Be the Action with Marissa Navarro

by Sara Massey

Sitting down with Marissa Navarro was the epitome of a wonderful interview. For the junior majoring in Spanish and International Studies with a concentration in Latin America, bragging on herself was not something she was used to doing. However, by the end of our time together we developed even more respect for Marissa than we previously had.

Coming from a hometown, Grand Rapids, Michigan, that is majority Hispanic or Latino descent, Marissa wanted to find that same community here at The University of Alabama. When she arrived on campus, she says it was almost “culture shock.” Her goal was to join one of the 500+ student organizations here, but found that there was not even one for Latinos. She missed that environment, the community, and those she could relate to. This sparked Marissa to start the Hispanic Latino Association, which later won her the Horizon Award. The Horizon Award, given to one student every year, represents work in the community for activism. By starting the first ever Latino organization on campus, Marissa was clearly deserving.

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Once she began this organization, she started spreading the word, telling people about it, and set her first meeting in her freshman year. Anticipating many, she reserved the Anderson Room. Much to her surprise, no one showed. Although this organization was for students, faculty, and staff alike, it seemed that there was no interest in this group, even though 4.2% of campus is Latino. One would think that this would be the end of that organization, but Marissa is not one to give up easily. The next year, she reserved a smaller room for their first meeting, and 70 people showed up. Standing shoulder to shoulder in this room, Marissa knew that they were there because of what she was doing on campus and the conversations they wished to spark. Today, there are over 200 members in the Hispanic Latino Association, of all ages, and all positions on campus.

Marissa likes to say that “campus wasn’t ready for [her].” Due to her outspoken nature, she has always been taught to speak her mind, but to make sure what she’s saying is factual. She is a first-generation college student, and on a scholarship, but she says that “scholarship isn’t what’s keeping [her] here, it is the people [she] has met and the opportunities [she] has been provided.” She is ready to see not only how The University of Alabama is going to make departmental progress, but also campus wide progress. “Alabama has its past, but we are moving forward.”

As impressive as Marissa is, she has a fun side that we loved just as much. She encouraged us to look for her on the quad, while carrying a blue backpack. Although this may seem like nothing at first, if you look closer you’ll see that she has Piglet with her, her pet guinea pig. In addition to that, Marissa chose dare over truth, saying that “everyone goes for what is easy, so naturally me telling the truth about myself is easy; but if you’re daring me to do something, that’s action. I want to be the action.”

And action she is. At only 21 years old, Marissa has made history on this campus and we could not be prouder to know her. If you would like more information on the Hispanic Latino Association or would like to join, we encourage you to email Marissa at manavarro@crimson.ua.edu

Sara Massey