Profile: Doris Juarez Considers Coming to Smith

Mia Council ’16
Features Editor

On the evening of April 19, students watched Weaving Voices, an event featuring the stories of 21 seniors of color. Mostly presented as spoken-word poetry, the seniors’ words expressed the pain, anger and disappointment too often associated with being a person of color at Smith. The event was a huge success, especially in the eyes of Doris Juarez, a prospective student visiting for Discovery Weekend.

“I feel like I saw the real Smith,” Juarez told her host Catherine Cain ’16. “That’s great,” said Cain, who is half-Latina and had attended Weaving Voices to support some of her Bridge leaders. “I’m glad you went. I thought you were going to karaoke.”

Weaving Voices “gave me the reality” of Smith outside the brochures, said Juarez.

Juarez identifies as Latina. “I was born in Connecticut,” she said. “Both parents a hundred percent Guatemalan. They came here as immigrants. I have a stepmom and stepsister, both from Colombia.” Because her parents are not fluent in English, Juarez often serves as the messenger between them and the outside world. “At home, I’m the translator. When there are bills, I’m the one at home reading them. Sometimes it’s difficult because there’s words I’ve never even heard of.”

“That’s why I’m excited to go to college, so I’ll be able to learn things and know a lot more. So when I go home, I can say, “Oh, I know what that is.’ But it’s also scary because I know my parents are going to be without me if I come here.”

This is both intriguing and a source of worry relevant to many current students. As a first-generation college student, Juarez feels responsible to her family.

“When things get stressful, I see [my responsibility] as a burden. But when things are successful and I see the ways I’ve improved, it’s like more of a badge to carry around. People have told me it’s something that they can see in my face, that it’s something I’m proud of,” said Juarez.

Cain said that being at Smith has affected the way in which she identifies with her own ethnicity, and that that had made her want to host a prospective student. “I should be the person, as someone who does understand and has had those conversations, to host a prospie,” she said. “I still actually do love Smith. And I do still want people to choose Smith. It’s given us the ability to see problems. At Smith, we’re having the conversations that no one else is having. I cannot love that enough.”

College is not all intellectual audacity and processing microaggressions for the potential new Smith student, however. My parents are really strict with me. I was [saying] yesterday, ‘My parents would never let me go out and eat ice cream at9:00 p.m. at night!’” said Juarez, sounding a little impressed with her own bravery. “I’m excited for that. To say, ‘Yeah, I’m going out, they don’t need to know.’”

Juarez, who now lives in Maine, “had no idea Smith existed” until the College gave her a book award a year ago. When asked if she’s leaning towards Smith, Juarez makes an uncertain noise. “I definitely know that coming here is going to stretch my comfort zone. And it’s different from all the other schools I could go to. And I don’t want to miss seeing my little brother grow up. I had a picture in my head of how an all-girl’s school would be, and Smith…” She falters; the college had exceeded her expectations

So, for now, as prospective students filter out and head home, the school returns slowly to its usual pace, and we are all left optimistic that students like Juarez will ultimately find the place most suited to their individual needs. For many, that place could be Smith.

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