Khyarah Gaston-Feliciano is a sophomore majoring in education studies. She has many leadership roles on campus, such as co-president of ALANA (African American - Latina - Asian - Native American – Allies), student representative for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Subcommittee, multicultural advocate, and voices peer dialogue series facilitator. Between balancing school and work, she is also an avid reader of books in the fantasy genre. Her other hobbies include playing volleyball and watching true crime shows.
“In 2017 after hurricane Maria, I moved to Massachusetts from Puerto Rico. I was 15 at the time. The hurricane destroyed our home and we were left without electricity and water for two weeks. I moved to Holyoke to live with an aunt that I had only met a few times. My parents were not able to come with me. It was just me and my younger sister. After transferring my credits from my old boarding school in Puerto Rico, I was able to skip a grade. Even though I did well in classes, I still had a hard time with English. I was also taking a few honors classes, and there was not a lot of diversity in the classroom. One thing that I would never forget was how my guidance counselor treated me. She said that she was surprised by my academic achievement because Puerto Ricans are not smart. High school was difficult because of the culture shock and the fact that I was younger than most students in my class. I felt like I didn’t belong.
“After coming to Bay Path, I finally found my community. When I first met the director of multicultural affairs, she encouraged me to join the office as an advocate. Through working with her and other students, I was able to be proud of who I am and where I am from. I became less scared to be judged and was able to finally embrace my identity. Despite English as my second language, I now feel confident speaking in front of people. My goal is to speak the truth and advocate for myself and others. Through my work as a multicultural advocate, I have reaffirmed my values and who I am as a person. I want to create a space where everyone feels welcomed and included. I’m proud of who I am, and I no longer am afraid to be judged. I want to use my experience and advocate for others. I want everyone to know that they are special and should feel empowered to be who they truly are.”
Favorite quote: "There's something special about a woman who dominates in a man's world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness, and the nerve to never take no for an answer." -Rihanna