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HCC Student Miren Neyra Alcántara Honored as Newman Civic Fellow

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) student Miren Neyra Alcántara is the recipient of a Newman Civic Fellowship, which recognizes college leaders who demonstrate a commitment to finding solutions to challenges facing communities locally, nationally, and internationally.

Alcántara will join 212 college students from 39 states, Washington, D.C., and Mexico to form the 2021 cohort of Newman Civic Fellows, a program administered by Campus Compact, a Boston-based nonprofit working to advance the public purposes of higher education. The Newman Civic Fellowship is a year-long program for students from Campus Compact member institutions.

Alcántara — who was a finalist earlier this year for BusinessWest’s People’s Choice Young Woman of Impact Award — is a Latinx studies major at HCC and president of the college’s Latinx Empowerment Assoc. The LEA Club, as it is otherwise known, recently launched a book drive to stock a ‘Little Free Library’ the club is putting together for low-income families in the Holyoke Flats, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

As LEA president, Alcántara spearheaded “Celebrating the Latinx Community,” a social-media campaign, and developed student-led panel discussions in collaboration with HCC’s Black Student Alliance and Holyoke’s Wistariahurst Museum.

She is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the college’s Student Advisory Board. She works as a peer tutor and volunteers with community organizations including Climate Change Theater Action, Common Share Food Co-op, and SPARK Reproductive Justice Now. She also teaches English to Central American immigrants through a program called Planting Literacy, an HCC collaboration with Head Start in Springfield.

She was nominated for the award by two of her professors, Vanessa Martinez and Raúl Gutiérrez.

“We’re very proud of Miren,” said Gutiérrez, coordinator of HCC’s Latinx Studies program. “HCC is lucky to have her. Her academic endeavors combined with her involvement and leadership in the community make her a necessary agent of change. She truly embodies the essence of an activist scholar. Her academic abilities, compassion, and leadership make her exactly what is needed in this world.”

Alcántara plans to graduate from HCC in December.

“I am so excited about the fellowship and this opportunity,” she said. “I plan to continue working on the LEA Club’s Little Free Library project. We are hoping to expand on it, add some workshops with the children, and adapt it in a way it becomes sustainable through the years as more students join and continue the club. I am also continuing my work with immigrant advocacy and Planting Literacy, as well as my recent involvement as a volunteer with the Women of Color Health Equity collective.”

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