Amber Simonton: Empower yourself. And then empower others.
As the first member of her family to attend college, senior Amber Simonton understands the transformative power of higher education. "Once I started college, I really felt like the passion was ignited, like I had an opportunity to have an impact on society," says Simonton, a sociology major from Lynnwood, Wash. "I really feel it's our obligation to give to the world whatever we can. What purpose is there for an education other than to put it into action? Willamette kind of propels us into the next step."
To help others take the next step, Simonton has assisted youths in the Salem community as co-chair of the Willamette chapter of MEChA, a Latino student organization. In addition to raising funds for English as a Second Language classes at a nearby elementary school and mentoring youths at a local middle school, Simonton helped organize the Adelante Latina Educational Empowerment Conference at Willamette. "I'm passionate about MEChA and the work that we do," says Simonton, whose family tree includes roots to El Salvador. "The whole process of organizing the conference was a huge opportunity for our organization."
After graduating from Willamette, Simonton plans to spend a year working for a nonprofit service agency before pursing an advanced degree in social work. One possible career path might involve advocating for education in the Latino community - but no matter where she winds up, you can bet that Simonton will serve as an inspiration to others.
"I've experienced a lot of personal growth at Willamette, and I want to open up those kinds of opportunities to more individuals," says Simonton. "I want to empower people and help them find the resources they need to propel them to their own personal and educational goals."