Excelling at creating community

“I thought it was great to learn more about political actors. It was really interesting to learn more about how political actors have this power. How they’re able to change policy and, by doing so, change so many people’s lives.”

Until she applied to be a Posse Scholar, Gaby Alvarez ’24 hadn’t heard of Mount Holyoke College. The Miami native was excited that the Posse Foundation scholarship offers students full tuition and the chance to be part of a cohort, building community before stepping foot on a college campus. She knew she wanted to lean on fellow scholars as they embarked on their journey together at the same college.

Having gone to coed schools her entire life, Alvarez wasn’t initially sure about Mount Holyoke and had two other schools higher on her list of preferred colleges. However, it was only during her interview for the Posse scholarship that her interest and enthusiasm for the College bubbled out.

“I didn’t realize it, but apparently I was talking a lot about Mount Holyoke during my interview process,” Alvarez said. “I think the fact that I just expressed that I really like the traditions at Mount Holyoke and how small the school is. The classroom sizes really appealed to me. I think at the end of the day, I guess I fit more with the posse they were envisioning for Mount Holyoke versus the other schools.”

Alvarez hasn’t looked back since being at Mount Holyoke. She’s found her voice and her own style of leadership. “One thing I learned, at least through Posse and college, is that leadership takes so many different forms,” she said. “And I never really thought of myself as a leader because I was very timid and shy at first. But honestly just being a good listener or making space for other individuals or just being aware of other people and how they feel is also very important.”

Realizing that she excels at creating community has been one of the biggest takeaways of Alvarez’s time at Mount Holyoke. After spending her first year taking classes online because of the COVID-19 pandemic — and after lightning struck one of the College’s residence halls — Alvarez found herself among the students transferred to live at a dorm in Hampshire College.

It wasn’t exactly an uplifting start to life at Mount Holyoke, but she ended up having an amazing time. “I got closer to my friends at Hampshire,” she said. “I have very sweet memories there, getting coffee and just sitting on the grass and just taking in the sun.”

Alvarez has also leaned into her capacity for building community as a board member for the class of 2024, a position she’s held since the beginning of her third year. As social media chair, she creates infographics and visuals to remind students of upcoming deadlines and events and uses social media to promote engagement. “We are the pandemic class,” she said. “So I feel like engagement and enthusiasm are pretty low. And sometimes events can struggle with participation.”

Despite the uphill task in front of her, Alvarez finds a lot of fun in her role as social media chair. “It’s definitely a creative outlet for me,” she said. “It really gave me the chance to explore something other than my studies and take the time to express myself through a different medium.”

Although she started off as a psychology major at Mount Holyoke, taking an American politics course with Assistant Professor Adam Hilton during her second semester was a turning point for Alvarez. Coming from a very conservative family in Miami, she had previously distanced herself from politics because she associated it with family tension, controversies and negativity. However, the class fascinated Alvarez on both an intellectual and a moral level.

“I was just really engaged and thought it was great to learn more about political actors,” she said. “I thought it was really interesting to learn more about how political actors have this power. How they’re able to change policy and, by doing so, change so many people’s lives.”

From there, Alvarez started taking more politics classes and switched her major to politics. She also took several Spanish classes to perfect her Spanish and added a minor in Latinx Studies. “I was always interested in doing something connected to the Latinx community, being Cuban and coming from Miami,” she said. “So I was really driven to try to connect to my background and culture to see myself within the people I was studying.”

She spent the fall 2023 semester studying at an exchange program with American University. Alvarez, who aspires to be a criminal justice lawyer in large part because of her personal experience with the justice system, loved being in Washington, D.C. However, the larger classes at American University reinforced to her that she had made the right decision to come to Mount Holyoke. Of all her experiences at the College, she’ll miss hanging out with her friends and creating memories the most.

“It’s funny because hanging out with my friend now, I think, wow, this is going to be a memory soon,” she said. “That’s really difficult to come to terms with.”

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The Office of Marketing and Communications spreads the word about Mount Holyoke College’s distinctive strengths and newsworthy accomplishments.

Christian Feuerstein
  • Director of Public Affairs and Media Relations