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Though Darris attended what he calls, "a great high school that offered a lot of opportunities," he regretted not taking advantage of those opportunities right from the beginning. When he came to Emmanuel in the fall of 2011, he made it a priority to get involved during his first year.
As a senior, Darris continues to serve in a variety of leadership roles on campus--as an Admissions Ambassador, a Resident Assistant (RA) and a member of the executive boards for both the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Association of Countries, Cultures, Events, Nations and Traditions (A.C.C.E.N.T).
"Through these positions, I have enhanced my abilities to interact with people, market myself and to carry myself in a professional manner, while simultaneously learning how to manage funds and plan large-scale events," he said.
He has also been involved with Helping Unite Emmanuel Latinos to Lead and Achieve Success (H.U.E.L.L.A.S), the Mission Grammar Scholars program (which partners Emmanuel students with middle school students from Mission Grammar School to discuss topics related to culture, history, literacy and college readiness), the Emmanuel College Gospel Choir and a number of volunteer opportunities.
Alongside his extracurricular activities, Darris has found time for valuable research and internship experiences--first through Harvard Medical School's Project Success summer program, during which he conducted immunology research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and then as a Healthy Homes Intern at the Boston Public Health Commission.
How does he balance all of this with his biology coursework? Through an ongoing process, he said, which sometimes has mixed results.
"Like anything in life, it takes a lot of fine tuning to adjust your endeavors so that everything you want to accomplish fits comfortably into your schedule."
For Emma, the typical academic year doesn't last from September through May. Since her first year at Emmanuel, she has spent the majority of her summers on campus in the state-of-the-art Wilkens Science Center, conducting research with other chemistry majors in the lab of Professor Faina Ryvkin.
Emmanuel offers undergraduates a number of research positions in the summer months, providing housing in the residence halls, a stipend and the chance to work side-by-side with faculty members in their disciplines. While Emma acknowledges it is difficult to spend so much time away from her family, who are located in Troy, Vt., she knows taking opportunities to advance her studies will give her an additional edge after graduation.
"The benefits definitely outweigh the negatives," she said. "I love what I'm doing and there aren't a lot of options for summer work in my hometown. By staying at Emmanuel, I feel like I'm helping to advance my career first and foremost."
Along with her cohort in the lab, Emma's work is centered on purifying specific enzymes based on literature that dates back nearly 50 years. In April 2013, she, Professor Ryvkin and Conor Gomes '15 were given the opportunity to present some of their research during the American Chemical Society's national meeting in New Orleans, La.
"It's really exciting to have our work recognized," she said. "That's the goal--to keep publishing, presenting and building my résumé."
A native of Los Angeles, Calif., Kevin traveled a long way from home to come to Emmanuel, but the sense of community he found on campus convinced him to make the move from the West Coast to the East.
"Sports were a huge component, but the atmosphere around campus is what sold me," said the high school volleyball standout and current Saints libero. "It wasn't that hard for me to adjust. It did take me a while to get used to the cold, but good friends make any transition easier."
In his first year, Kevin helped lead Emmanuel's men's volleyball team to a second place finish in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) and an appearance in the conference finals.
"I'm blessed to have gotten to know such a strong group of men that not only emulate hard work and dedication but also exemplify what it means to be a Saint," he said. "We all love the game and we're proud to represent Emmanuel whether it's on the court or in our community."
Kevin is also involved with S.A.G.E, the College's first-year mentoring program, and works as an Admissions Ambassador as well as at the front desk of the fitness center in the Jean Yawkey Center.
"All of these teach me accountability, responsibility and much more. I'm grateful to be part of all of these organizations that teach me so much."
Kevin is a double major in history and secondary education, and is excited to be participating in the pre-practicum for the education component this year.
"Any major requires hard work and dedication and I'm glad mine is going to a subject I can talk about for hours," Kevin said. "I've learned a lot from my professors in the short couple years I've been at Emmanuel, but every lesson is better than the last."
As an Orientation Leader, Student Adjustment Guided Effectively (S.A.G.E.) mentor and Alternative Spring Break (ASB) participant, as well as a member of the Emmanuel College Dance Team, the S/He campus gender-equality club and the Science Living-Learning Community, Gabriela immediately took advantage of the more than 90 clubs, activities and organizations within Emmanuel's varied and vibrant student life program.
"I decided to get involved in so many activities my first year at Emmanuel because getting involved is a great way to meet not only students, but also faculty and staff members who have similar interests as you," she said. "As someone who is trying to be a young and successful professional, networking is essential in order to get to where I want to be in life. Also, I found that my love for Emmanuel grew (which I didn't even think was possible) the more I got involved!"
In her short time at Emmanuel, Gabriela has felt closely connected to two activities in particular--one being the EC Dance Team, which lets her live out a childhood dream stemming from watching hip hop videos, and the other, traveling to Phoenix, Ariz., for Alternative Spring Break.
"My high school and hometown [of Lawrence, Mass.] are committed to community service and helping others," she said. "ASB was one of the best decisions I've made while at Emmanuel because I was able to go to a part of the country that I had never been to before, meet people I wouldn't have met otherwise, form relationships with these people, and help them in their time of need when no one else bothers to give them the time of day. It was such a humbling and rewarding experience."
Despite all of her activities, the biology major and English communication + media studies minor is able to balance her schoolwork with her busy schedule.
"Having so many extracurricular activities on top of my academics has actually helped me be more organized," Gabriela said, noting that she learned to fill the gaps in her day with homework and studying, leaving her evenings free for events and other social activities. The trick to managing all of her commitments and study groups day-to-day is simple and practical, she said.
"If it's not on my phone [calendar], then it's not happening!"
Emmanuel's location in the heart of Boston's Fenway neighborhood gives students easy access to everything the city has to offer--world-renowned museums and theaters, centuries of history, experiential learning opportunities, acres of public parkland and dozens of restaurants featuring both regional and international cuisine.
But with coursework, athletics and extracurricular activities during the academic year, many busy students like Wojciech feel as though there aren't enough hours in the day to see everything. During the summer of 2014, he chose to stay on campus as an intern in the Office of Student Activities, planning the event-packed six Weeks of Welcome for the Class of 2018.
"I didn't feel like I got to fully experience Boston during the school year," he said. "I thought this would be a good time to explore the city and to take on my first internship."
Having attended Cheshire Academy, a boarding school in Connecticut, the New Jersey resident is used to being away from home, noting that his first year at Emmanuel, in many ways, felt like his fifth year of college.
Wojciech stayed busy as a freshman, namely as a player on the Saints men's soccer team, a sport in which he's been involved since he moved to the U.S. from Poland at the age of five. Despite playing with a torn ligament all season, he finished as the second-highest scorer and was named the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Rookie of the Week in September 2013.
He also got involved with Emmanuel's Dance Marathon, serving as the public relations coordinator in the event's third year at the College. With the rest of the executive board and a large team of fundraisers, Wojciech's efforts helped raise nearly $68,000 for Boston Children's Hospital--elevating Emmanuel into the top 5 Dance Marathon fundraisers in the Northeast.
Wojciech's hard work has certainly paid off--in the spring, he was honored with the Class of 2017 Student Leadership Award, which was presented to a student who showed initiative, motivation and the potential for continued leadership at Emmanuel College.