Mariana Lagunas awarded William M. Plater Civic Engagement Medallion

Mariana Lagunas, BS’19, has been involved in civic engagement since the age of 10. 

“It’s just part of who I am,” she said. 

As an elementary student, she was involved in the Latino Youth Collective, which provides resources and opportunities for youth to engage in development. With the Latino Youth Collective, she visited colleges and other organizations to do presentations on immigration and share stories from her perspective. She helped develop the Campecine Youth Academy (now The Athena Academy) which uses media to create documentaries and encourages participants to address issues they view in their community.

When Mariana came to IUPUI, she wasn’t planning on staying. Then, as fate would have it, she was able to go on an alternative spring break to Atlanta.

“I went as a skeptic. I wanted to know what they were saying,” she said, “But on the trip I learned so much from the other students and their stories.”

After her experience on the trip and because of mentor Niki Messmore’s involvement, Mariana stayed at IUPUI. She continued to participate in alternative break trips, becoming a trip leader. Her trips have included a break studying corporate social responsibility, while doing service learning in Boston, and she led a Kelley honors trip to Atlanta. The honor students met with Cox Enterprises and Global Growers to discuss social entrepreneurship and focused on sustainable agriculture practices with refugees. 

As a trip leader, it was Mariana’s job to make sure students are asked meaningful questions about their experience. In return, she watched them become passionate and educated allies.

Be curious. It may get you into an experience that you’ve never had before.

“It’s amazing how much growth I observed from the participants,” she says. “Some students come back from these experiences and change their majors. For a lot of these social issues, we don’t want people to feel bad for others; we want them to stand with people and advocate.” 

When she graduates, Mariana plans on pursuing a career in logistics, but it’s important to her that she stays involved with IUPUI and with the Latino Youth Collective. Her biggest reward from being civically active is watching the growth of students and young people.

Her advice to future students is to get plugged in on campus. “Be curious. It may get you into an experience that you’ve never had before,” she advises.

The William M. Plater Civic Engagement recognition honors IUPUI students who have excelled in their commitment to the community through activities like service learning, volunteerism, community or social issue advocacy, community work-study and political engagement. The medallion is named in honor of IUPUI’s former Executive Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Faculties from 1988 to 2006, Dr. William Plater, a strong advocate of civic engagement during his career. The medallions were awarded on April 9 during the Bringle and Hatcher Civic Engagement Showcase.

Congratulations, Mariana!

Posted by: Sara Griffin,