Upon her Fall 2009 arrival at USD, Ella Guimond was 3,000 miles from her Amherst, Mass., hometown, knew nobody in San Diego, instantly experienced what appeared to be a lack of community on campus and quickly felt she’d made a mistake on her college decision.
Today, Guimond, a senior Ethnic Studies major with minors in Spanish and Peace and Justice Studies, says that her goal before she graduates from USD in May is to pass along everything she can to USD newcomers and help them realize that building community starts with you.
“It wasn’t until the end of my freshman year, beginning of my sophomore year that I got involved in lots of stuff,” she said, referring to the Women’s Center, University Ministry and the Center for Community Service-Learning. “Becoming me has a lot to do with reflection and overcoming that challenge. It was that struggle that made me reflect on who I am and what I wanted to do. Through this challenge, I’ve grown from being out of my comfort zone and being exposed to a very different culture than in Amherst.”
Guimond praises staff and faculty members — Erin and Michael Lovette-Colyer, directors of the Women’s Center and University Ministry, respectively, Associate Minister Erin Bishop and Ethnic Studies Department Chair and Professor Alberto Pulido — for helping her blossom at USD.
“It really has been the mentors and their guidance,” said Guimond when asked why she chose to stay at USD. “One of the things Dr. Pulido said that really stuck with me was that he knew about the town I’m from and that if I leave, I’m just leaving all of the problems. By staying, he said I could really work to fight all of the problems and issues at USD. That really resonated with me.”
Guimond’s impact has been felt in the Linda Vista and Tijuana communities for the good of children, her fellow classmates and more. She’s been a tutor at Montgomery Middle School and ESL students and been a site coordinator at Mark Twain Alternative High School where she’s organized and trained USD students for a mentoring program. She co-founded Tortillas for Tepecoyo and maintains a website that provides fundraising support for a lunch program for low-income children in the community of La Javia. She’s helped raise more than $3,000 to support Angelica’s Comedor. Her international experiences include Jamaica, Barcelona, a non-USD program in El Salvador as well as University Ministry-led Tijuana Spring Breakthrough and participation, now, as a student leader for UM’s day trips to Tijuana.
Her involvement in the Women’s Center, under the direction of Erin Lovette-Colyer (pictured above, right, with Guimond) started when she attended the Empower Women Leadership Retreat as a sophomore Her current role is volunteer coordinator, meaning she works closely to encourage other female students, especially first-year students, to get involved.
“What the Women’s Center provides most is a sense of community,” she said. “The retreat exposed me to issues related to gender. I’d grown up in a very equal household, but I think I was sheltered in that I didn’t realize there were gender issues of equality. … I feel a sense of safety when I’m around these women. To be able to talk and have that community is really great. Every day there’s conversation and it’s always educational dialogue that matters, always something with meaning and power. It adds to my learning and about who I am as a woman.”
— Ryan T. Blystone