Zarai Aquino, a student at Lorain County Community College, is a student leader active in addressing the needs of first generation and low income college students. She credits her upbringing in Puerto Rico as instrumental in shaping her sense of community, and her desire to help others was strengthened as a result of watching her neighbors and peers come together in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Having rebuilt her life in Elyria, Ohio, after the hurricane’s impact on her family, Zarai leads with these experiences in mind. She is an active volunteer in the campus food pantry, assisting students in connecting with food and financial resources to remove barriers to college completion. She was selected as a member of LCCC’s civic engagement focused Michael J. Brown Scholarship and Learning Community, where she has furthered developed her skills as a peer mentor and campus leader. Zarai’s current work is centered on basic needs access and community-building across campus, and she continues to share her story broadly to help destigmatize food insecurity, poverty, and access of support resources while pursuing a college education.
I am a student at Lorain County Community College pursuing an Associates of Arts where I have many opportunities to develop personally and professionally.
Growing up in Puerto Rico, I learned the meaning of true community and family. Community means growing and coming together regardless of the situation or hardship. After Hurricane Maria my community was devastate and I saw everyone come together to clear the streets, distribute groceries, and help rebuild homes. Families, friends, and neighbors put aside differences to come together to rebuild our town.
This experience continues to fuel my desire to help students connect with their community. I do this by being open about my personal challenges to help destigmatize poverty and food insecurity, by volunteering at our campus food pantry, serving as a translator and campus ambassador, giving interviews for the Ohio Child Hunger Summit and working to develop a interactive information system to connect students to resources and build community.
Whatever I do, I know that I will immerse myself into being a true member of the community working with others to motivate and support potential, take action to address issues of inequality and support effective long-term civic engagement.