Center. Also, I am involved in clubs such as, the Black Student Union and Circle K International, where events are hosted to promote greater student involvement and to volunteer around the community.