CE People: Aileen Suzara '06

Hometown: Kamuela, Hawaii

Aileen Suzara '06 wanted a college where she could form close relationships with professors and actively define the course of her liberal arts education. At Mount Holyoke, she got that and more. "As a woman and as a second-generation Filipina-American, I came to know MHC as a hub where many minds, hearts, resources, and issues meet and intersect, and where they can be given voice, " she said.

In turn, Aileen's voice became known for its steadfast dedication to environmental issues. As a senior, she received the Environmental Activist Award and the Sally Montgomery Prize in Community-Based Learning (CBL). In particular, these awards paid tribute to Aileen's involvement in a CBL urban ecology project on community air pollution monitoring in the nearby city of Holyoke.

Aileen credits Mount Holyoke with providing her with a forum to learn about the other "faces" of environmental issues, including indigenous rights, women's health, environmental racism, and urban environmental activism. "I spent the first two summers of college doing conservation work in Hawai`i and the next in Berkeley interning with the nonprofit Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity. These experiences expanded my education, while building meaningful relationships with my two communities," she said.

This past summer, a fellowship from Mount Holyoke's Center for the Environment allowed Aileen to work with Native Seeds/SEARCH (NS/S), a nonprofit organization based in Tucson, Arizona, that preserves the genetic integrity of traditional agricultural plants of the Southwest.

Aileen now is living in a sustainable co-op in Oakland, California, while interning with Aunt Lute Books, a nonprofit multicultural women's publishing press based in the Mission District. She said she continues to be inspired by "the passion I witnessed in faculty and students at Mount Holyoke when they were pursuing their deepest selves." She also continues to heed her own advice for incoming Mount Holyoke students: "Don't hesitate and, above all, refuse to stay silent.”