This campus is full of familiar faces, but everyone has a unique story. Some students may know her from the Silver Leadership program, but others may know her as an usher for Kean Stage. Kiara Ramirez, sophomore English literature major, has achieved so much in just two years.
Ramirez has been part of the Leadership Institute since she was a freshman, and now she is in the Silver Leadership program. With her involvement at Kean University, she has completed over 100 community service hours in her freshman year, giving her the award for being the lead female with the most service hours. Now, she is a mentor for the Leader2Leader program under the Leadership Institute, where she helps out a freshman getting involved, with their schoolwork, getting around campus, and other things that can help them assimilate on campus.
She used to volunteer every weekend, which added up to her 100 hours, but this semester she decided to kick it down a notch to partake in other activities. This semester, she has completed about 35 service hours, but she is also pledging for Delta Phi Epsilon. The volunteer projects that stood out to her the most was the Community Food Bank and Habitat For Humanity.
Dawn DeMarco, a leadership specialist and junior math education double major, said, "Kiara is a key member in the silver leadership program. I was her general education mentor (GEM) and now I facilitate her level in the Leadership Institute. She has done nothing but overachieve and excel in everything she does."
When she is not being a mentor or a volunteer, she is an usher at Kean Stage. This became her first job this semester, giving her chances to meet new people and branch out her social network even more.
"Recently, I watched Marisol, and I was really surprised!" said Ramirez. "It was really dark and I never saw a play like that. It was wild, but in a good way."
Although she commutes from Piscataway, New Jersey, she is able to hold a strong form of involvement at Kean. She is also a member of the Kean Theatre Council (KTC) and Equality For All (EFA).
"I feel like I like myself being involved on campus," said Ramirez. "Instead of going to school and then going home, I actually feel like a part of Kean."
Ramirez has much to admire at Kean University, even picking out her best memory was a challenge.
"I think getting into the leadership program has to be the best, because if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have received the opportunities I have been given," she said. "Especially from last year and this year, I wouldn't have made all these connections with professors and faculty. The program has helped me a lot with getting a job, as well as get involved with Greek Life. I remembered when I was a freshman, I wasn't too sure about being part of Greek Life, but then after talking to Jess Kramer, I thought that I should try it out. So if it weren't for them, I wouldn't be as involved as I am today."
After she graduates, she plans on going to New York University (NYU) graduate school for law to become a lawyer. Her parents come from Peru and Argentina, but they were not able to complete college there. Here, she aims to complete college and be a lawyer, especially since she is also a first generation college student in her family.
Her schedule this semester is very busy and very hectic because she is all over the place.
"Especially since I haven't been volunteering as much, I'm also working now. I have school work, and I'm currently pledging," Ramirez said. "I had to take out one thing from my busy schedule so I had time for the other things. I definitely did learn how to balance all three things, and time management was something I learned during my time at Kean University."
She advises students who want to be as involved as her to get out of their comfort zone. Some students may not know where to start, but she believes that there is always some way to get involved. A misconception about Ramirez is the assumption of limiting her abilities because she has dwarfism. As she was growing up, she learned how to adapt to her surroundings, but that did not stop her from doing what everyone else could do. In fact, she pointed out that she uses her height to her advantage.
"Before I came here, I was really nervous because I wasn't sure if people would accept me for who I was," she said. "But then, like I said, I met the Leadership Institute and they helped me step out of my comfort zone. I knew the people who I was around accepted me for who I was, and I remembered in Habitat for Humanity, there were certain requirements to have, like strength. Although, I was able to prove that someone like me, with my height, is able to do it. If I could do it, I told my mentee, 'you could do it!' Of course, there's parts of college that isn't for everyone, but there are always different ways to get involved."
Everyone is different in some sort of way or form, yet people are bound to discriminate or associate others with negativity. Amazingly, Ramirez does not let that stop her from doing what she loves most.
"Throughout my whole life, I have met and dealt with people who discriminated against me because of my height," she said. "But I don't let my height stop me."