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Roland Baez '20

Support system stretches across continents

Roland Baez's story is one that testifies to the strength of love across borders. Native to Paraguay, this international student’s journey to Whitworth University has been marked by community support every step of the way. Now a senior, he is studying political science and international studies with the hope of giving back.

Baez first heard about Whitworth through EducationUSA Opportunity Funds, a program that helped him apply to study in the United States. From there, Baez had to get resourceful about how to make his dreams a reality.

"With my family and friends, I sold homemade pizzas all over my city and had other events to fundraise the money I needed," Baez says.

That was only the beginning. When he arrived in the United States, additional support systems found Baez.

"A Paraguayan community in Seattle adopted me as a family member," he says, "and they have been helping me ever since."

At Whitworth, Baez wasted no time in pursuing his academic goals, as well as getting involved in campus life. He was a resident assistant in Arend Hall for two years and is a cultural-diversity advocate this year, working with many other international students. He is also a member of the HOLA club, which celebrates Latin American culture, and International Club.

"I wanted to be part of residence life to tell people about my roots and to educate them about my culture and traditions," Baez says. "Moreover, I wanted the international student community to feel represented in this area and to feel that they can too be leaders no matter where they come from."

Baez has used his leadership skills to work with refugee communities as well. Through his Whitworth connections, he interned at a church in Salt Lake City one summer, where he helped start a small group focused on refugees and immigrants. He also interned at World Relief Spokane, where he helped organize refugee simulations for the community.

Those two experiences have shaped his plans for the future.

"I want to work for an international nonprofit that focuses on refugee resettlement and advocacy," he says. "I also intend to help my own community back home in the future by being involved in the political sphere and creating new policies that will benefit the young adult population in Paraguay."

When asked about his connection to his native country, Baez’s passion shines through.

"Paraguay is where my heart lies, and that is how it will always be. My country is not perfect, but I love it unconditionally," he says. "Paraguay is where the people I love the most in this world are; it is where I got my values and passions from; it is where the people who believed in my education abroad, and who gave the little they have to help, live."

At Whitworth, Baez is especially grateful for two people who helped him feel more at home, Professor of Political Science Kathy Lee and Arend Hall’s resident director, Sam Abbott.

"Kathy has been present in my life not only as a student but as a person as a whole," he says. "And Sam has been like a brother to me; he and his wife gave me a family here in the U.S."

Baez knows he will be taking his experience at Whitworth and the memories of those he’s met with him wherever he goes next.

"I am really thankful to all the people I have met at Whitworth so far," he says. "I wouldn’t have been able to expand my worldview and to learn so many things if it wasn’t for this place."